Simply Rolling Stones – a sneak look at the potential fun side of cold training.
When we hear the word ‘COLD’ almost instantly a shiver runs down our spine and through our whole body, the knees go weak and the mind quickly comes to the conclusion, hot chocolate and a warm fire to sit by will solve this problem.
I am a fan of both of those ventures – hot chocolate and warm cozy fires that is, however I have also become a fan of Cold Training.
What is cold training? and why am I and a number of people becoming interested in what sounds like a purposeful journey into hell? Only this hell is not an inferno in fact its the complete opposite, but still a place most do not want to be and with good reason cold training is COLD brrrrrrr.
It is the journey into the unknown which scares us most and yet provides us with the greatest potential for personal growth.
Cold training can be practiced down at the sea, taking a cold shower, dipping into any body of ‘cold’ water and Ice baths. Yes people do take ice baths…
Now might be a good time for that hot chocolate…
For those who practice cold training in the sea, an opportunity to be fully immersed from head to toe in cold water (depending on which sea you go into, some are warmer than others) presents itself, for many this offers a spiritual cleansing, which can also be called a re-birthing experience and emotional healing. Why?
On most occasions you are faced with fear when entering the cold seas, fear of drowning, fear of hypothermia, fear of being dragged out into the abyss all present themselves, most of the fears like the ones mentioned are irrational and each time you confront these irrational fears you develop a new sense of self, you begin a journey of self discovery, which improves your connection with you, with others and with nature.
Through this discovery of self you also begin a journey of self-healing, which occurs largely on the emotional and spiritual self.
The more times you enter the sea the greater you begin to understand its mood, it may sound crazy, but it communicates with you, you no longer swim frantically trying to stay afloat instead you begin to glide through and with the water effortlessly and let me tell you when the sea is angry there is no forcing your way through she will win every time; instead you have to surrender, let go and trust; have faith that everything will be ok.
It is through the release of control and the surrendering of self that one truly begins to heal the wounds within…
It can be hard to motivate oneself at first to consciously go on a cold sea adventure; it is not usually the top of the to do list and we generally want really good reasons for putting ourselves into an uncomfortable and painful situation, interestingly though the first battle is not with the cold but instead a battle with the pillow, a battle with comfort, a battle with stagnation and a battle with yourself.
Here again is an opportunity for personal growth and self-healing, by overcoming our limitations and developing a strong sense of self we can achieve great personal growth in all areas of life, when you get up early – 5am early on a Winters morning and go for a swim in the cold sea then there is very little in life that you can not achieve.
The days get shorter, the temperatures get colder, on occasion I am sure I competed with the banshee; for the cold brought out a roar from deep within, but I always felt great and still do during and after every dip in the sea.
Brighton sea temperatures peak in the range 16 to 19°C (61 to 66°F) on around the 17th of August and are at their lowest on about the 1st of March, in the range 7 to 8°C (45 to 46°F) [http://www.surf-forecast.com/breaks/Brighton\_1/seatemp]
One of the surprising challenges lay in getting out of the sea, Brighton is a pebbled beach, let me tell you those stones take no prisoners during the winter months.
The benefits of the pebbles is worth mentioning. At the beginning they literally killed my feet and they too had a re-birthing experience in-store for me, my feet were asleep they were use to being protected and had gotten comfortable and lazy, however the more I woke them up the more they showed me just how asleep they and I was.
I begun noticing that our feet act as a direct connection to the earth, this is more than just foot touching earth its more like roots moving from the sole of your foot into the earth and giving you a bounce in your step and movement throughout the whole foot and body that was not there before.
I was Grounding, which alone can boost your immune system, it has many benefits including reducing inflammation, the book Earthing by Clint Ober is worth a read, on another level allowing your skin to come into contact with your environment again improves your connection with the real world, which increases your sensitivity or you could say communication with the subtle energetic world we live in.
You will literally feel this connection for water conducts heat at 25 times the rate of air, which simply means you loose more heat quicker in the water than you do to the air. The key becomes to not fight this connection by trying to hold onto the heat, instead by surrendering to the flow of heat and maintaining a sense of calm through deep breathing and conscious awareness of self the heat that leaves is regenerated and continues the cycle of in and out.
Interestingly the body is such an impressive inferno that the fear of hypothermia whilst it is a potential danger is not as great a danger as one may have previously thought! It takes roughly longer than 30 minutes of submersion in cold water (no matter how cold the water) before the effects of hypothermia begin to manifest.
