I love to get cold. When your body cools (the internal temperature) a host of hermetic stressors are activated aimed at improving your overall resiliency to environmental threats- in other words, you’re stronger against infection, inflammation, improve immune function.
From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense, when facing extremes, we need to be stronger to survive. The problem is, today, we’re never really that cold. We’re comfortable, and lazy, and we’ve lost track of key primal lifestyles that helped our species survive for millennia. That’s one reason why I love getting cold.
Getting cold activates brown adipose tissue- the good fat, and helps convert white fat tissues (the bad fat) into beige and brown fat.
Getting cold has a host of additional benefits:
- Increases release of norepinephrine
- Brain health (potential Alzheimer’s reduction)
- Exercise recovery
Some studies have shown hot/cold contrast to leverage additional benefits and increase growth hormone. There’s some speculation that this protocol has it’s limits and the greatest impacts wane over time or as you become accustomed to it, however, I wouldn’t let that stop me from practicing.
Starting a practice
I started out by making a bunch of ice with my freezer and dumping it into my bathtub. That worked, and I was able to get the water down to about the high-40s. I would stay submerged for longer periods of time to get the fullest impact.
But this was a lot of work and a slow process. It would take several days for my freezer to make enough ice to cool my bathtub. I started buying 20lbs of ice at the store, but this got pricey and was still laborious.
All in all, it’s a great way to being your cold immersion training.
I’m always raving about the “high” I get from cold plunging, and offer it up to friends whenever they show a little interest. It’s also a great way to motivate yourself- do it with others.
I’m biased to cold water immeserion via two methods.
- I plunge into cold water several mornings every week, typically at 42˚F/6˚C, for anywhere between 1-5 minutes.
- Jump into the Pacific Ocean in the winter time and body surf a few waves in 55˚-58˚F water.
My cold plunge at home is a converted chest freezer. It’s simple, and fast. I usually jump in first thing in the morning and never regret it, although it can be hard to motivate myself to jump in.
The tub is hooked up to a thermostat (another post coming soon on my build) so it’s constantly cold, meaning no prep work, so it’s always ready for a plunge.
Living in San Diego, the ocean water drops to mid-50s in the winter, which is definitely cold enough to get really cold and activate the bio makers required to improve your health. The thing about jumping in the ocean is the environment is much more natural, consistent with what human health with throughout evolution. I believe this is why we benefit from the cold to begin with.
The ocean water is constantly moving around, and the motion makes it feel colder than it is. The salt water and and air do, too. Plus, you have to walk in cold air to & from the ocean, which furthers your cold exposure. Sometimes getting out of the water is when you get the fullest impact.
I love a good polar plunge to kick off a new year, and some mornings in San Diego the air is just above freezing, so 55˚F water actually feels warm.
I usually try to go back-to-back with cold exposure and intense cardio. Often times when I’ll plunge in the ocean I’ll do several soft-soft sprints beforehand. Or, when at home I hit the Airdyne bike and go hard for 10 minutes right before/after cold.
Any cold is better that no cold. Cold air exposure will work, go for a walk in just your t-shirt in the winter time.