Cold showers. To be honest, I just kind of endured this challenge and I’m finishing this post weeks after I initially wrote it up. I kept a diary as I went, but often I would already be in the shower before I thought about it, and had to backdate the diary. Regardless of my historical evidence, here’s my thoughts about the experience.
So today is the 28th of February and it’s the second day I’ve had a warm shower in 30 days.
And it was pretty damn good.
I woke up hungover around 1 in the afternoon, and I actually looked forward to my shower. Mentally, showering lately has been a bit of a battle; I know I need to do it and so I grit my teeth and go for it. But today, and yesterday too, it was bliss. The shower was suddenly a place of comfort and warmth, feeling it wash away the starkness of the hangover. I just fucking stood there, not even washing but just zoning out enjoying the pure physical experience of warm water on my skin.
But only 2 days ago, it was a different experience entirely.
Before I launch into that, I’ll give some background. About 3 years ago I had the idea of doing a cold water shower challenge. I told my girlfriend at the time and she thought it was a stupid idea, so I wrote it down and never did it. After the social media challenge I thought I should do the cold water challenge whilst it was still summer. Sure, some people would call that cheating. But I don’t really give a fuck, it’s my challenge not yours. Some people wouldn’t even see the challenge of having cold showers for a month, as that is their usual. Or they dream of being able to even shower. But for me, it’s a challenge.
In the lead up I got a lot of strange looks when I said what I intended to do. I had some people say to me “but, why would you do that?” (my reply was “why not?”) and “I don’t understand how you think this will help your life” (it probably won’t). I’ll be honest, there’s some validity in this. There’s nothing to be “gained” from cold showers; well not in my opinion. There’s probably an article somewhere vouching for all the health benefits or detoxing effects, but I didn’t notice shit, it was just cold. But I did gain perspective and an appreciation for a simple luxury that most people in our culture take for granted. I also think that sometimes you have to do something for no higher purpose other than to see if you can
It didn’t make me faster or stronger. It didn’t make me fitter or more motivated (two byproducts that I was hoping may have happened). But it did teach me that something can go from horrible to tolerable to somewhere slightly less than enjoyable.
I’ll take it back to day 1.
Day 1 – Wednesday 27th of Feb 2016
The first day, I was.. Hesitant. I knew it was going to suck, but I decided to plan ahead. It was a 26 degree day, which might be warm in the sun but isn’t really that warm when you’re in your living room. Here’s a brief exert from that initial morning.
“I’m not looking forward to this shower experience right now. According to my iPhone it’s 26.6 degrees right now in Essendon (with a predicted top of 25). To be honest it’s not cold. I’m sitting here in nothing but a pair of jocks, although I wouldn’t want to stay like this for too long”.
This gives you an idea of my headspace that first day. I’d spoken to some friends about what I was planning on doing, and now it was here I had to go through with it. I had stripped down to my jocks and the idea of getting colder by standing under cold water was not appealing. But I had a brainwave, something I had conceived during the week leading up to this challenge.
Now I don’t exercise. I walk to the shops. I ride my bike to the pub. That’s all I really do. I’ve done some BJJ here and there but as I haven’t got a routine and have to pick up casual work as it comes, I was finding it hard to get to class so I quit. All the drinking, smoking and bad diet of the past 5-10 years has led to me being overweight and probably at a high risk of a stroke or some kind of cardiac issue or cancer. I know I need to get on top of this and I had hoped that this challenge might kick start that get fit lifestyle. The concept of a 7 minute workout sounded great to me. I’ve done a bit of tabata before, so I know how much it can kick my arse in 7 minutes.
That first day, I did a 7 minute workout. I was sweating my arse off by the time I’d finished, and I remember the shower being soothing and pleasant. I now had a plan for the month, 7 minute workout then shower. Hell, this is going to be easy and I’ll lose some weight!
The plan lasted for 3 days.
By then, I was so sore from the workouts without rest days, that I skipped the workout on day 4. I didn’t do any more workouts for the rest of the month. And, apart from that first initial workout, the water was still damn cold every time.
