As humans, we are the only animals that change our environment instead of adapting to it. As soon as it gets a little cold we put on extra layers of clothing and turn up the heating in our cars and homes. Essentially this is disconnecting ourselves from nature and its cycles. We live in an eternal summer “protected” from the winter elements. But can we condition ourselves to the environment and learn to love the cold?
It’s time to Reconnect
For about two years now I have been practicing the Wim Hof Method. This method is based on three fundamental pillars:
- Breathing Techniques
- Cold Adaptation
The breathing technique optimises the chemistry of the body. The cold adaptation reconnects us to our natural environment. The commitment is necessary for and cultivated by both practices, in order to truly master our mind and body.
In this article, i will focus on Cold Adaptation (quite fitting for the weather in Mallorca right now!). Look out for more about Breathing Techniques and Commitment in future articles.
“It’s cold! Brrrrrr…
When you mention cold, most people tense their bodies, shrug their shoulders up to their ears and actually feel a little cold. It’s not something that most of us find pleasurable. In fact, before I started practicing this method,I didn’t like the cold either. My favourite season was spring because it was the end of winter and the return of the warmth. Now my favourite season is winter! When I wake up in the morning and the air is crisp and clear and the ground is covered in frost, it puts a big smile on my face. I go outside in my undies and feel the sensations of the cold on my body.
There is nothing like cold exposure to make you feel alive. You can feel every part of your skin reacting. Your metabolism kicks into high gear to keep you warm and your body starts to secrete certain hormones that protect you from the cold. When we allow ourselves to experience the cold, the body receives the message that it is winter. This starts the processes necessary to protect us from the elements. It produces more white blood cells and other immune cells that will fight off bacteria and viruses. It secretes a hormone called nor-epinephrine that is a vasoconstrictor. This is also used as a treatment for depressive disorders. Aswell as this, systemic inflammation is reduced as being cold forces us to use more energy. Think of it as passive workout for your whole cardiovascular system!
Cold therapy is nothing new. It has been known about for a long time, but thanks to the backing of science, it is now starting to become popular. Adapting to the cold has many benefits for our health and overall wellbeing. The best thing of all is that it’s free!
You can learn to love the cold
There are two ways in which we can reconnect: Cold water and Cold air:
The easiest way to reconnect is by finishing your daily shower with cold water – the coldest water that will come out of the tap! At the beginning this will be quite a shock to your system and you will gasp for air, but don’t worry, that will calm down quickly. This is because our Central Nervous System has been weakened by never having to deal with sudden changes of temperature. Luckily, our CNS adapts very quickly so the shock will get progressively less as you do it more and more. A good amount of time to start with is 30 seconds, at the end of your normal shower. Then, as that begins to get easier, increase the time of cold exposure. You will get all of the benefits I mentioned previously from taking cold showers. Its challenging when you are in, but once you get out you will feel amazing! A great, empowering way to start the day.
We are very lucky to live on a paradise island with 300+ days of sun a year. The Mediterranean Sea is 13 degrees at its coldest! When we are open to bathing in colder water, we can enjoy the beaches all year round and most importantly, in the winter when they are clean and empty. Winter swimming not only provides the health benefits of cold adaptation but you also get extra Vitamin D (essential in winter) from exposing your skin to the sun, as well as the best mineral supplement that exists by immersing ourselves in the sea. Sea water contains a balanced concentration of important minerals in just the right proportions that are soaked up through your skin while you swim.
Reduce your clothing
You can also adapt to the cold by exposing more of your skin to the elements. Last winter I adapted my body to go all winter with short sleeves. This winter I am yet to put a sweater on and I am going to try to go the whole winter in a T-shirt. If you need a bit of extra protection, try adding a waistcoat, hat and gloves before reaching for a sweater or jacket.
Cold Adaptation Hikes
Cold adaptation hiking simply means going for a hike in winter, wearing summer clothes! They are a great challenge and give us a deep connection with the environment. Cold hikes are a lot like a walking meditation; staying connected to the breath helps us stay warm. As soon as you lose your concentration you feel the cold creeping in and this brings you back to your breath. These hikes also show you that you are capable of much more than you think. Your body has the capacity to warm itself with little clothing in very cold conditions.
With cold there is the very real danger of hypothermia. It’s best to take it very slowly and build up over time. Your body will adapt quickly but it’s easy to get excited and go overboard. A good way of knowing you’ve gone too far is if you start to shiver. This is a good indication that it’s time to put some clothes on or stop your cold shower! Another tell-tale sign is if you are cold for hours after your cold shower. This indicates that you have been in too long and should do less next time.
Health is so much more than exercise
Try bringing some cold into your life. The benefits are endless for the little effort and zero time invested. Guaranteed that you will feel amazing!
If you are interested in learning the Wim Hof Method or would like some direct guidance and supervision in a group setting, where the group energy gives you strength and safety, we run ongoing workshops that include: Wim Hof Method Workshops with ice bath, Group Winter Swimming and Cold Adaptation Hikes.
We also integrate cold adaptation into our own personal training program, “The Optimal Health Method” along with specific breathing techniques, training and nutritional coaching; a truly unique and effective method that gives real results, because health is so much more than just exercise.
Visit http://optimalhealthmethod.com for more info on our workshops and personal training programs.
Written by Luke Wills
About the author
Luke Wills has over 7 years experience in the Fitness Industry and is a pioneer in Spain in disciplines such as Kettlebell Training, the Wim Hof Method and The Oxygen Advantage.
The Optimal Health Method is the combination of environmental conditioning, breathing techniques, optimal nutrition coaching and personalized exercise routines, forming a truly unique and effective method that gives real results, because health is so much more than just exercise.
Luke lives in a self built, off grid house in the country side of Mallorca with his wife, baby, dogs and chickens.