“I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did. […] Its water is as cold as it is pure at all times.”  – Henry David Thoreau

“Don’t be afraid of a little bit of pain, pleasure is on the other side” – John Legend

My family spends time every summer in northern Michigan sailing, swimming, fishing, and tubing on the Little Traverse Bay. The water in the bay is much colder than a pool or tropical ocean, and no matter how often I swam, or how hot of a day it was, I always dreaded the initial cold shock that accompanied jumping in. Without fail, physically getting into the water meant having a mental battle with myself about whether or not it was really the best idea.

After a while I learned that rather than trying to work up enough courage to jump INTO the lake, it was much easier to just convince myself to jump OFF of whatever boat or dock I was on. Most of the time, once I was in the air I would have a change of heart, but by then it was too late and into the water I went.

As tough as it was to jump in, nothing made me feel as clean, calm, refreshed, and renewed as a dip in the lake. Work, sweat, and worry washed away. My skin tightened and my inner furnace burned stronger as my body reacted to the cold water. I felt more aware of the world around me; more alert, and more alive. That feeling lasted long after I had gotten out and dried off.

Lately I’ve been using cold showers to get that same feeling of refreshment. I’m not alone. Ian Flemming’s James Bond was a huge fan. Thoreau started every day in the cold water of Walden pond. Tim Ferriss highlighted the benefits in the “Ice Age” section of 4-Hour Body and the practice has been gaining popularity. Just last night I even learned that my brother and cousin were in on the fun.

It turns out cold showers provide a host of benefits for both body and mind. Research has shown they strengthen the immune system, improve circulation, and increase metabolism. They help burn fat, contribute to muscle gain, and fight depression. Overcoming the fear of the cold water and the challenge of accomplishing something you may not 100% feel like doing builds confidence. Cold showers are a no cost, fast, and effective way to help improve your health and get every day started (or finished) with a win.

So what’s the easiest way to actually get it done? For me, just like when getting in the lake, I found it’s best to just “jump off.”

Here’s how I make it work:

  1. Take a normal shower, washing and rinsing at a comfortable temperature
  2. Face the water and turn it to 100% cold
  3. Nervously wait for the water temperature to change while contemplating the insanity of the idea, before remembering how good it actually feels
  4. Rinse your hair and face in the cold water, then turn around so that the water hits the top of your neck and shoulders
  5. Take deep, full, belly breaths
  6. Rinse the rest of your body
  7. Turn off the water
  8. Dry off and crush the rest of the day!

The first time I tried it I only lasted 10-15 seconds, but the more I did it, the more comfortable I got. Now I’m able to stay for much longer, occasionally even skipping the hot water all together.

If you are interested in books related to this topic, I recommend:
The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss