There is a fitness activity that some of the most successful people in the world do – that you can do too – which will invigorate you, provide you with plenty health benefits, and actually clarify certain uncertainties you may have with work. Cold water swimming is a chilling and thrilling trend, beloved by presidents, athletes, and regular fitness enthusiasts alike, and here’s why…
You probably cringe and quickly step back when cold shower water hits you, right? And as you test the water temperatures before swimming or showering, you’re usually wondering when they’ll warm up, or when you will get used to the chill.
Cold water swimming is an activity that requires you to lean into the freezing cold, and to let it shock your system; And rather than focus on when you’re getting out, cold water swimming demands you look beyond what your body is experiencing.
Cold water swimming makes you introspective, able to cope with stress better – all this while your body reaps benefits, like a boosted immune system, when you are in those waters and your body is pushed to an unfamiliar limit.
Cold water swimming may seem a wholly fitness-related activity at first glance, but it has been built into the daily habits of some of the most successful business and entertainment figures in the world – with them themselves claiming a wonderful slew of benefits that range from attaining better focus at work, to healing their bodies. Some people even claim far more fascinating returns from the plunge. 60-year old ice swimming record-holder, father, and former global financial services CEO Ram Barkai once told Discovery in a profile on himself, that two qualities he values highly are humility and mental fortitude – which the extreme conditions of cold water swimming can apparently foster.
Under different names, the use of cold immersion has always been prevalent to anyone seeking a departure from the norm – for health, wealth, and even comradery. The idea of possibility, celebration of life, and gauging capability, when it comes to cold water plunges, is also taken up as high as the Commander-and-Chief of the Free World.
Did you know that United States president Joe Biden takes “polar plunges” on Thanksgiving in Nantucket? According to Sarah Miller for the Business Times, she and President Biden are part of a growing community of cold water swimmers and plungers.
If you aren’t sold on the idea of cold immersion – whether swimming, or plunging into ice baths like Lady Gaga and Madonna enjoy – Here are reasons to immerse yourself, some from figures who have used it to great success in their lives:
- The pioneer, says you can actually rewire your autonomic nervous system, and enhance your ability to control your breath during times of physical stress
Extreme athlete Wim Hof is the Dutchman who pioneered cold therapy and jostled the wellness, fitness, and business industry along the way. His methodology uses a specifically harmonised combination of regular exposure to the cold, breathing techniques, as well as meditation. The ‘Wim Hof Method’ is now world-renowned, used everywhere from Mount Kilimanjaro to Cape Town. According to Mina Kerr-Lazenby for The Denizen (2020), the Guinness World Records holder of more than 20 records “goes as far as to say that we are capable of consciously controlling our immune systems in order to fight off diseases.”
All those cold water techniques and benefits do more than focus solely on the physical though, as Hof has been quoted for explaining how mindfulness is a goal everyone should aspire for; this, I too believe, is a key to success in life, branding, and business.
- Billionaire CEO says cold water plunges bring him improved alertness
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, a Silicon Valley success and relative weekend warrior, has noticeably given praise to daily cold water plunges, as a way of sharpening him up for business. He gains focus from this activity, and that’s just one of the many perks.
According to Mina Kerr-Lazenby for The Denizen (2020), the “basic theory goes something like this: putting ourselves in a state of controlled discomfort and exposing our minds and bodies to small levels of stress can help them become stronger and more resilient. Basically, if we’re capable of sitting in an unbearably uncomfortable, tank of frozen hell for 15 minutes, then really, we’re capable of anything.”
- Enhanced thermoregulatory ability, and decreased joint and muscular pain
According to Jess Arrowsmith of Triple White, the ‘hot sauna, cold plunge’ “triggers your blood vessels to constrict rapidly and as a result, elevate blood pressure…By jumping in an ice bath after sitting in a sauna between 60 and 70 degrees Celcius, blood flow will improve and faster recovery from any muscle damage or soreness will increase.”
Ice bathing is utilized as a form of cold water therapy in sports, with the likes of basketball legend Lebron James, tennis savant Naomi Osaka, Andy Murray and more – using it to kickstart healing, minimise the soreness of their muscles, train, and get ahead of any inflammations.
- Top Newspaper journalist claims heightened libido and immune system function
Nick Wilson, business journalist for top newspapers, was interested in cold water plunging starting 2 years ago when researching the Finnish concept of ‘Sisu’ for a UK publication. ‘Sisu’, he says, incorporates extremes like cold water plunging and saunas in one regiment. Nick uses both in his life and witnessed numerous health benefits like helping in quicker recovery after sport (like tennis, which he plays), and with frequent use of saunas and cold water plunges, he found, they boost libido and boost your immune systems too, which are necessary for fighting colds and flus. Nick’s research states that it also helps boost testosterone in men too.
Nick’s experience and findings add further credence to a review published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2018) which Wilson discovered, by medical doctors who stated that “emerging evidence suggests that beyond its use for pleasure, sauna bathing may be linked to several health benefits, which include reduction in the risk of vascular diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and neurocognitive diseases; nonvascular conditions such as pulmonary diseases, mortality, as well as amelioration of conditions such as arthritis, headache and flu”.
The successful journalist says he feels much more alive from the plunges and saunas, and recommends it, and it would seem doctors are steadily giving a nod to it too.
Top Tips & Insights from Fitness Enthusiast Liezel
If you are struggling to warm to the idea of cold water swimming and its numerous benefits, here’s why I do it daily:
- There can only be silence, and ultimate focus and peace when I immerse myself in chilly waters. There is no time for worry, and there is no time for anything other than full awareness of my body and what its feeling.
- I use cold water plunges as a way to cope with stress. Just as Dean McCruby of MySocialLife teaches grade 4 – 12 learners in schools about how they can deal with stress and feelings by swimming and taking cold water plunges, I use the opportunity and effects of the cold and weightless environment, to subconsciously process and consciously redirect my energy to the peacefulness of a plunge. Mindfulness is something I consider vital to functioning as a successful entrepreneur.
- I’m in good company. As a safety measure, no one should ever do cold water swims and plunges alone, and I learned the value beyond safety, that swimming with people can have. I am surrounded by some of the most incredible and successful figures in my cold-water swimming group – but when we are plunged into the chilly waters, we are all just people focusing on the next breathe and stroke across the water. Doing these plunges also puts you in the same regiment that is taken by the likes of Lady Gaga, Madonna, Jack Dorsey and Lebron James.
- Here’s reassurance about acclimating to cold water plunges: it is said to only take 6 immersions to halve the shock response everybody gets from the cold water. After 6 immersions, you will have a heart rate and breathing rate that is only half as much as the first times, and you’ll panic less. Your ability to panic less, will train you in how to cope with stressful circumstances beyond the waters – and as an entrepreneur and executive, this is critical!
Cold immersion may not be for everyone’s day-to-day life, but a shock to the system is occasionally great for the body and mind. Considering research suggests that “cold water habituation resets” your nervous system, which is responsible for everyone’s ‘flight-or-fight’ response, spending time in chilly waters should be a part of everyone’s daily regimen. People who learn to cope better with stressful circumstances, and who learn to panic less and breathe and focus more, are likely to make better decisions in the workplace.
If stepping into an icy bath or chilling ocean is too much, maybe start with switching to only cold water when you’re nearly done with your shower. It will make you so much more alert, invigorate your body and system, and you could gain clarity and focus when you activate your work mode.
Think you’ll give it a try?