How you can start
I’m not an expert on this, there are probably people who have forgotten more about cold baths than I will ever learn.
Despite that I’m gonna share some advice that I think makes sense if you are interested to start, based on my own experience and what I have read and heard about it.
This is the third part if this series of articles about cold exposure
- The first part was about appreciating all the seasons for what they are
- The second part was about how I started and even more important – why I continued
- In the third part (this one) I’m gonna give some of my advice about how you can start if you want to
- In the forth and final part I’m gonna look at what the science have to say about it
Before I begin this I just want to say that you don’t have to do cold baths. Even if I, your friends, your partner, your dog and a dude who your friends cousin saw on Instagram does it and says it great You don’t have to.
If you are even the slightest of interested (which you probably are since you are still reading) I do encourage you to try, but you don’t have to like it.
So now, how to start.
As with most things I recommend you to start small and simple. Don’t set up unrealistic goals right away. Maybe see if you can do it together with a friend or see if you can find some people who are already doing it and are willing to help you.
Probably the easiest way to expose yourself to the cold is to take cold showers. It doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to be a special cold shower. Just when you take your normal shower, try to turn down the temperature. It doesn’t have to be the coldest right away, but a temperature where you feel that your breath starts to change a bit and you kinda want to get out. Try to stay there for like 10 seconds, then turn on the warm water again. Over time you can slowly start to either decrease the temperature or increase the time from 10 to 20, 30, 40, 50 seconds. Maybe all the way up to 2 minutes.
If you want to to this outside I recommend you to simply not stop to take bath after the summer. The principle here is the same as with the shower. The temperature will slowly decrease, both in the water and in the air, and your body will adapt.
Another nice way to go is in the end if the winter when the water is still quite cold but the air is getting warmer. In this case you will get the cold exposure in the water but quickly be warm as soon as you get up.
As I mentioned earlier the breathing plays a big part of this. The breathing controls a lot of your bodies reaction and if you can control the breathing you are in control. Although the cold itself is usually a great teacher it can be good to help it a bit.
At first when you step into the cold your body want to go into panic mode. Your breathing gets short and shallow and you just want to run away, cuddle up with a blanket, eat ice cream (or something warm probably) and watch documentaries about saunas.
So in addition to your cold baths I recommend you to do some kind of breathing practice. It can be as little as 3 minutes or as long as you would like it. I usually do mine in the morning, but you can do it anytime at the day or prior to your bath.
One method I recommend is the technique Wim Hof uses.
In short that means that you are taking 30-40 deep breaths in and out until you feel a bit dizzy. After the last expiration you hold your breath for as long as you can. When you can’t hold anymore you breathe in and hold for another 15 seconds. Then repeat this cycle around three times. If you want to learn more I recommend you to Google Wim Hof and check him out.
In my own experience and what I have heard from others the worst part is the fingers, toes and head. Do deal with this some people buys special gloves and shoes and uses a hat (and keep their head above the water). I have never tried those gloves or shoes so I can’t say anything about that other than that I can see some value in it in some situations.
So I’m gonna share some other tips that I have learned along the way.
First of all, it’s gonna be cold, that’s kind of the thing. But if you can resist that first moment of panic and actually calm down your breathing it won’t get that much colder. At least not for a while – and here is my first tip: Listen to the signals of your body. Notice where it feels okay and where it’s colder. Notice if and when you go into a new ”level” of coldness.
Second tip – Learn how much you can ”push” it for the day and how you react to it afterwards. We all have different purpose with our cold bathing. For me sometimes I want to go up before I get to cold and then I know I will warm up quite quick and leave with a very pleasant feeling. Other times I want to push it a bit more and then I know it will take longer for me to warm up, I will feel my fingers and toes a longer time afterwards and it’s not the same pleasant feeling although it feels rewarding in a different way. So what I think I’m saying is, learn to know your limits and how far you are willing to push it that day.
Third – Keep your head above the water. This relates to the previous tip a bit. Although I love to dip my head because of the rush I get, sometimes I don’t because I feel that today is not a day to push it. Usually I have my head above and then just before I go up I dip my head, waits until my breath calms down and then I go up.
Forth – Keep your hands above the water. Same thing here. Know your limit and adjust for the day. The fingers are usually the last thing to get warm for me and I notice a big difference when I dip them or not. If you do want to dip them, try holding them against your belly or tights and feel the heat from your own body.
Fifth – When you get up, keep breathing deep and slow. Shake a bit, move around, maybe do some push ups. Activate your body and help it heat up. I’m not talking about a proper workout, just some nice easy movement. When you get dressed, stand on something like a towel to get your feet of the ground. Maybe bring something warm to drink.
Hopefully you find some value in these tips.
May the cold be with you