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Braving the Cold: You're tougher than you think, you just don't know it yet!

By Dr. Mike Cohen

Man on cold showerI’ve studied a man named Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman. This man has put his body to the test. He climbed Mount Everest in nothing but shorts, he broke the Guinness World Records for the length of time submerged under freezing water, and he injected himself with E. Coli bacteria without experiencing any of the usual flu-like side effects.

How did he do this? Is Wim Hof superhuman?

No. Wim Hof has trained his body to withstand extremely cold temperatures and boosts his immune system through daily cold showers and deep breathing techniques. It’s hard to believe in our civilized society that accessing your inner toughness is through something so ordinary.

My 31-Day Cold Shower Challenge

During the month of January, I challenged myself to practice parts of the Wim Hof method and committed to taking freezing cold showers every day. Everyone I spoke to who takes daily cold showers mentioned the profound impact it has on their immunity and focus throughout the day. Furthermore, I made a daily lifestyle change that simulates braving the elements. It was a specific attempt to toughen myself physically and mentally.

Throughout the 31-day challenge, I found it difficult to jump into a cold shower most days. I would stand outside the shower, take a few breaths, and think to myself, “Do I really want to do this? Why am I doing this?” But that’s the point! Our natural instinct in the year 2020 is to avoid the discomfort. Every time I had that realization, I would immediately step into the cold without fear.

I assumed throughout this process that my BODY would adapt to the cold, and that I would build up a tolerance. That was never the case. The cold water hit my body the same every day with intense frigidity. However, throughout the challenge, I began to notice that my MIND was changing. The daily dose of freezing cold worked as an inoculation of the mind. After submerging myself into discomfort, the rest of the day’s hardships didn’t seem as bad, relatively. Also, I’ve learned that exposure to the freezing cold toughens your structure and stimulates the “survival” parts of the brain, such as the midbrain. These parts of the brain are associated with endocannabinoid production, which will make you feel naturally “high.” Our 21st-century brains tend to have little activation in these areas. Time to dust off the cobwebs.

After the 31-day challenge, I felt rejuvenated, energized, and focused. My challenge was completed, and I welcomed my first hot shower. Surprisingly, something didn’t feel right afterwards. I felt sluggish and unmotivated. It felt like I had been eating super clean and had just reintroduced soda back into my diet. Moments like this make me realize the positive effects of exploring new lifestyle habits. I immediately gravitated back towards the cold showers. My body is still never ready for them, but my mind is.

A Cool Alternative

If you find yourself struggling to transition to the cold showers, consider a whole-body cryotherapy session—where accelerated cold exposure is administered via a chilled nitrogen mist in just three minutes. You’ll experience similar benefits as a cold shower or ice bath, without the water. Our patients have reported inflammation reduction, pain relief, improved muscle recovery, and enhanced athletic performance. Cryotherapy may also provide relief from stress, insomnia, muscle and joint pain, and headaches.

“The whole-body cryotherapy chamber was a quick, convenient way to add cold therapy to my pre- and post-race training for the Ironman Maryland event,” says Eric Wolf, Certified Personal Trainer and avid tri-athlete. “The treatments helped my body reset itself, significantly reducing my inflammation and soreness, so that I could train harder and recover faster.”

The use of cold therapy has a lengthy history with many benefits. I invite you to continuously explore new drug-free, surgery-free options for optimal health and healing to find which resonates with you!


dr-mike-cohenDr. Mike Cohen is a chiropractic physician and certified acupuncture provider at First State Health & Wellness—Newark. He integrates chiropractic care, acupuncture and nutritional counseling for optimal pain relief and healing. First State Health & Wellness has been providing award-winning healthcare and education for over 30 years. If you’re ready to discuss conservative wellness options for you and your family, call 302.454.1200 or e-mail to schedule a consultation.

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