Potential hazards that one does face when approaching cold training and should be aware of are:
‘The Grasp Reflex’ or ‘the cold shock response,’upon entering the cold water a very natural reflex is to open ones mouth and take a lung full of air into the body, if that person then goes under the water and begins to grasp for more air they are in trouble, so try not to jump in to soon, give yourself a chance to get use to cold temperatures before diving in head first.
Cardiac arrest or more commonly a heart attack is also a potential risk factor, along with the cold sapping your strength to the point where your muscular force can be as much as 25% less in the cold, the opportunity for a bad ending to a good story begins to rise.
The cold water has the ability to turn a great swimmer into a good swimmer, a good swimmer into an average swimmer and an average swimmer into! You probably should not be going in to deep if your swimming ability is anything less than good. Remind yourself though that as you progress with cold water training that vice versa will occur – an average swimmer will grow steadily to become a great swimmer.
### The Good News!
In recent times we have seen many pioneers of cold water training step forward and despite the risks share forth their success!
Anthony Robbins starts every morning with a dip into a 57℉ pool. Tony Robbins is such a fan that he has claimed the following:
Cold water training when practiced regularly can have long-lasting positive effects on the lymphatic, circulatory, immune and digestive systems.
When jumping into cold water it is commonly agreed that the muscles contract, that shivering that you experience when cold is your muscles contracting in an attempt to produce heat.
This contraction of the muscles also triggers a contraction of the lymphatic system, which encourages the immune system to gear up and deal with whatever has been released from the lymphatic system.
It has also been claimed that one reason athletes jump into ice pools after strenuous workouts is because the cold water lowers the damaged tissue temperature and constricts the blood vessels resulting in less swelling and inflammation and for an extra bonus due to its numbing of the nerve endings it acts as a painkiller.
Another benefit that has been proposed is that it has the potential to relieve symptoms of depression. It has been found that cold training prompts the release of happy, feel good neurotransmitters, leaving you feeling happier, healthier and more vital.
Wim Hoff in particular has done much to move along our understanding of the potential benefits of cold training.
Wim holds numerous Guinness World Records in the field of cold training such as a barefoot marathon in Lapland wearing nothing more than shorts. Yes you read that right; Wim completes a variety of Cold Training disciplines in sub-zero conditions wearing nothing but a pair of modest shorts.
He recently trained 12 volunteers in his methods alongside a control group, at the end of his training all 24 participants were exposed to a common flu bug, all 12 participating in Wim’s training methods showed excellent immune response and none fell ill, however all 12 of the control group fell ill for up to 3 days.
Wim believes firstly that the cold has the power to show us our true human potential, he believes that its his ability to maintain core temperature through breathing exercises that anyone can master, which helps him train in the cold and enjoy benefits such as increased immune strength.
His breathing exercises are akin to the ones practiced by Tibetan Monks, a practice which they call Tummo, where the focus is placed upon the retention of the breath, which then encourages an ‘internal fire’.
Scientists believe through study that what Wim and the Tibetan Monks alike have managed to accomplish is to take control of a system within the body that was considered to be involuntary.
Scientists have observed that through the meditations and breathing exercises practiced by Wim and the Tibetan Monks significant blood flow and electrical activity to the frontal cortex and hypothalamus is achieved; these regions regulate peripheral nerves and veins involved in the regulation of body temperature.
It is this connection that was originally considered to be governed by the autonomic nervous system, however this is now considered to be potentially manually controlled through a variety of training methods.
For those who do not have access to the sea then a cold shower is a great place to start and some have reported that in as little as a couple of weeks of taking 3 minute cold showers every day you will begin to notice health benefits.
I would take this into consideration, Cold Training like any training method requires a period of adaptation and will first put the mind and body under stress, this stress response will overwhelm the immune system at first, with this in mind if your immune system is already dealing with a variety of stresses and you’re not sure this will help then first take it slow and get some extra advice, if however you persevere with this type of training your immune strength will improve dramatically.
How then does cold training improve our immune system? the answers are in the experience my friends, by overcoming each subtle battle internally and committing yourself to a daily practice your mind and body naturally strengthen, which in turn leads to the strengthening of all internal systems including the immune system.
You may find and more than likely will find a thousand reasons why you should stay comfortable and not do it, but if your curious and patient then time and practice will deliver remarkable results.
I highly recommend cold training for everyone, you can start slow, maybe a cold bowl of water to immerse your hands is enough, or simply stepping your feet into the sea will prove powerful enough for you to feel a connection, or maybe you need to go all out and throw yourself in.
Remember you can always have that cup of Hot Chocolate in reserve for after your Cold Training experience.