One question that I get regularly as a certified Wim Hof Method instructor is how to practice cold exposure after the class or workshop ends. The easiest thing for most people, in most cases, is variations on cold showers.
"But what if I live in an area and the shower water isn't really that cold?"
"How long should I keep the shower water cold?"
"Can I ever take a warm shower again?"
There are numerous health benefits to cold exposure but the purpose of this post is to give Hof'ers some potential cold exposure ideas and concepts with progressions and alternatives. My hope is that regardless of experience and where you are geographically you can find a way to get your cold exposure training in.
But first a quick word on cold exposure safety from our sponsors:
The cold is a strong force. We strongly advise you to GRADUALLY build up exposing yourself to the cold. Always train without force and listen to your body carefully. If not practiced responsible, you risk hypothermia or an after drop. Always, please consult a doctor first before practicing.
Without further ado... below are some cold exposure training techniques, progressions, and creative ideas for you to start exploring. Most importantly enjoy the process... the magic is in the doing!
Cold Exposure Training - Beginner
If you are new to cold exposure below are a few ideas to get you started:
- Contrast Showers - Toggle between a warm shower and moving the dial to as cold as you can stand it for 15-30 seconds. Work to where you only need 30 seconds to one minute of warm before going back to cold for 30 seconds to one minute. You got this!
- Ending showers cold - At the end of your warm shower turn the dial to as cold as you can stand for 15-30 seconds progressing to where you can end your shower for two minutes cold.
- Go walk outside in bathing suit/shorts when air temp is in 40s F.
- Sit outside when air temp is in 50s and it is raining.
- Fill a bowl with cold water and insert hands for up to a minute. Repeat with feet. You can also fill a separate bowl with warm (not hot) water and do a contrast of cold and warm water dips with your hands and feet like in the shower.
- Place a single ice cube on the top of your spine/neck area and let it melt.
- Place cold packs on the back of your neck/spine, over your chest, and/or between your legs. Place a thin layer of material between your skin and ice pack to avoid ice burn.
- Cryotherapy at a local provider. They can set you up with a beginner temp and time.
Cold Exposure Training - Intermediate
- Full body immersion in cold water. Fill your tub with water as cold as it will get it and do a full body submersion or jump in a pool. Start off no longer than two minutes then gradually increase. Hands out of water will be easier to start but progress to where your are fully submerged to your neck.
- Start with the shower water cold for 15-30 seconds until you progress up to two minutes before going into a warm shower (always end cold for atleast 30 seconds!)
- Cold shower only for 5 minutes. No warm water.
- Ice training with extremeties. Fill a bowl with ice and put a little water in. Put each hand in for for two minutes each, then both hands. Repeat with feet.
- Soak a sheet in ice water and drape around you for 2-3 minutes progressing to more. The colder/windier the outside air conditions are the more challenging this will be.
- Go sit outside for 5-10+ minutes when it is cold (< 50 F) and rainy.
- Go hike/run with bathing suit/shorts when air temp is < 45 F.
- Walk barefoot outside on the earth (not pavement) when the air temp is in the 40s F.
- Cryotherapy at a local provider. They can set you up with an intermediate temp and time.
Cold Exposure Training - Advanced
- Start shower water cold (assuming your shower water is actually cold) and stay in for 5+ minutes progressing to 10 minutes. No warm water.
- ·Full body immersion in ice water. Go up to neck and put hands in water. No longer than two minutes to begin progressing to more once your body acclimates.
- Multiple dips in full body ice water. Go in for two minutes, get out and warm up for 5 minutes, go in for another two minutes. Repeat as necessary.
- Lay down in the snow with just shorts/bathing suit in. Be careful to avoid ice burn.
- Go for a short swim in a pool or lake when air temp and water temp are < 40F.
- Find a frozen or near frozen lake and take a plunge. (May need axe/hatchet to break up ice).
- Go hike/run with bathing suit/shorts when air temp is < 40 F.
- Walk barefooted in snow or on earth (not pavement) when air temps <40 F.
- Soak a sheet in ice water and drape around yourself for 5+ minutes outside when air temp is <40 F. Build up to drying the sheets like the Tibetan Monks.
- Cryotherapy at a local provider. They can set you up with an advanced temp and time.
Creative Cold Exposure Training Ideas
When the shower water just doesn't get that cold anymore try some of the creative cold exposure ideas below:
- Combine the cold shower water (not-so-cold shower water?) and a bowl of ice for your hands. Turn the shower water on cold, sit down and put hands in the bowl of ice water. Enjoy.
- Setup a chest freezer in garage or wherever you have space. Fill with 3/4 water and run freezer until desired water temp is reached. May need to purchase a temperature reader to gauge water temp (which I would suggest doing anyways, especially if you plan on taking dips in nature). ALWAYS UNPLUG FREEZER BEFORE GETTING IN! Note that some models may need additional reinforcements/waterproofing based on the interior of the unit.
- If you live an area that gets cold then purchase a large steel or plastic bin and fill with 3/4 water and leave outside. These rigs can get pretty elaborate with insulation, lids, etc. I would atleast put a tarp over the tub to prevent leaves, etc from getting in.
- Ice can get expensive if purchasing from the store. Consider filling Tupperware or plastic bottles 1/2 way with water and then freezing them to give you larger ice blocks or bottles for at home ice baths. Cold or ice packs can be used in the same way.
- Turn down the A/C to 60 F to get some cold air moving in your place. Then go through your cold shower routine or ice bowl training. Sit directly in front of the vent after you get out of the shower.
- Position a fan on you directly before/during/after the next cold shower or ice bowl training. (Do this with the A/C trick above for a nice trifecta in hot weather climate.)
Understood Assumptions When Cold Training
- Don't overdo it! The cold is no joke. Treat it with respect. Slowly build up your endurance to reduce the risk of afterdrop and/or hypothermia.
- Remember it is not a competition with yourself or anyone else. More isn't always better. Better is better. Then better can become more in time with the proper training and focus.
- The above list is by no means an all inclusive, exhaustive list. Rather something to get you thinking about how you may be able to approach cold training. The temps and times referenced are just a guideline as a lot of this experience will be subjective to you, your commitment to cold training and your mental focus.
- If doing cold exposure training in nature ALWAYS bring extra layers of clothing and let people know where you are and your plan for the day.
- Take your time getting out of the cold exercise and warmed back up. Don't rush the process and let the body acclimate as naturally as possible for as long as possible. So resist the urge to jump out of a freezing cold river, immediately towel off and throw all of your layers on.
- Most importantly, enjoy the pre-cold, cold, and post-cold training sessions. This is my favorite meditative state to engage in so don't rush it and remember the magic is the in the doing!
If you are in the Fort Collins, CO region and would like to attend a WHM workshop or a weekly class then contact me directly to discuss. I also offer one-on-one online training sessions for personal development in the Wim Hof Method for those not in the region.
All the best on your journey!
Peace & Love,
* Above Picture: Me relaxing at Saint Mary's Glacier outside Idaho Springs, CO. So empowering!