How to Ease Yourself Into Cold Therapy with Cold Showers

By PJ Nestler | Wed Nov 08 2017

Experimenting with ice baths can be time consuming and messy. If you’re not sure about the benefits of cold therapy, but want to give it a try—or are just nervous about immersing yourself in ice—a cold therapy shower is a great way to ease yourself in.

It’s Time to Quit Giving Cold Therapy the Cold Shoulder

While you may have read about the benefits of ice baths and cold immersion, you may not yet have tried cold therapy for yourself. This could be because the idea of filling your tub with ice and then cleaning it up afterwards seems overwhelming! Or, it may be that the act of getting into a tub of ice and water feels overwhelming in and of itself. Or, you may just live in a small space without room for a dedicated ice bath.

Cold showers offer a simple and (relatively) shock-free way to experiment with the benefits of cold therapy. We’ll talk about how to take a cold shower “the right way” in a moment. But first, let’s recap the benefits of cold-water shower therapy, in case there are any of the research-backed aspects of this amazing and health-promoting habit you haven’t yet heard about.

The Health and Performance Benefits of Cold Showers

Cryotherapy can refer to “technology” ranging from whole-body, high-tech chambers to an ice pack. This practice—sometimes also called cold therapy, cold water immersion or simply ice baths—utilizes cold temperatures to treat, heal, and optimize the human body. It is an ancient technique and one that you realize is common to many northern cultures when you think of ritual activities like polar plunges and winter swimming.

While cryotherapy chambers are a decidedly modern take on cold therapy, the practice itself is ancient and it certainly doesn’t need to be complicated. I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where every Finnish family had a sauna, and we learned the art of sprinting from the hot sauna to the cold lake and jumping in at an early age. While we had no idea “why” we were doing this as children, modern science has revealed much about the basis for this time-honored practice. 

What are the Benefits of a Cold Shower?

Far from giving you an alarming whole-body wake-up call, there are numerous scientifically-proven benefits to cryotherapy. The chief benefits of cold showers and cold therapy include:

As you can see, there’s a lot to love about cryotherapy—even if you don’t much love the idea of stepping into a frigid shower!

How to Take a Cold Shower

So, are you ready to take the plunge? Well, that’s the whole point of this article, right? You don’t have to jump into an iced-over lake or a tub full of freezing water. All you have to do is step into your shower.

Jumping right into a stream of cold shower water can be hard. Even though it might sound cruel, an easier tactic is to take your regular hot shower and then hang out for a few extra minutes at the end—but turn off the hot water.

It’s going to feel shocking at first, and may even make you gasp—but that’s okay. That change in your breath and your heart rate jumping is a literal wake-up call. That’s your cold shower jumpstarting your system—physically and mentally.

Start small and have your first few cold showers last just thirty to sixty seconds (trust me, it will feel plenty long at first). Then, work your way up to two to three minutes of cold. Once you think you’ve got the hang of it, you might even skip the “warm” part of the shower.

You Don’t Have to Be a Hero to Take Cold Showers

True Story: I had a friend who dared himself to take nothing but cold showers for thirty days. He held himself to that personal challenge and it hardened him both physically and mentally. 

Even real-life heroine Katharine Hepburn (who took cold showers well into her eighties) and fictional hero James Bondboth believed in the powers of cold therapy. But improving your health, performance, and mood through the practice of cold showers doesn’t have to look like a polar jump event—it can be as simple as turning your faucet knob.

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