Why do I swim in cold water? Can you?

If you have been following me on LinkedIn or Instagram you will no doubt have seen my posts in the cold Irish Sea during the winter. I like to be in the sea every morning (as long as I am near water) and when I don’t have the sea I will take to a river, a lake or just a very cold bath. I know what you are thinking, why the hell would I want to do this?

A cold December morning floating in the Irish Sea - recording a free positive message for social media.

A cold December morning floating in the Irish Sea - recording a free positive message for social media.

The first part of the answer is pretty easy, I do it because it is always a little difficult. I won’t lie, each morning I wake up and think about getting myself down to the beach and I always consider ‘maybe not today’, but I know that voice in my head, it has been around for 40 years. So I shut that demon up and push myself into my swimming shorts and get ready to take a dip. Doing things that make you feel uncomfortable is a signal to the body that you are not willing to be ridden in autopilot. You are not the passenger and do not want to be laid bare to every whim your body or mind decides it wants you to follow. In many ways this is not dissimilar to the workout or run first thing in the morning. The difference is there are NO excuses, NO reasons why you can’t do it, so you are always pushing yourself. I think that is why I like it most.

The next part is the cool science piece. There are multiple studies extolling the benefits of cold water on our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. This is some real primal shit that once you start tapping into it it will blow your mind, but you will also have opened Pandora’s Box. One study in the Netherlands showed a reduction in sick days within a work environment by adding cold time in the shower - Sick Day Study. This study is really cool, as it also leads us into the whole concept of awakening our employees to their own personal health regime. This is profitable for the business, but it is also positive on the moral compass front too. Are there many other ways that you can do good for your employees and make more money?

My meditation practice goes a long way to help with cold water. My body is always calm and my resting heart rate is low, so adding meditation to cold water submersion is a real positive. Once I look at the cold water, I simply take a deep breath and connect to my mindful self, my internal dialogue is ‘it will be ok’ and I dive in. There is no cold water shock, in fact the opposite, I often feel more like this is a coming home event, than a task … (WARNING: Do not just expose yourself to cold water without training and supervision).

We were skiing in the French Alps over New Year and I had no access to the sea or a lake. Instead each day I filled the bath with freezing cold water (outside temp was -16 Celsius) and I submerged my body for 6 - 8 minutes. Relaxing and breathing.

The next big reason is access to my central nervous system and more importantly the Parasympathetic Nervous System. The stress that the modern human face is often unknown, what exactly is it that is making you feel nervous anxious and concerned about the future? Five thousand years ago it was the wolf on the hill, now it is career prospects, lack of friendship, social media pressure, self-image concerns, money worries etc etc. If you don’t really know what scares you then how can you tell you body to relax? Well, it is actually not too difficult. You need to train the body to relax and to turn off the Sympathetic Nervous System (fight, flight freeze). This can be achieved through meditation, cold showers (or baths) and even exercise. This is when you get to shut off that annoying ass voice in your head that keeps getting in your way and tripping you up!

Want to learn more? drop me a line.

Justin Caffrey