The success of my 11-year marriage is the amount of time my husband and I spend on personal growth. We are constantly trying to improve ourselves. We value growth due to challenges and accomplishment. We are both trying to be better versions of ourselves. This love of learning and improvement has helped us grow as individuals and as a couple.
Thirteen years ago, when I first met my husband, I didn’t do many activities with him. My idea of a good time was going to a club and indulging in several drinks. His idea of a good time was going to the gym. Initially, I avoided going to the gym with him. I felt embarrassed. I wasn’t athletic and felt he would judge me. Over time, as I grew more comfortable with him, this embarrassment subsided. Before I knew it, I enjoyed going to the gym with him. This led to us doing other physically challenging activities.
Our favorite activity is hiking. There is something therapeutic about a hike. Spending time outside, talking and hiking to a beautiful view is my favorite way to spend time. The feeling of accomplishment after a particularly rough hike is part of the reason why I love it so much. We enjoy challenging ourselves, feeling a sense of accomplishment and then enjoying a beer after. It’s the best of both worlds.
From hiking, to rock climbing, to ice climbing, to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, we’ve put ourselves in different situations to chase accomplishment. Each time I tried something new I was scared and each time I realized it was worth the effort.
But now, I’m not sure.
Recently, my husband has started incorporating the Wim Hof method in his daily routine. He had a particularly rough start to the year. Before I knew it, he was breathing strangely and taking cold showers.
When one of us tries something new and finds it beneficial, we usually let the other one know. This is how I discovered Jiu Jitsu. My husband went for a class, came back excited to go to another one, and I went to see for myself. When hearing about the relaxation benefits with the Wim Hof breathing method, I decided to give it a try. I’ve tried it once. It felt strange and mildly uncomfortable. I’m not done trying yet. I’ll give the breathing method another couple tries before I made a decision.
I did the same with Jiu Jitsu. After my first class, I was intrigued. After my second, I was sickened. The sweat pouring off a big sweaty man as he is on top of you showing you a choking technique takes time to get used to. Over time, I developed a love hate relationship with Jiu Jitsu. I loved when I submitted an opponent double my size after two years of training. I hated each time I went and felt I wasn’t improving – which was most of the time. I continued going because I found value in the challenge. Also, I’m not a quitter.
But, I may be a quitter when it comes to a cold shower.
In addition to breathing, the Wim Hof method includes cold therapy. He believes exposure to cold is linked to several health benefits including relaxation, increased energy, and improvement of your immune system. When my husband told me he started taking cold showers, I laughed. I didn’t think he was serious. Who takes cold showers in the winter? I can’t imagine stepping into a freezing cold shower. It seemed absurd to me.
I learned he doesn’t start the shower cold. He starts with the water hot, turns it to warm, and then slowly turns it cold. He’s now able to stand a cold shower for 30 seconds. I couldn’t manage 2!
Since I've found many benefits in things outside my comfort zone, I went to the Wim Hoff website and did some research. I looked at cold therapy. After seeing a bunch of dudes in an ice bath, I learned you gradually expose your body to low temperatures by taking cold showers. After weeks of doing this, you are more energetic, less stressed and better rested.
It seems too good to be true. By taking a cold shower and doing some breathing exercises, I’ll be less stressed and more energetic? Would I really benefit from taking cold showers?
“After 8 months of daily Hoffing, puffing and cold showers I can claim to be cured of my 5 year burnout. Not having had a single cold or flu, my sore knee is working perfectly again, which was very painful the last 2 years. It is like a miracle, and I’m really grateful that our paths crossed.” – Gregor, from the Wim Hof website
As I write this, I am slowly convincing myself. Increasing your willpower isn’t the only benefit, the cold increases metabolic rate and stimulates the generation of brown fat.
I only know about brown fat because of ice climbing. Each trip, my husband tells me I’m increasing brown fat. Being that I’m of Indian origin, I always laugh. Surely, the ice cream I had the day before was more responsible for the increase of brown fat, than ice climbing! The truth about brown fat is that it helps you maintain body temperature in cold conditions. And after several ice climbing trips, and winter hikes, I have no problem weathering the cold.
This year, we’ve increased our winter hiking trips due to extra time with the pandemic. We’ve taken local trips and hiked several mountains layered in cold gear and micro spikes. The thought of doing this years ago wouldn’t have appealed to me at all. But now that I’m used to it, I’m able to enjoy the time outside in the winter.
Challenging yourself increases your self-awareness. Despite this awareness, I struggle with consistently being outside my comfort zone. When I first started Jiu Jitsu, it was so far from what I thought I could ever do, going to class made me proud. However, over time your uncomfortable zone becomes your comfort zone. It is at this point of time, you need to once again become uncomfortable.
The more we struggle, the more we benefit.
As skeptical as I am about the benefits of cold therapy, I’m in need of another challenge. I’ll start with the breathing techniques. From there, I may try a cold shower. Maybe I’ll be hooked. Maybe I’ll jump in the ice bath with the old dudes on the website.
All jokes aside, committing to the breathing technique will likely improve my asthma. Committing to both the breathing and the cold showers will probably help my winter depression and strengthen my immune system. If anything, it will strengthen my willpower. I guess I’ll do anything for love after all…the love of myself.