In the early part of my Marine Corps career, I did a lot of cold weather training. I've trained in Norway, Canada, Northern California, Maine, Vermont, and Upstate New York. One of the things that I promised myself when I got out was that I would never feel cold again. So rather than head back to my home state of Connecticut, I headed for the sunny coast of Southern California.
But in recent years, I have seen a lot of benefit in exposing myself to the cold. A lot of this comes from some of the things that my friend and flow mentor, Tone Floreal, has taught me from his experience in practicing the Wim Hof Method. If you don't know who Wim Hof is, here's a link to Tone's blog on Wim's method. But just for your information, Wim has summited Mount Everest ... in just his underwear.
Cold exposure has many mental and physical benefits. Mentally, the cold introduces a little bit of oxidative stress to your central nervous system. With regular cold exposure, you get used to this, and it allows you to be calmer, cooler, and more collected.
The cold can also help you with day to day stress by decreasing uric acid in your body and increasing levels of cellular glutathione.
Physically, the cold helps to simulate activation of brown adipose tissue or brown fat. Brown fat is found in mammals, and it helps to keep the body warm by mobilizing and stimulating white fat to burn. In this way, cold exposure can be a great addition to a fat loss program.
The cold can also enhance recovery, increase testosterone, increase fertility, and relieve depression!
So all of us could benefit from more cold exposure. But none of this means that you need to go and sit on an ice block for three hours.
You can do so simply by taking a cold shower.
I take a cold shower every morning and evening after each workout and Jiu Jitsu practice. I'll start with warm water, wash myself, and then I'll switch to cold. I allow the cold water to come down over my head, shoulders, neck, chest, and back because that is where most of our brown adipose tissue is located.
After I get out of the shower, I throw a pair of shorts on and I head out to my back porch and I stretch or read for 10-15 minute before heading back in for the warmth.
This type of cold exposure gives me a great start to my day, allows me to feel more alert, and it definitely calms me. I've also noticed that I get a lot leaner and I recover quicker when I do this regularly.
If you're interested in seeing how cold exposure could help you, try it out and let me know what you think.
And definitely check out Tone Floreal's blog on the Wim Hof Method for techniques on how to deal with the cold more effectively.