It’s 2015 and there I was; standing at the edge of the shower and I couldn’t move. In that moment, I was two people, both of whom wanted very different things. On the one hand, I wanted to step forward and gasp for air as the cold water forced the breath out of my lungs. On the other hand, I wanted nothing to do with uncomfortable experience just inches in front of me. I stood at the edge of the shower at a crossroads.
Just moments prior, I had so definitively committed to taking a cold shower. I was so determined to step outside of my comfort zone that it seemed as if nothing could stop me. However, somewhere between the bedroom carpet and the bathroom tile, my fervor faded. The once strong enthusiasm was nowhere to be found and there I stood, confused and torn between two sides of me.
As you might have gathered from the title, this was a brief account of what preceded my first cold shower. I made excuses and I almost let them stop me from stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing the cold. However, once I took that step, there was no turning back. With my creative side satisfied and that short narrative behind us, the remainder of this blog will be short and to the point.
Let me explain why I take cold showers and why you should too.
If you haven’t figured it out yet…
Life is hard.
Life doesn’t care who you are; it will knock you down over and over again. It will punch you in the face and it will beat you down to the ground. Life isn’t fair and it will leave you in it’s tracks if you don’t take ownership and stand back up. In life, there is an abundance of adversity and no shortage of struggle. It can be a dark and hopeless place if you let it. However, to me, life isn’t about sorrow and self-pity. Instead, it’s about finding opportunity in adversity and turning struggle into strength. Life is more fun that way.
Cold showers are a lot like life.
Cold showers are about routinely facing your fears and stepping out of your comfort zone. Over time, the act of pushing yourself to do something that, at the moment is unappealing, becomes a habit and this habit translates over to all aspect of life. Just like the body adapts in response to purposeful and intentional physical stresses [e.g. lifting weights], the mind adapts to the purposeful and intentional stresses that are placed upon it [e.g. cold showers].
“The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels familiar, safe, at ease, and secure. You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Roy T. Bennett
Cold showers are about deliberately choosing discomfort over and over again, knowing that at some point, hard becomes easier and uncomfortable becomes tolerable. Cold showers work because we are the limits that we place on ourselves. As Joel Runyon says, “when things are mental, they’re imaginary and when things are imaginary – they’re indestructible. Physical limits are different – they’re tangible – undeniably so – which means they’re also fragile, bendable and breakable.” Cold showers are a way to take self-imposed mental limits and make them tangible, and as a result, breakable.
You will always have excuses.
Cold showers are a metaphor for everything in life that is uncomfortable; every challenge, every obstacle, and every struggle. Cold showers are a physical task and palpable reminder that choosing discomfort in the pursuit of something bigger creates resilience. That consistent decision to choose what is hard fosters willpower, discipline and mental toughness that carries over to everything else in life. It hardwires us to handle challenges with grace, attack obstacles without hesitation, find the beauty that lies in the battle and the strength that lies in each struggle. It creates a mindset unlike any other; one that can change your life. Cold showers work because how you handle the little things [cold showers] is how you handle the big things [anything else]. If you don’t believe me, give it a shot.
“Even the smallest changes in our daily routine can create incredible ripple effects that expand our vision of what is possible.” Charles F. Glassman
Cold showers are about taking the moments when your mind says “no” and then choosing to say “yes.” Cold showers are about making conscious decisions to be uncomfortable in the pursuit of being better able to handle life. Cold showers are about committing to something and following through even when you don’t want to do it [every single day]. Cold showers are a litmus test for finding out what you’re made of and who you are.
Intentionally acknowledging and consistently confronting uncomfortable situations is an empowering experience.
What happens is incredible. With enough time, the hesitation decreases and then almost disappears. With enough consistency, the discomfort of the cold becomes routine. With enough persistence, what was once hard and seemed implausible becomes easier [and surprisingly enjoyable]. This habit transcends the act of bathing and directly translates to all aspects of life.
Cold showers build a resiliency and a confidence that carries over to all areas of life.
With that, let metell you what happens next.
You’ll think about what I said. Then you’ll think I’m crazy. However, for a split second, you’ll consider doing it. Unfortunately, for most of you, that consideration will leave as quickly as it came. You’ll think “Why in the world should I take a cold shower? It’s just stupid.” That’s fine, maybe you’re not ready. However, a small fraction of you [<1%] will take the consideration a step further. You will end up standing at the shower later today or tomorrow and you’ll pause. You will think about what I said and you will have a choice to make. You can turn the knob to the right and choose the same comfort that you always have, or, you can turn the knob to the left and step into the discomfort that is the cold shower in order to prepare you for the discomfort that we call life.
This blog is, in part, a commitment to myself. It’s a way to hold myself accountable for getting back to what I once felt so strongly about. This is my promise. I will be taking a cold shower every single day for the next 2 months, no matter what. I hope that I have convinced you to do the same. If I have, send me a message [@joerinaldi.dpt] for some accountability on this two month endeavor as we go through it together.
“The more that you seek the uncomfortable, the more that you will become comfortable.” Connor McGregor
The choice is yours.
Thank you for taking the time to read – I appreciate you!
Joe Rinaldi, PT, DPT
P.S. – you can start and finish with hot water to ease into things