Why cold water’s been making waves in lock down

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Rosie Underwood puts cold water therapy to the test

Look up Cold water therapy, and thanks to a certain ‘Ice man,’ also known as Wim Hoff, you’ll discover his almost super human abilities to withstand near freezing temperatures, along with a more user-friendly method that’s been having a ripple effect (excuse the pun) in the wellbeing industry, and lock down houses a plenty for good reason.

“Both cold exposure and conscious breathing require patience and dedication … Armed with focus and determination you are ready to explore and eventually master your own body and mind,” says the Dutch extreme athlete on his website. He calls it “a practical way to become happier, healthier, and more powerful.”

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By teaming cold water therapy, which could be anything from easing yourself into cold showers daily, or wild swimming, followed by breath work and a solid commitment to your daily practice, the process takes advantage of our bodies tendency to adapt to extreme conditions. This makes us more resistant to stress, it boosts lymphatic circulation- which essentially helps your body cleanse itself- reduces muscle inflammation and above all, it makes you feel happier.

Yep, you’re wondering how a freezing shower, or worse, the sea or a random lake in very cold conditions might make you happy and not want to run for the hills? In plain English, cold water triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, which make you feel flipping fantastic.

So, along with the likes of Tony Robbins, Fearne Cotton, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall I decided that lock down would be the perfect opportunity to really put this theory to the test. I’m not shy of getting into the water myself, I’m even one of those nutters who’s partial to a UK Christmas dip and I reckon I gave a penguin a run for its money in a bitterly cold mountain lake in Austria once (fully aware penguins don’t frequent there.) But even under the advice of Wim to ease myself into the process of daily cold showers, I still didn’t find the process easy come quarantine.

I could blame this global pandemic like I do for most things right now, I could blame the fact that my shower, nice as it is, doesn’t resemble a Herbal Essences advert inspired jungle waterfall vibe, and being away from nature made the whole process a lot harder. If I’m in the sea or a lake, the cold water has a physical and an emotional response that keeps me going back for more. The shower however, didn’t have quite that impact.

I teach yoga daily, so my muscles take a hit, my sleep patterns were all over the place thanks to our negativity bias that’s amplified by the news during this pandemic, so my fatigue levels were on the rise. Perhaps this negativity bias was playing a part in me struggling to adhere to the ‘Ice man’s’ orders, but as the weeks rolled by, the temperature of my showers decreased, and so did my stress and fatigue levels. My time in the chill got longer by the day and I could demo back to back classes for hours with little to no muscle strain.  Interesting. The cold shower snapped me out of the usual morning grogginess quicker than any shot of espresso could, practically transforming me from zombie in leggings and a top knot, to a Mary Poppins style Yoga teacher with a tendency to cartwheel into class.

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The best part of the practice, drying off and slipping into BAM lounge wear to begin breath work, described by Wim as ‘controlled hyperventilation or power breathing.’ It’s an intense experience to say the least, you need little in the way of distraction which means breathable fibres are key, plus the cold water does wonders for you skin. Not forgetting our skin is out largest organ, the only one you can touch, it needs to breathe just as you do if you want the best from this kind of a daily practice. And boy did it make a world of difference to my days.

So, there you have it, persistence is key, commitment is key, and the results will have you skipping into a potential ‘next wave’ quicker than you can say ‘Pandemic take 2.’ Here’s to the Ice Man.

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