The idea of a cold shower may sound like a brutally unpleasant experience. Why would anyone want to put themselves through that level of discomfort? Well, I guess you could ask that question to someone cycling up a really steep climb. The answer is simple, because you get something out of it!
Cyclist and runners are known to incorporate “ice baths” into their recovery routine. What I do not like about ice baths is that they are too much of an inconvenience. Who really has the time to run a bath, pour ice in it (that you probably had to go buy from the shop) and then lie there and suffer for 5-15 minutes. Forget about it! You can get the exact same benefits from taking a cold shower, as you would from taking an ice bath and it takes a fraction of the time.
Why all cyclist should take cold showers:
Improves your lymphatic and immune systems
Immersing yourself in cold water causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body and thereby flushing the waste out of the area. This then triggers the immune system’s white blood cells to attack and destroy any unwanted substance in the fluid. This is how cold showers can actually keep you from getting sick!
Improves your blood circulation
The most common ways to improve your blood circulation is to eat healthy and exercise, but did you know that cold showers can also help improve your blood flow? When you take a cold shower, blood rushes to support the vital organs in your body! This forces your heart to pump blood more efficiently, by pushing blood through all your vessels and supplying your cells with the oxygen it needs.
Have you ever been so sore after a workout that you have resorted to taking anti-inflammatory medication? I think we have all been there. There are incredible anti-inflammatory meds out there, that will help you recovery faster, especially if you have an injury you want to heal. With that said, it should not be a daily, or even weekly solution to sore muscles. A far better and more natural alternate is to take a cold shower. The cold water lowers the damaged tissue’s temperature and constricts the blood vessels. This helps reduce the swelling and inflammation in the infected area. It will also numb the nerve endings, causing immediate pain relief.
Helps you lose weight
Ok, if this does not sell you on the idea of taking cold showers then nothing will. You may find it hard to believe, but cold showers will help you lose weight. Studies have shown, that some fat cells can generate heat by burning fat. They do this when your body is exposed to cold conditions, for example when you take a cold shower. Cold showers are not going to help you lose weight as quickly as eating a healthy diet and exercising will, but hey… if you could spend money on carbon bottle cages, because they were 15 grams lighter than the plastic ones, then you can give this a try.
Boosts your energy levels
A cold shower first thing in the morning is the perfect way to start your day. The adrenaline rush you get from taking a cold shower, creates a rush of norepinephrine. This will increase your energy, focus and performance. Give it a try and you will see for yourself. There is nobody who steps out of a cold shower, without feeling better than we they stepped in. Yes, you will definitely feel freezing cold for a minute or two afterwards, but you will also feel awake and ready to tackle what lies a head. I prefer a cold shower in the morning over a cup of coffee.
Makes you less depressed
A 2007 study, found that cold water treatment, if used regularly, can even be more beneficial than prescription medication for treating depression! You may be thinking, “But I am not depressed?” Ok, fair enough. Let us just say that cold showers will make you feel happier. This is because cold water triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Regardless of how good you are feeling at the moment, see if a cold shower will not make you feel even better.
Cold showers make you mentally tough
I saved this one for last, because I believe it to be the most important benefit you get from taking cold showers. Cycling is a hard sport and to do well in it you need to be a hard person. I am not suggesting that you ride a stage of the Tour de France with a broken collar bone, like Tyler Hamilton, but there is no doubt that mental toughness is important. Cold showers are unpleasant and taking them regularly will make you mentally tough.
The way I take a cold showers, I call a “cold turkey” approach (pun intended). I simply stand under the shower head and turn open the cold tap. This is probably the most mentally challenging way to take a cold shower, but it is also the best way! Remember that the first 5 seconds will be the most challenging. If you can get through the first 5 seconds, you can get through 5 minutes. If you can not do this, then start showering with lukewarm water and make it colder and colder. Do this until it is as cold as you can bear. The more you do it the easier it will become.
There are plenty of other benefits to taking cold showers. The ones I have mentioned above are the ones, which I believe relate the most to cycling and will help you become a better, stronger and happier cyclist.