In this article I share 5 different challenges with a cold shower. These exercises are meant for people that are already experienced with taking cold showers and can comfortably be in the cold shower for 2 minutes. If you are still a beginner, you can read this article first.
About the exercises
There are many different ways to approach the cold. These exercises focus on cold exposure as mental training. Every exercise is a lesson that emphasises a different aspect of focus, mindset and relaxation. Depending on personality and experience, some exercises will be more challenging than others. The goal is always to find a way of getting comfortable, not to suffer. The principles of these exercises can also be used for other (cold) challenges like an ice bath.
If you want more context to the exercises: I have written more about cold exposure as mental training here. But you can also just start :)
I suggest you do most of the exercises in the order as given here. The ‘only cold water’ challenge you can also start earlier and combine with the other challenges. You can take an exercise and do it for a week, or as long as you want and then go to the next. Do each exercise at least 3 times before going to the next exercise. When you are sick, skip the cold and continue when you feel better.
Exercise 1: Cold massage
The goal of this exercise is to find a playful enjoyment of the cold water. Whenever you feel resistance: move, breath or make sound. Do the exercise at least 3 times.
Before you start the shower, take a moment to bring your attention inward and take deep conscious breaths. This can be a complete breathing exercise or just a minute of conscious breathing. First turn on the warm water. Start with your feet and feel how the warm water is relaxing them. Do this with attention. You can breathe, move or make sounds with it. “Massage” yourself in this way with warm water. Shower the muscles on your legs. Your hands, arms, belly, chest, back, shoulders, neck, face and head. Then turn on the cold water and do the same. Start with the feet and massage your body in this way with the cold water. Feel how your body and mind react to the cold water. Feel free to be spontaneous in your reactions. If you feel resistance: move, breath, make sounds and enjoy. See if you can avoid holding your breath or tensing up.
Tip: Be gentle with the head. If it is not used to the cold, it might be quite sensitive. No need to suffer here.
Variation: If you want to add a bit more challenge. Do this cycle 3 times. Once you have finished with the head, immediately change the water temperature and start with the feet. So warm, cold, warm, cold, warm, cold.
Exercise 2: Cold shock
The rules of this exercise are the following: 1. Don’t stop 2. Move as fast as you can.
1. Don’t stop: Often once you decide to take a cold shower, there is some hesitation. It can already be way before the cold shower, you might take your phone or find something ‘important’ to do, to procrastinate on taking a cold shower. Also while in the shower, you might wait a couple of moments before turning on the cold and a couple more moments before you step in the cold. Now don’t stop. Once you have decided to do it, move towards your goal without stopping and pausing.
2. Move as fast as you (safely) can. Of course don’t slip or injure yourself. Get in the shower as quickly as possible. Once in the shower, immediately turn on the cold water and aim it at your head or chest*. Then if necessary, recover your breathing and take your time to relax in the cold.
*If your head is not so used to the cold, use your chest. There is no need to get a brainfreeze.
Exercise 3: Mindful torture
The rules of this exercise are: 1. Don’t stop. 2. Do everything as slowly as possible.
The ‘don’t stop’ is same as before
Move as slowly as possible. Of course without pausing or stopping or procrastinating. The moment you have decided to do your challenge, really take you time to get into the cold. Start with cold water on your feet first and very slowly move up and shower the rest of your body. Do this as slow as you can without staying on one place. The slowness can be both a help and a challenge. Enough time to realize that you will be in cold water in some time. Observe. Breath in a relaxed way. Keep your mind and body as relaxed as possible.
Exercise 4: A long cold shower
Take a longer time to take a cold shower. Longer than is comfortable. Then see if you can find comfort in it. Start with 5 minutes and built up to 10 minutes. The challenge is to keep relaxed. Tension will come up. When you observe it relax into it. Again and again and again. Go for a duration that is challenging, but possible.
Extra tips: Don’t overdo it. Take your time for the exercise and afterwards to warm up. When you work with a timer make sure that you press start:)
Exercise 5: Only cold water
A different kind of mental challenge. Don’t use warm water for at least a week (if you want you can extend this challenge to a longer time period (a month is interesting). Shower cold whatever way you like. Can you be okay, without the luxury of warm water?
Enjoy and let me know how it went!