Cold Water Exposure

Cold Exposure

Trust me, I’m not a fan of the cold, but I have a reasonable understanding of the biological phenomenon called hormesis or in simple terms...whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’ve pledged to only have cold showers for 2022 which in Sydney in Summer is not a concern but as we currently enter the back end of Autumn it’s beginning to get a little bitey, so I've accepted the challenge and upped my ante by doing cold baths every morning, however I’m yet to be convinced that cold baths are harder. Laying still in a cold bath or pool for that matter (not flowing water) allows our body to create an layer of thermo-heated water over the our body, a mini ecosystem if you like. And so you can argue that a cold shower is harder as the running water eliminates our ability to heat the water around the body.

What happens when we get cold exposure:

  1. Increases the release of a neuro-modulator called dopamine which is the chemical for motivation and drive
  2. It will trigger dopamine’s biological cousins, adrenaline and cortisol, which ignites the fight or flight and sets our wheels in motion
  3. Improve alertness, drive and motivation
  4. Elevates our mood
  5. Most behaviours or substances that trigger dopamine will produce a subsequent dopamine deficient which we experience as pain/craving, however cold exposure does not
  6. When we lean into a challenge we can yield very positive outcomes, this translates in all aspects of life.

What is the protocol:

  1. Enter cold water that is uncomfortable but not so uncomfortable as to not be able to withstand for a minute or so if you had to
  2. Increase your exposure gradually. You could take a normal shower then finish on cold and gradually increase the duration of the cold part
  3. Aim for 11 mins cold water exposure in total across the week


  1. Enter cold water quickly, the pain experienced neurologically is lower
  2. If training for hypertrophy then avoid cold water exposure for minimum of 4 hours post training
  3. Start your regular cold water exposure regime in the warmer months to help acclimatise

For more talk on cold water exposure head here:

Have fun - Scott

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