Annual Cold Dip Tradition

Author: Filip Smialek PT, CSCS | | Categories: 1 On 1 Personal Training , Cold Adaptation , Cold dips , Cold Therapy , Exercise , Exercise Therapy , health , Hydrotherapy , longevity , Movement , Resilience

Exercise Therapy Toronto

Since I became a trainer, I’ve been interested in the variety of ways I can make myself and the people that I help, stronger - mentally, physically, and spiritually. My aim is to make health attainable by simple means; by using tools that we all have access to. 5 years ago marked the beginning of a cold dip tradition that I’ve been doing on Christmas Day ever since. I’ll get to that origin story shortly.

I’ll start by explaining why I train to be more resilient to either cold or heat. The simple reason is that after adapting to either cold in the winter or heat in the summer, the outdoor environment becomes more bearable, and simple transitions between the comfort of sheltered environments like your living space or car to the outdoors become a breeze rather than a harsh shock. 

It’s analogous to training in the gym so that daily tasks like carrying groceries are easier. Small, progressive doses of discomfort applied consistently over time result in your body adapting - you increase weights at the gym week by week and before you know it you’re bounding up three stairs at a time because your legs got stronger. With progressive cold training for example, I typically keep going for outdoor runs on a regular basis from summer, through fall, and into the winter - all while maintaining summer attire. Week after week, I progressively adapt to cooler temperatures so it’s not a big shock when winter weather comes.

Let me make a few things clear so that you don’t think this is a license to just expose yourself to extreme conditions to see how tough you are. Going for outdoor runs in sub zero temperatures usually lasts less time than outdoor exercise during the summer. I typically don’t exceed 20 minutes per session - it’s enough to gain a training effect, but at the same time there’s only so far you can take your body before you risk damage. Exercise critical thought, and start slow! 

Consistent cold showers might be a good introduction to becoming more resilient to the cold. Or you can try my summer - fall - winter consistent weekly outdoor jogs to slowly adapt. And for those that haven’t yet heard, there’s a world renowned expert in this sort of thing. His name is Wim Hof. Look him up, there are plenty of youtube videos that go over progressive programs on how to train yourself to better tolerate cold.


Time for my Christmas story:

5 years ago I was out for a run in my shorts on Christmas morning. While running on my trail by the lake, I noticed a group of three men standing on the shore. As I passed them, one of them yelled out “Hey! Come in for a swim!” I replied with “No, I’m good.” And continued on the path. A few seconds later I heard one of them yell “I’ll give you a hundred bucks!” Honestly, I probably would have done it for twenty, so I ran down to where they were to check out the situation. After some decision making on their end, they decided the deal would be to split the hundred between me and another one from their group. Fifty bucks still sounded good, so we went in and both made some quick cash. 

The benefit of getting easy money aside, I actually felt amazing after doing that cold dip. My mind was razor sharp and I had loads of energy for a good five hours after that dip. I decided it was a good idea to keep it as a yearly tradition since then.


Lessons over the years:

A couple of years ago I didn’t do enough work to progress my cold resistance into the winter, and when the end of December came along, the cold of the lake was such a painful shock to my body, that I couldn’t handle the dip. It just confirms that in order to be ready for cold dipping, one must out in some work to prepare - you gain consistent benefits of faster metabolism and overall resilience to winter weather throughout the process.