Can I confess something?
I haven’t taken a warm shower since September.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still showering regularly. I’ve just been doing it in straight-up cold water.
Why, you might ask?
Well, it all goes back to a single bad decision I made back in January…
Y’see, I set the terribly misguided goal of running a marathon.
The beginning of a new year is such a great time for self-assessment and introspection. Folks are always setting all sorts of lofty goals, especially when it comes to health and fitness. And although I’d already run a couple marathons in the past (and hence, should have known better), I decided that this was the year to run another one.
A month later, however, while on a brisk 14-mile training run, I really bunged up my left foot. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but boy, did it hurt!
Now, an intelligent person would probably have taken an extended break from running, to help their body heal. They might have even pulled the plug on their marathon plans for that year. But, being the stubborn, mule-headed Lott that I am, I gave myself a day or two of rest, then tried running again.
During my run, I saw absolutely no improvement with my foot, but to compound the problem, my left KNEE started hurting as well. Probably because I was altering my gait to compensate for my sore foot.
At any rate, after I finished my run, I decided to “play it safe” and give myself a whole week off this time.
Unfortunately, as soon as I started back up with the running, my knee flared up again — and I spent the next 4 or 5 days limping.
To make a long story short, this pattern of near-constant injury went on, pretty much uninterrupted, for the next 7 months. Sometimes it was my foot. Sometimes it was my groin. But it was always accompanied by some nagging knee pain.
I was only running once every 7 to 10 days, usually somewhere in the 10 to 15 mile range, and then spending the next several days hobbling around like an old man.
In hindsight, pushing through the pain like that probably wasn’t the smartest decision I’ve ever made. It’ll probably come back to haunt me in the decades to come. But when you’ve committed yourself to a goal, you’ve gotta see it through, right?
Besides, what good is a body if you don’t ever use it?
When the day comes for them to lay this old bag o’ bones in the ground, I want to make sure I got my money’s worth!
At any rate, as the day of the big race drew nearer and nearer, it became apparent that I wasn’t properly trained for those daunting 26.2 miles. Even though I had given it a whole lot of effort and sacrifice, I just hadn’t been able to put in the miles I knew I should have.
As luck would have it, though, about a week before the race, I stumbled upon an article from The Art of Manliness that gave a few suggestions for building “mental toughness” — and I have to admit, it really spoke to me.
The article posited that a person can increase their mental toughness by consistently putting themselves through small, uncomfortable challenges. Which makes sense, right? And one of the challenges they mentioned was taking cold showers.
The article even mentioned several of the supposed health benefits that come with taking cold showers — (e.g. strengthened immune system, increased circulation, improved concentration, etc.)
Now, I’m not the type of person to fall hook, line, and sinker for every bit of click bait you see on the internet. I always approach stuff like that with a healthy dose of skepticism. But at the same time, it seemed logical to think that forcing myself into a freezing cold shower would, at least in some ways, make me tougher.
And with race day fast approaching, I needed all the mental fortitude I could muster. Besides, I’m always trying to push myself and expand my limits. So I decided to give it a try.
The next morning, I stepped in the shower, turned on the cold water, and…
It. Was. Awful.
I was sputtering and gasping and huffing and puffing! I might’ve even let an “AHHH! MOTHER OF PEARL, BEANS!!!” slip out once or twice…
Pretty sure I was lathered, rinsed, and out of there in about 2 minutes flat.
But after I got myself all dried off and warmed up, I was definitely feeling awake and alert. And, at least in my own mind, I was tougher for having done it.
So I kept it up.
After about a week’s worth of cold showers, the G-Rated expletives ceased. My showers were lasting about 5 minutes now. And if truth be told, I actually started to look forward to the instant jolt of caffeine-free energy.
It certainly started the day off right.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it had ANY effect on my marathon. I don’t care who you are, that race is just a beast. It’s now two months later, and my knees are just barely starting to feel normal again.
But y’know, the cold showers really started to grow on me. I just feel stronger and healthier because of them.
I’m not saying that cold showers have made me bulletproof or anything, but I will tell you that our little family has been hit with a couple waves of sickness this Fall — head colds, mostly — and I’m the only one that hasn’t been affected.
That’s not usually the case.
Usually, if the girls get sick, I get sick. But not this year. I feel fit as a fiddle.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing whether or not that has anything to do with my cold showers. All I know is that I haven’t gotten sick yet this Fall (knock on wood), and I’m really enjoying my cold showers.
Sure, it’s a bit of a shock first thing in the morning. I still gasp a bit when that icy blast hits me for the first time. But like I said before, it gives me a noticeable energy boost.
I feel like I’m much more awake and alert throughout the day. And, yes, I do definitely feel tougher, even if it’s only in my head.
This morning when I’d finished my shower, I turned the water off and just stood there, shivering and dripping. And as I vigorously shook my head back and forth, flinging streams of freezing water from my beard, I felt like a flippin’ Viking Warrior! Nothing could stand in my way after that!
I felt invincible.
Yup, I’m definitely grateful for cold showers.