Monday, July 17, 2006

“Shower-Shocking Your Way to Better Health, or – How to Decrease Water Consumption in One Easy Lesson”

Years ago a friend told me that she took such hot showers, she had to turn her air conditioner up to Warp Factor One to keep the bathroom wallpaper from peeling.

As the incomparable Paris Hilton would say, “That’s hot.”

I myself have always been partial to warm showers, at the least. That’s why I live in the 21st century, with indoor plumbing and hot water on the tap anytime I want it. It’s an entitlement of the age.

However, cold water baths and showers have had their share of advocates for centuries. The first exposure I had to the idea of their benefits came when I was reading a biography of Louisa May Alcott, whose father, Bronson, was a follower of the teachings of health reformer Sylvester Graham (inventor of the modern graham cracker). Graham advocated not only cold baths, but hard mattresses, vegetarianism, chastity (including among the married), open bedroom windows, loose clothing, and exercise. Well, I thought, those all sounded fairly sensible, with the exception of married chastity, but considering that in Graham’s time hot baths were managed by heating water over a fire, which was both time-consuming and inconvenient, perhaps his promotion of cold water dousing wasn’t so surprising.

Years later, I was exposed to the cold shower benefit theory again through Matt Furey, whom I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog (see Matt promotes it as developing mental toughness, as well as increasing energy and warding off sickness. In fact, when he feels a cold or something similar coming on, he takes cold showers until he’s as right as rain again. If memory serves me correctly, Matt also suggested exercising outside, and then dousing afterwards. While I live in a hot climate and saw this method as working up a good sweat, so that the icy bath afterwards would come as more of a relief than torture, I decided against trying it in spite of the fact that my backyard has a high fence. Even if a neighbor didn’t see me, a family member might, and I would have the devil’s own time explaining how I came to be caught outside in what is politely referred to as “a state of nature” while standing under a garden hose.

The most interesting proponent of the cold water treatment that I’ve come across so far is According to their “Remedies” section on the subject, cold showers are “excellent for clearing electrical static from your energy field that can accumulate from cell phones, airport and courthouse x-ray machines, and powerful electrical lights in museums and electronic stores.”

Wow. I haven’t the faintest idea how that works, but I hardly ever use my cell phone, haven’t been near an airport or a courthouse in years, and only visit a museum about once a year, if that much, and electronic stores even less, so I guess I don’t have too much to worry about. However, the user testimonials are quite interesting, so check them out when you have a minute or two.

Armed with centuries of advocacy, it was time to try it for myself. I had, after all, used several of Matt’s teachings – exercise routines, weekly fasts, and deep breathing exercises – but this was one I’d been putting off for several months out of sheer wimpiness. It was time to bite the bullet – or the “C” tap, if you will.

As I mentioned, I live in a hot climate. However, I also live in a house with air conditioning, so I prepared myself by opening my bedroom window wide and doing Matt’s Magnificent Seven routine (which I haven’t done for many weeks, to my shame) to work up a little sweat. Then I was ready for the icy fury.

And you know what? It wasn’t that bad! Of course, my shower doesn’t get icy even at its coldest, but it sure as heck wasn’t warm, either. Yes, it was a shock. Yes, I did invent a new song, one that went, “It’s cold, it’s cold, it’s so freaking, FREAKING COLD!” Yes, I used far less water than I'm accustomed to using. And while I can’t say that I felt much more mentally tough afterwards, I did have a sense of well-being. But what really surprised me was that, in spite of the shock, the entire experience was actually rather exhilarating…so much so that I repeated it this morning and plan to do so all this week. So much for torture!

How about you – are you willing to take the Cold Water Challenge? Or are you already a convert? Either way, write me and let me know how it works for you.

* * * * *

This week’s “Tool of the Trade” is the pedometer, that wonderfully handy little instrument that tells you how many miles you’ve walked. A while back I read that current wisdom recommends 10,000 steps (which amounts to approximately five miles) per day for health and weight loss. I don’t know about you, but even if I walked a couple of miles after work, it still wouldn’t amount to that many steps, as my job is largely a sedentary one. I’ve also learned that this figure, which was originally popularized in Japan, did not seem to come out of actual medical research. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that walking is good exercise, and to get an idea of how much I was doing on an average day, I wore my pedometer to work one day last week. I was rather disappointed to see that even with an evening walk (shorter than I usually take), I’d clocked only 1.108 miles and 3,902 steps, and worst of all, burned only 153.6 calories throughout the day!

Well, it was still enlightening. Wearing a pedometer makes me more conscious of taking steps, to reach that elusive goal, so I find myself walking a little more…and that’s a good thing. You can find a decent unit at many department stores, but the one I currently use, and like the best of other models I’ve used, is the SportBrain, which I purchased through This model touts itself as “the first and only to offer automated data upload for review and tracking of your progress.” I never actually uploaded my data, simply because I couldn’t figure out how to do so, but what was important to me was the fact that it records my steps and calories burned, as well as mileage. You can see a sample, and/or place an order, on

* * * * *

Next week I’ll be taking a moment to step back and look at some of the comments I’ve received from readers lately, on everything from flax seed to the importance of desire in effecting lasting change. I’ll also be checking in again with Sean Perkey, who’s on a quest to lose half his body weight and to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. Plus, this will give me an additional week to work towards completion of my beginner Shaolin monk workout, which I’ll be reporting on two weeks from today. So stay tuned, and keep those comments coming!

No comments: