I’ll be honest; I do not love winter. I’m not into skiing or snowboarding, and while I do think snow is pretty, I do not love the cold temperatures that come with it. That being said, I grew up in the snow belt of Upstate New York and can handle the cold if I need to.
If you have read my previous articles, you will probably remember that my wife and I had spent a number of years in the south. (They have much better weather, by the way.) We moved there right after we graduated college and were married. When we were there, I recall walking around in the late fall/early winter with shorts on. I thought it was hilarious to see people shuffle around with their shoulders hunched, wearing long winter coats and hats. After all, I grew up in an area where the snow was piled two stories high, and schools were almost never closed for inclement weather.
After several years, my wife and I decided to move back up to North Central Pennsylvania to raise our family. My very first week of work in the fall, I came down with the flu or some other virus and thought, “Why did I ever leave the south?” In addition to my illness, I realized I was completely de-acclimated to cold temperatures. It was then that I made a promise to myself to adapt to the cold and began to research what has become known as cold tempering or cold training.
Many olde-time strongmen trained specifically for cold adaptation and would take cold water or ice baths, rub snow on their bare skin, or even swim in near-freezing water. Though these extreme methods have their pros and cons, the focus of this article is simply to shed light on the practice of cold tempering.
In a previous article, I discussed the idea that cold training is the practice of exposing oneself to low temperatures, sometimes well below freezing, with the aim of improving one’s physical and psychological self. This is also something that, like exercise, should be practiced and trained regularly so that adaptation can occur. People interested in cold training should begin by gradually building their tolerance to colder temperatures over time.
While further research is necessary regarding the merits of cold adaptation, cold tempering advocate Wim Hof, believes that exposure to the cold is beneficial to your health. So much so, in fact, that he has created an entire system of cold adaptation. Some evidence suggests that cold temperatures can speed up your metabolism. In addition, exposure to cold can reduce inflammation and may assist in the healing process after an injury or intense exercise. As part of his method for improving health, Hof uses cold showers and ice baths to improve energy levels and relieve symptoms caused by autoimmune diseases. Hof and other advocates also believe that systematic exposure to cold may also relieve symptoms of stress and minor depression.
As with any new type of exercise or health intervention, check with your family physician to see if you are healthy enough to try cold tempering. If they do give you the thumbs up (they’ll probably think you’re a bit crazy), start out slowly. A minute or two in a slightly chilly shower is a good place to start. Start with your lower body and, over time, expose yourself to colder temperatures and/or for longer intervals. As you adjust, try immersing yourself higher up your body until eventually you are completely covered in cold water. When cold showers are mastered, ice baths might be next.
For more information on developing a fitness program or if you are interested in personal training, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on my website, bellomofitness.com.