Here’s a re-enactment of that first week, using cold water of course.
That first week sucked. I won’t lie, it sucked, and I found myself avoiding the shower too. If I worked a nightshift the night before, I wouldn’t want to have a cold shower before bed. There’s something invigorating about a cold shower, and I was trying to make myself comfy and docile to sleep. Often when I wake up after a nightshift I get this scattered hangover feeling and it’s a bit of a buzz being in that numbed out state. I don’t want to snap out of it, I want to have fuzzy brain and enjoy the feeling. So it was common for me during the month to not shower after a nightshift. I would shower before work, I’m always clean before work. But if I was chilling at home with no shift the next night, I wouldn’t always bother with the shower.
In total, I skipped 5 showers out of 30 days. I’m not too bothered by this though, as most people I know wouldn’t even attempt that.
I think it was about day 14 when I finally came to get used to the cold showers. Before then, I’d somewhat reluctantly showered. I knew I had to do it, so I would just hop into the shower and do it. But after day 14, I found that I wasn’t so concerned about the cold shower. Yes, the initial moment would suck. For the first couple of showers, I would turn the tap on and stand outside for a moment, gathering up the balls to hop in. But by day 14 I just didn’t think about it. I first had the revelation on day 5, when I was hungover and had no time to think about the fact the shower was cold as I had to get on with my day. I was in the shower before my brain had really processed what I intended to do, and once I was wet there was no point stepping out until I was clean.
I continued to do this for the rest of the month. My shower times were quicker than a normal shower, but that was because normally I would stand under the hot water just loitering. Instead, I got in, did what I had to do and got out. The days when I washed my hair were confronting at first too, as you lose a lot of body heat through your head. But after I’d done it a couple of times, I got used to the cold sting and almost looked forward to the refreshing feel. Almost.
By the end, I just accepted it was going to suck and got on with it.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to a hot shower. By the last couple of days, with the end in sight, I began to really get sick of the challenge. I could have quiet easily stopped, and even invented convoluted situations in my head that would be a good reason to, like a nice girl wanting to share a shower with me. Or a not so nice one. But those fantasies didn’t eventuate, and the showers continued to their end.
Here’s some entries throughout the month.
Day 4. 1/2/16. Temp range: 8 – 25.
I hadn’t pushed myself too much doing the exercise. I wasn’t what I would call hot and sweaty, I was just a bit puffed and out of breathe. I knew I had to wash my hair though, as mum had told me I stunk and I was going to go to a party that afternoon. I took a breathe and hopped under the shower, and it was really fucking cold. I won’t lie, today was the coldest shower so far. But once I soaped up and put stuff in my hair and that, I kind of got used to it. Everywhere except my head, this is also the first time I’ve washed my hair, and it stayed cold. But I did feel refreshed and rejuvenated afterwards.
Day 5. 2/2/16. Temp range: 12 – 31.
So I was hungover and felt pretty bleugh today. I didn’t exercise before the shower, I just went well this is going to suck and got in the shower. And it did suck. But it wasn’t the end of the world, it just sucked. I didn’t wash my hair so that makes a difference, but I did have a proper shower and washed and stuff. After mum said I stink I’m being more wary of it, although it’s just a challenge. If I stink for a month, so be it.
Day 10. 5/2/16. Temp range: 10 – 30.
I knew it was going to be cold, but it’s not a cold day, it’s quite pleasant. I just hopped in and went fuck it. And yeah, it was cold, but my body got used to it pretty quickly, and rather than just standing under the shower waiting to get “warm” I instead start soaping up. Washed my hair today, that shit’s pretty cold but has to be done.
Day 14. 9/2/16. Temp range: 13 – 29.
It wasn’t too hot but I knew I had to wash my hair. It felt greasy and yuck. So I sucked it in and did it. It was cold at the start, but then I got used to it and tried to imagine that it was refreshing and not cold. It worked too, as by the end I felt quite comfortable really. Not like the comfort of a warm shower, but nice still.
Day 17. 13/2/16. Temp range: 11 – 37.
