Wednesday of this week is going to be very special for me. It is not only Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, but Valentine’s Day, which I find appropriate. Sackcloth, ashes, and hearts are perfect images to reflect my love life, although that, as they say, is best left for another post. Or, you may be happy to note, none at all.
But this Wednesday is special for another reason. It will be the first time in an entire year that I will take a hot shower. I began taking cold showers on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, and I will stop on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. It’s true. I have been taking cold showers for one year.
Why? you may ask. That’s not an entirely unexpected question, so let me break it down into two reasons and one motivation. The first reason is a Dutchman I came across on YouTube named Wim Hof. He is what they call an “extreme athlete,” running marathons in the Arctic and balancing himself at the edge of cliffs by the tips of his fingers.
Hof is known as “The Iceman,” because he takes cold showers, hikes naked in the snow, and swims underwater in frozen lakes. He claims that this cold therapy has reduced his metabolic rate, improved his breathing, and strengthened his immune system beyond the norm. Experiments conducted by the University of Michigan and independent researchers in The Netherlands seem to confirm this, at least to a degree. A cold degree.
Hof has developed a three-part method to increase endurance, improve sleep, reduce stress, and resist the cold, which you’ll need if you go on retreat with him in the mountains. The three parts are cold therapy, breathing, and commitment. The breathing involves deep breathing and hyperventilating, which I have been doing in addition to the showers.
The results? I am more focused and much less susceptible to shivering in the cold. This morning, I took a cold shower and looked out the bathroom window to see rooftops covered in snow. It was very romantic. Did I shiver? Not one bit. And my energy has picked up, too. I have become more assertive, which, you know, is something I lacked. Sleep is a problem, but then I work too much. I got the flu this year just like every other year, although I still didn’t get a flu shot. Apparently, his method doesn’t work on stubbornness.
The second reason for taking cold showers, much less exotic, is that I read somewhere (this is where reading becomes dangerous) that exposure to the cold can increase alkaline levels in the body, which will reduce illness, since acidity accounts for a lot of what ails us. Something like that. It sold me, because I had two years of college chemistry. As I told someone the other day, I’m all about bonds.
What’s the upshot of freezing my heinie off for an entire year? I never realized how much breathing controls what we do and how we do it. I used to hold my breath quite a bit. Now, I breathe much easier, literally, which has slowed me down. That’s not something my editor wants to hear, but there it is. I am convinced that if you become more conscious of your breathing, life gets a little more manageable.
The motivation for my cold showers? A post by fellow blogger Cheryl Oreglia about the time she had to take a cold shower in the early morning. I don’t remember the particulars except that she blamed her husband, as wives are wont to do, and her description of the frigid water. I am sure the poor guy was innocent, as husbands are wont to insist.
The coldest shower this year was hands down at my daughter’s in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. It was so cold my breath nearly froze. I have a theory about that, again, having studied chemistry in college. The water in the mountains is hard, filled with minerals and chemicals that don’t freeze at 32 degrees but much lower. Therefore, the water that runs in a shower can be infinitely colder than freezing. And I mean infinite, like liquid nitrogen. It’s a wonder I didn’t break in half stepping out of the tub.
I can’t wait for Valentine’s Day. It’s going to be hot and steamy.