Forty-eight point nine

posted by Joshua on January 20, 2016 in Awareness, Fitness, Habits, Perception, SIDCHAs, Stories
3 responses

[This post is part of a series on Cold Showers. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view that series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

I haven’t written about cold showers lately, probably because the water hasn’t gotten below fifty degrees since last winter, but this morning it did, so I am. The thermometer said the water was 48.9F (9.4C) this morning.

People ask me why I do it. Other people who do cold showers understand. Taking them develops skills and perspectives that apply elsewhere in life—actually, everywhere in life. I like hot showers, which account for three-quarters of the showers I take, but physical pleasure isn’t everything in life.

I can’t explain why I like exercise, healthy food, and physical fitness either. Maybe I can illustrate it with a story.

I stood outside a Cheesecake Factory the Monday, waiting for a train. The temperature was well below freezing and the winds gusty. Through the restaurant window I could see giant pieces of cheesecake slathered with chocolate, strawberry, and other sauces on display. I know if I went in that eating one would bring me physical pleasure. It’s not obvious to me what material benefit not eating them brings me. I mean, I’ll stay more fit and I’m more likely to live longer than if I make a habit of eating them, but if I value pleasure, eating more cheesecake might lead to a life of more pleasure.

But I don’t value physical pleasure over the emotional reward that comes from physical fitness. I once did. Physical pleasure is fleeting, but even a lifetime of cheesecakes and other pleasures don’t measure up to the long-term, rich and complex emotional reward of something I work for, like muscle definition on my abs, or being able to swim across the Hudson River on a whim, or to come in second in a footrace for the fun of it.

People associate not eating desserts with willpower and avoidance and fitness with deprivation. I didn’t find those cheesecakes appetizing in the least. I think cold showers has something to do with that. The cheesecakes looked gluttonous, gross, sugary, and fatty. What does that say about the people eating them, or the society that leads to the restaurant chain’s national success? Do they not seem gluttonous, gross, sugary, and fatty too?

Meanwhile, I’m cooking with more vegetables picked from local farms than ever and I don’t remember loving what I eat more. I’ve found more in life to enjoy from fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and legumes.

The train I was waiting for was to meet a friend at a gym. He’s a personal trainer and showed me some new exercises I plan to start making a habit of. I’m still sore from that workout.

I can’t explain why I choose to go out in the cold to work at something with no material benefit and will make me physically sore two days later while I’ve lost interest in cheesecakes, but it’s the same reason as the cold showers. Each builds on the other. To me they create an integrated life.

I think people who have experienced it get it and don’t need explanation. Until I experienced it I didn’t get it either.

EDIT: four days later, the water temperature in my shower was 46.7 F (8 C), with February still to come.

EDIT: January 28: 46.4 F. Still a ways from my record: 39.9 F

EDIT: February 12: 45.9 F (7.7 C)

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3 responses on “Forty-eight point nine

  1. I was very skeptical of this cold shower thing but now this cold shower has somewhat ruined my showering experience. Maybe that’s because I am in California where it isn’t that cold, that could be why I find them more refreshing. This damn thing works and I find myself doing it more and more now. Interestingly, and contrary to what I expected, the first cold shower I took was way more difficult even though it was warmer than some of the subsequent ones on the East coast when it was below freezing outside (I don’t know the water temp. but it was cold).

    Before, a hot shower would make me feel pretty good and I’ll still say that it easier to take a hot shower. It’s just that the day becomes so much easier after taking a cold one. I find that I able to have more self-control, as in not reacting instantly or with unawareness as much but mentally slowing down and to see what’s going on. Secondly, it helps me stay focused more easily on what (difficult things) I want to do, which nowadays for me is talking to these faculties and advisers, all the things related to going back to school.

    I also realized a very important thing about my thinking. So one of the days when I decided to take a cold shower I thought a lot about it, ‘coz for me that’s the best way to prepare, like, you think thoroughly about the important or difficult things you have to do, think from every possible aspect… Yeah, so, I really didn’t take the cold shower that day, somehow “more important things” came in the way. I was kinda disappointed in myself. Then next time, I just decided I was going to take a cold shower and didn’t think about it and when the time came, I considered doing it for like a second or so and then just did it. So, I don’t know how others approach this but for me too much thinking about negative stuff somehow dissuades and demotivates me. I am not saying I have learned to stop thinking, but I am seeing the difference where thinking is not really helping me because all the thinking that is needed to do something I have already done or some tasks need only that much thinking to get started.

    Thank you for continuing to post about this.

    • Thanks for sharing!

      The insight you mentioned in the last paragraph hit home for me — that is, you described something I realized I did too without realizing it. Seeing it verbalized reinforced the practice’s effectiveness.

      Specifically, your comment “I just decided I was going to take a cold shower and didn’t think about it and when the time came, I considered doing it for like a second or so and then just did it.” is what I do! Thinking about it doesn’t help. It hurts. I just get in the shower and turn on the cold water. That works.

      Days I don’t take a cold shower, especially while I’m taking a hot shower, I can’t imagine taking a cold one. Because I’m thinking about it!

      Meanwhile, when I take the cold shower, I’m doing it, not thinking about it.

      In movement class when I took the intensive acting program a couple summers ago, my movement teacher would say “If you’re thinking you’re not doing!” I agree.

      You’re pointing the pattern out enables me to apply it to more places. Thank you.

  2. You’re welcome. My dance instructors tell me to not think that much and instead just do the dance. I have yet to figure that out.

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