A few minutes ago I heaped about 40 pounds of ice into my bathtub filled with already cold water. As I write this, I'm sitting in the tub, in the icy water, and, well, loving it. My heart beat has decreased. I'm calm, focused. I have quelled every ache in the body. I've literally cooled off any inflammation in my brain. I'm burning more fat than a 10 mile run. And maybe you're still wondering, "why the heck is this guy sitting in ice?" Because it does all the things I just mentioned and then some.
Perhaps I should start earlier in the day.
I woke up at 3:40am, solved a Rubik's cube in less than 3 minutes, cleared my mind with a leisurely, meditative walk, completed 9 hours of consulting, balanced some books, mailed out my estimated taxes, did not eat a single bite of food and bought a ton of ice. It's 4pm. My mind is clear. My energy is great. I'm not hungry. Life is good. And maybe you're still wondering, "why the heck is this guy sitting in ice?"
Perhaps I should start earlier in the year.
Months ago my business partner brought to my attention Julien Smith's free E-book, "The Flinch." The gist is that our minds are too preoccupied by the thought of and overprotection from danger. Largely, this annoying waste of brain energy, one might argue, inhibits personal growth. Nothing risked, nothing gained. How do we shut up this pesky little voice that's holding us back? According to Julien, step one is to walk to your shower, crank it up full blast on the coldest it will go and then step in. Don't think. Just do.
It worked. The first time I did it I just laughed afterwards. Colors were brighter. Sounds were more vibrant. Smells more robust. The sensation of touch was entirely new and nearly overwhelming. All of that brain bandwidth gets freed up. All day long you waste so much brain computing on worry. "Did I return that email?" "Are the bills due?" "Did I get back to so and so?" "What will so and so think of me?" And on and on our minds spin. The more cognitive preservation multi-tasking, the harder it is to focus on anything. Paralysis by analysis. But then you go do something that your unconscious mind thinks is killing you, and it shuts up after a few minutes. Exercise works this way. Skydiving works this way. So does cold. Having trouble sleeping because inane and deleterious thoughts are pecking about in your head? Do some sprints and jump in ice.
The icy shower is good; but many of my peers have argued that the ice bath is superior in every way. The vast majority of my employees over the years were collegiate athletes and had at one time or another used ice for recovery. But until this moment, I only dreamed about it.
As far as I can tell, ice does it all:
1.) Burn Fat
It takes a lot of energy to heat your body up. After all, strictly speaking, a calorie is the measure of energy to raise a gram of water one degree Celsius. It takes some adaptation, but activating brown fat (the heating that is shiver-independent) annihilates the rest of your fat.
There are some studies challenging this; but I believe they aren't accounting for the fact that some participants dread the ice bath. Clearly, if you hate it, it will be very difficult for you to reap the benefit. Much like studying a subject you dislike or "don't get," the dividends of benefit aren't paid out when there's no passion. On the other hand, after you've adapted to cold and look forward to it, you find that recovery from workouts or even tough days is greatly improved. We know for a fact that ice calms down inflammation wherever it's applied.
3.) Live longer
Aside from the obvious fact that while very cold you slow the breakdown associated with aging, there are some extreme examples of when people died in freezing water or on ice and were successfully resuscitated hours (and maybe even days) later.
4.) Sleep better
Neurosurgeon Jack Kruse is a great resource for cold thermogenesis. Frankly, I haven't looked at any of his material until just now while writing this; but I know he's developed protocols for how people can safely incorporate this into their regimen. He has ample articles about how cold thermogenesis fixes everything, including sleep.
It's long been demonstrated that blood serum testosterone improves in people who practice cold thermogenesis; and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of it had to do with the fact that people taking icy showers before bed sleep like the dead. Sleep tends to improve everything.
5.) Think clearer/brain health
Like the rest of these bullet points, there are endless studies to back them and lots of caveats to explore. But perhaps the best evidence is this article itself. I've written it in the span of about ten minutes; and now, as I can sense that my body may start shivering shortly, I'm going to wrap up the article and get out of the ice water.
I'm not going to detail this; but suffice it to say that the old adage about taking a cold shower just simply isn't true. Think of it this way: if you can shut up all of your worries, negative thoughts, negative self-speak and fear, you can focus your mind on whatever you want without diversion. It could be a conference call, a presentation, a tournament, an article or whatever you imagine.