Cold Water Immersion In Nature | The 3 Major Benefits [With Video]

Posted by Josh Gape on

I’ve been curious about Cold Water Therapy (CWT) and Grounding for a while now. Anyone who’s been reading my articles will know that I put huge emphasis on re-connecting with our routes as human BEINGS. Walking bare foot and bathing in nature would have been part and parcel of our ancestors day to day lives. Subsequently I wanted to explore how incorporating these practices in to modern life could help physically, mentally and spiritually. 

 

This said, as ponds etc tend to be cold as ice in the UK year round, especially during the Autumn and Winter, I’ve conveniently managed to put off this experiment for a while. 


Enter Tim Shieff and The Formula. Tim is a UK based freerunner who’s won events like the World Freerun Championship and Ninja Warrior UK. He’s also on a mission to optimise his health and performance and in doing so has created The Formula. In a nutshell The Formula is a set of practices which Tim uses to push the boundaries of what we believe is possible as humans. We can’t give too much away here, but one of these practices is Cold Water Immersion (CWI) in nature. If you’d like to find out more you can get full access to The Formula via joining Tim’s YouTube channel for here: https://www.youtube.com/user/99timshi/featured 

 

For the last week, I joined Tim in following The Formula and subsequently we’ve immersed ourselves in some of natures finest bath tubs. Being the height of Autumn in the UK, this variety of weirs, ponds, lakes and sea spots were all seriously cold and pretty murky. 

 

However, I can categorically state, I absolutely loved it and felt some profound benefits from it. 

 

So, first of all, the protocol. 

  1. Find a cold water mass in nature.

  2. Get in to the point that all but your head is immersed. Make sure all of your neck is below the water right up to and including the brain stem at the bottom of your head.

  3. Re-claim your breath by focusing on your out breath so you’re breathing slowly, consciously and calmly.

  4. Sit still and FEEL in to your body for 3 - 5 minutes whilst maintaining your breath.

 

***Be really careful not to overdo it and make sure you build up to the 5 minute mark. Also ensure you’ve got a towel and some warm clothing to heat yourself up as soon as you’re out! 

 

At this point some of you may be asking, why in nature, can’t I just have a cold shower. In short, the answer is yes. However, I believe there’s some additional benefits to opting for a pond over your bath tub. The main one being centred around the idea of grounding. There’s not a whole lot of research on the benefits of grounding (touching the earth with your bare skin) at present. However, an initial study suggests that it can help mitigate the effects of Electro Magnetic Frequencies (EMFs), improving sleep and reducing pain. Ben Greenfield has a great podcast on this which can be found here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/biohacking-podcasts/earthing/


Cold Water Therapy (CWT) | The Benefits: 

 

Physical  

  • Battles Inflammation

It’s well publicised that cold water therapy can drastically decrease inflammation, therefore speeding up recovery. This is why ice baths and packs are used so often by athletes. However, when using the cold to counteract inflammation, timing is critical. If your primary goal is building muscle mass then having an ice bath straight after training will block the adaptation you’re trying to achieve. However, if you wait a few hours the adaptation will have taken place and you’ll be able to reap the benefits of the cold without jeopardising you’re hard fought gains. 

 

This is just one of many physical benefits to CWT. Dr Rhonda Patrick talks at length about some of the others on the Joe Rogan Experience, a summary of which I’ve included below: 

  • Converts white fat to brown fat, which is important for health, losing body fat and recovery

  • Inhibits enzymes that break down collagen and therefore can help with arthritis

  • The cold is a hormetic stressor that activates a variety of anti-inflammatory / antioxidant pathways

  • Increases norepinepherine, which makes you feel good, helps with learning and is a potent anti-inflammatory

If you want to dive a bit deeper, here’s the podcast link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd1f5Zp5g7M

 

Mental

  • Overcoming Adversity

There’s something to doing what you don’t want to do. Let’s face it, getting in freezing cold water is hard work. On the flip side, the sense of achievement you get from facing the challenge head on and getting it done is palpable and transferable. Each day after getting out of the water, I felt a sense of pride and I carried myself a little taller knowing I had another cold water notch on my belt. Then when another of life challenges reared its head, I was confident I could handle it knowing I’d tackled the water.  

 

  • Consciously Controlling Your Reptilian Brain

Once you’re submerged up to your head, your subconscious is screaming OUT! Every cell is your body is telling you to leave the water and run home to your hot shower. However, consciously you can control this, focus on your breath, relax and feel in to the moment. In my experience, this ability to override your autopilot had a major beneficial crossover in to my day to day life. The next time I was cut up in traffic and my reptilian brain fired up I was able to quickly and consciously calm myself. 

 

Spiritual 

  • Being In The Now

Once you’re in the water and you’ve calmed your breath, your mind slows down. You’re not thinking about what’s for food later or if you left the iron on. You’re in that exact moment, feeling the cold water against your skin, following the rise and fall of your stomach as you breath. You’re forced in to the present moment and a meditative state. 

 

If you’re feeling inspired to try out Cold Water Immersion in nature yourself after reading this, I’d love to hear how you get on via the comments section below. If you still need some inspiration here’s a compilation video of me and Tim freezing ourselves in some of the UK’s finest natural ice baths over the last week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQgdMJ_cRLI

 

If you want to find out more, some of the people at the forefront of the holistic health movement have some great information on this, including: 

  • Dr Rhonda Patrick

  • Laird Hamilton

  • Dr Andy Galpin

  • Wim Hoff aka The ICE MAN


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