One of our favorite cold‐therapy enthusiasts is the New York Times–bestselling author of Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, and Life and fitness expert Ben Greenfield. When we had him on the podcast, Jason joked that it seemed like Ben was always in the cold—either outside working out in the cold with minimal clothing, showering in the cold, or doing extreme cold plunges in the barrel he has in his backyard. Ben responded that it wasn’t always easy for him, and in fact he used to despise the cold. And while he still doesn’t unequivocally love it, he said, “If you have the right mindset it grows on you. And you pair that with knowing all the benefits and how good it is, eventually it turns from a hate‐hate relationship into more of a love‐hate relationship.”
That’s the real talk. You might never love cold‐water exposure, but you can learn to hate it a little less and focus on the intention you are setting to do right by your body and get closer to that 80 percent of maximum well‐being. If this is one path of your personal health jour‐ ney that you’d like to take, we recommend setting yourself up for suc‐ cess by making it as easy as possible to stick with it. If jumping in the ocean in February is the way you want to approach it, and you think that is sustainable for your life—fabulous, we say grab a buddy and go for it. But we also recognize that for most people, the recommendations below are going to be a lot easier to fold into their lives. Depend‐ ing on your level of personal dread when it comes to the cold, you can try these in any order, and work up to the ones that seem harder. It’s all about finding the practice that feels doable. Let’s check it out:
Take a shower.
For those without access (or time) to partake in the full cold‐water swimming experience, showers are the easiest and fastest way to expose your body to that good low‐dose, short‐duration stress that it craves. While cold showers haven’t been as rigorously studied as full immersion, many experts agree that there’s no reason to think you can’t get the same benefits from a cold shower. In fact, it may be the perfect way to get started with cold exposure because you can more slowly build up your cold tolerance. Søberg recommends shooting for thirty to ninety seconds per shower.30 If you want to try and mimic her protocol, you could try cold for thirty to ninety seconds, then turn on the hot water for thirty to ninety seconds, then go back and forth a few times. Just remember to end on cold, and don’t go stand in front of the heater when you get out. Dry off if you want to, but it’s even better to stand there for a few minutes and let your body air dry and warm itself naturally. That will enhance the metabolic gains.
How long and how often you partake should also change depend‐ ing on how cold your shower water gets and how long you typically stay in. While there is no definite consensus on how many times a week you should do this, the most overlap seems to cluster around three or four times a week. Bottom line: there is no reason to think that you can’t do cold therapy every day if you want to—our friend Ben Greenfield sure does.
Practical Tip: Take your time working up to the thirty‐second mark, and don’t get down on yourself if it takes a few weeks. It doesn’t matter how short a duration you start with; if you keep with it, your body will reward you with progress. That progress is key to maintaining motivation, so keep a timer in or near the shower so you can reliably clock how long you’re in there.
Take off your jacket.
This is another easy, low‐tech way to expose yourself to cold. If you live in a place that actually gets cold (sorry, Floridians), this one is as simple as peeling off your layers. When you take your daily walk, leave
the coat at home. If it’s really cold, protect your hands with gloves, but keep your neck exposed and try to stick it out as long as possible.
Turn the heat down.
If you work from home, this is easier than if you go to the office, but it’s still worth a try no matter how much you are at home. If you turn the thermostat down, not only will this save on energy costs, but you can help your body build brown fat stores by exposing it to continuous cold temperatures. Even if you can’t stand it during the day, definitely keep it around or under sixty‐five degrees when you sleep. Lower temperatures in the bedroom are also part of good health hygiene, helping you achieve better, more restorative sleep. Double win.