THE DAILY COLD SHOWER
I don’t know exactly how or why it started.
I’m not what most people would consider brave. Or tough.
Maybe that’s why I did it.
It’s not like I had never taken cold showers before, but I figured those days were behind me.
When I’d hear about guys like Tim Ferriss taking an ice bath, or Tony Robbins hanging out in his cryogenic chamber, I would think, “good for them, not for me.”
But then, I took a cold shower.
And it wasn’t big deal. And it was cold, but it was summertime, and, you know, I didn’t exactly turn it all the way to nordic ice bath.
It was unpleasant, but I guess you could say it was bearable.
And then, maybe a few days or weeks later, I took another one.
And, I don’t know, I guess I kind of liked the feeling of accomplishment after I was done.
And so I started doing it a little bit more.
And after a while, I decided I should start tracking it in Coach.me so I could know exactly how often I was doing it.
And after a few weeks of simply tracking these one-off events, it somehow became a part of my daily routine. I mean, showering has always been a part of my daily routine, but now every shower I took was a cold shower.
And it’s winter in Utah.
Some mornings I’m surprised that the ice is somehow still in a liquid form — but I’m certain it’s got to be ice because it’s so damn cold.
Every morning, after my run, I put my little baby, Hugo, into his playtime saucer, I open the shower door, turn to Hugo and say, “let’s do this! wish daddy luck!” turn on the spigot, and — even though I know it’s not going to get any warmer — I delay just a few seconds out of habit.
A day hasn’t gone by that some part of me hasn’t wanted to just turn the water back to warm, but I’m lucky enough to have months of cold showers behind me, and so some part of my logical brain tells my emotional brain that it’s going to be ok — we’ve done this before and we’re going to do it again and when it’s over, we’re going to be glad we did it.
And then it happens.
My head dives in first. I think this is likely because it’s one of the less-sensitive areas, and yet, there’s no turning back. If you just get your arm wet, it’s easy to change your mind, but once your hair is soaked, there’s no way out but through.
With my head bowed, I let the cascading water fall from my hair to the washcloth in my hand. Once both my head and my washcloth are soaked, I step back, put the cloth on my shoulder and put conditioner in my hand. I rarely use shampoo. I massage the conditioner in my hair while the water hits the wall and sprays a bit on me. This is my last moment of refuge before things get really painful.
Now that my hair is full of conditioner, there’s no more stalling. I turn to the stream of ice-cold water coming from the wall and let it hit my chest. My body tightens. Every time. I catch my breath. Every time.
I want to scream like a little girl. Every time.
I soon come back to my senses and either start singing my “cold shower” song (maybe I’ll upload that to soundcloud or youtube (while outside of the shower) sometime), or I mimic Rocky to Clubber Lang and say, “you ain’t so bad; you ain’t nothin.” That actually helps. A lot.
I rub the bar of soap to my chest, and then, then I get ready for the worst part — the back.
Oh man, I hate when the water hits my back. It’s like the whole shock all over again. But I’m too far into it to stop now. And I’m trying to practice being tough so I have to get off my tippy-toes, and turn my ass around.
And that’s what I do. Literally.
Uuuuugh. That stupid cold water.
I now wash my whole body with soap and the wash cloth. I try to tell myself that this is refreshing. On less-icy days, I can actually almost believe that.
My skin start to hurt a little. My chest and stomach turn pink. I remember my wife telling me my skin has gotten really soft lately — I suspect this is that moment that makes that possible.
At this stage in the process, it’s not so bad, but it’s not good. I try to remember to practice being mindful. That helps. Otherwise it’s just a blur of wanting it to be over and going as fast as I can. But if I can remember that I’m choosing to do this, and that I’ve made it through before, I get back to a little consciousness. I turn around. Rinse my head. Rinse my body. And turn off the water. I yell to little Hugo, “we did it!” And I envelope myself in a warm (room temp) towel.
It doesn’t get easier.
But the momentum helps. I don’t want to break the chain. And I really do feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards. Plus, I know I’ve done it before — and there’s nothing so different today that should keep me from doing what I was able to do yesterday.
And now, for the rest of the day, when I face something I really don’t want to do (which, let’s face it, is almost anything where I have to put myself out there), I think back to my cold shower and tell myself it can’t be worse than that.