Your Ice Bath Intention Matters
Written by Fritz Nugent
Cold exposure in the form of cold showers, ice baths, cold plunges, and running naked through the street at midnight (maybe Frank the Tank is alone on that last one) have gained recent popularity. There are many research-supported benefits of cold exposure. I’m going to discuss two of them here, and how to leverage your approach to get what you want out of your cold exposure experience.
Shivering vs. Fighting the Shiver
One of the main benefits that cold seekers desire is mental fortitude. When they enter the cold, some people work on calmly breathing through it. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest, sleep, calm, digestive part of the nervous system) to bring about calm to combat the extreme response of the sympathetic nervous system (the fight, flight, full-send part of the nervous system). Others learn to fight the cold by power breathing through it. Either way, they are resisting the shiver by either relaxing into the cold, or staying in the fight against the cold. This is where the mental performance benefits exist – resisting the shiver.
On the other side of that coin is NOT resisting the shiver. Shivering stimulates the breakdown of brown fat to provide warmth to the body. So if you allow the shiver, then you will stimulate more body fat loss than those who resist shivering.
To summarize this simple distinction, there exist two opposing sides to the same cold exposure coin:
- RESIST the shiver for mental fortitude and performance benefits
- ALLOW the shiver for body fat loss
Use the cold as you see best fit for you!