It was a nice day and I was chilling talking to Niki and Courtney and felt gross, I knew I needed a shower so I just went for it. Yeah, a bit cold but not too bad today. It always is at the start, but I’m getting used to that initial cold rush and then it’s alright. Gets rid of a hangover that’s for sure, well not a proper full blown hangover though.
Day 19. 15/2/16. Temp range: 9 – 27.
I’m tired and hungover. It’s 2:18 PM and I was at a 30th last night. I know I need to shower before I go and jam, and I know it’s going to be cold and I don’t want to. But putting it off will just mean I’m late for the rest of the day. I think I need to wash my hair too, I’m getting dandruff which is pretty mank. So yes, time for me to get shocked awake and then I’ll go jam and get food on the way. Looking forward to this challenge being over, as I feel so meh today the idea of a nice mellow shower is what I want. Instead, it’s going to be a mission.
Day 20. 16/2/16. Temp range: 13 – 20.
I don’t want to shower today. It’s fucking cold, I’ve put on a jumper and pants. I think it’s like 19 degrees which sounds warm in winter or spring, but in summer that’s like 10 degrees colder than normal. I sucked it up though and just did it, wasn’t too bad once I’d started.
Day 23. 19/2/16. Temp range: 10 – 24.
I remember thinking I had to just do it, even though it wasn’t that warm. I sucked it up and got in, and then I washed my hair. It was cold, but not too cold once I got used to it. It’s strange to get out of a shower and be cold though, looking forward to hot showers again.
Day 24. 20/2/16. Temp range: 14 – 23.
It’s 5:25 in the afternoon. Daniel is coming around later and while it’s a nice day it’s not particularly hot. I’m going to jump in the shower though, need to get clean. I’ve got a habit post nightshift of not showering, as I’m in a haze. But if I’m going to go out tonight etc I need to.
Was a pretty quick shower, in and out and on with my day.
Day 27. 23/2/16. Temp range: 14 – 40.
Was stoked, today was hot as shit and I was hungover. I remember looking forward to the shower, the chance to just relax under it’s soothing water. Which I did, washed my hair etc, was fucking great.
Day 29. 25/2/16. Temp range: 19 – 28.
I am kind of sick of this now. I’m glad I’ve only got a couple of days to go cause I want to look forward to a shower, which I was, until I put the bathmat down and realised that the shower was all going to be cold. I’m sitting in my room nude now writing this instead of luxuriating in a shower. I’ve got to put that war face on and just go for it.
Day 30. 26/2/16. 8 – 24.
I’m about to jump in for my last cold shower now. It’s 10:32, just go in all business and get that shit done! So after 29 days of this my thought process to a cold shower isn’t that it’s a big deal, more that this is going to suck but it’s what I need to do to get clean. It’s a process, go through the initial shock of being cold, get that soap out and get to work so I can continue with my day. It’s time, enough talk, need to get out and do stuff today.
So here I am, finishing this blog post 2 weeks after being back in the realm of hot showers. I can say that upon reflection, cold showers in winter would be an entirely different challenge, and is something that I might consider… It’s a long shot though.
By the end of the challenge I would shower and get clean, but I had to change my mindset from it’s comfortable, relaxed state to a more battle fuelled one. Life was a bit more challenging, even if it was only for a brief moment, but it became something I got used to.
I think if I had of combined this challenge with a more healthy lifestyle, I might have had a different attitude about it, but I like to think that I had an honest perspective on the whole thing. At present, my lifestyle involves drinking and smoking far too much on a regular basis, with the then rather shit prospect of having to drag my arse out of bed into a cold shower. If instead I had of stuck out with the workouts, slept and eaten better and changed my lifestyle to fit the showers, I would probably have “felt” more benefits. Or convinced myself that I felt more benefits.
I guess the only thing I can honestly say I’ve taken out of the experience is that I try to have shorter showers now. I became more aware of just how lucky we are to live in this society, how temporal it is, and how it’s probably better for me to enjoy a short warm shower while I can, than to endure cold showers for no real point.
As such, I’ve posted a song about an apocalypse.