What, Why, And How to Take Contrast Showers
Over the past few years, “contrast showers” have become more and more common within the public domain.
As a regular recovery tool among athletes, contrast showers have been used for many years, however, the health and wellness benefits for us common folk, are only now becoming more accepted.
Although the sound of cold water on the body may scare some, a contrast shower, when done right, actually works like gentle exercise on your body's tissues, and is much more comfortable than one might think.
This contrast between hot and cold water has some truly remarkable effects on the body and is definitely something everyone should give a shot.
Don’t worry, you aren’t giving up your relaxing bath time or submerging yourself into ice. See for yourself…
What are Contrast Showers?
Contrast showers, or contrast hydrotherapy, is the act of quickly changing your body temperature from hot to cold, then back again repeatedly.
The shock of cold water on your body causes a stress reaction, which primes adrenal glands, allowing your body to handle stress more efficiently.
In addition, the temporary cold shock also stimulates the brain, making it release your endorphins much more quickly, providing an almost immediate “awakening” and feeling of clarity.
Why are Contrast Showers Good for You?
There are some major benefits to contrast showers for sure.
First and foremost, contrast showers will provide a boost to the circulation in your body. This is because they cause your heart to rush blood to your organs to protect them from the “shocking” cold. Better circulation means that your body heals faster, and flushes toxins from your body more quickly.
Contrast showers will also boost your immune system. The temperature contrasts increase the number of monocytes in your bloodstream, which are disease-fighting white blood cells.
For anyone who exercises, or is recovering from injury, the prevention or reduction of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which reduces the amount of lactate in the blood and inflammation, probably sounds great. The cold temperature in the shower shrinks your blood vessels and restricts blood flow to the injured areas, and inflammation is essentially where your blood is flowing to heal it from an injury or micro-tears.
Possibly shocking to many, contrast showers, theoretically, may also help increase metabolism, the helping with weight loss and a reduction of cellulite, by stimulating one type of fat (brown) to burn another (white).
White fat refers to adipose fat, which is gained by consuming excess calories. This is the unwanted fat. Brown fat, however, is the fat found around the collar bones, neck, sternum and upper back and is important because it generates fuel (heat) by burning the ugly, unwanted white fat. Additionally, as an added benefit, Brown fat also helps keep the body warm.
Burning fat with fat? Sounds good, no?
Lastly, contrast showers are also believed to help with depression. By boosting blood flow to your brain, contrast showers increase endorphins. Endorphins are pain-relieving and mood-boosting, so the more of them flowing through your body, the happier you'll feel.
How to Take a Contrast Shower
Now onto the best part. Finding out this won’t be nearly as bad, or uncomfortable, as you have probably feared.
The simplest introduction to contrast showers is to start with a 15:5 ration, 15 seconds hot water, followed by 5 seconds cold.
As the goal of a contrast shower will be to maintain a 3:1 ratio, hot to cold, we have found the 15:5 (seconds) to be a highly acceptable starting point for almost anyone.
With that said, one should, as quickly as possible, increase the intervals.
One of the keys to a highly successful contrast shower will be finding the tolerable “extremes” to your hot and cold temperatures.
It goes without saying, we do not want to use water that causes burn, but we do, however, want to find the hottest, and the coldest temps we can tolerate for our 3:1 intervals.
Again, over time, these temperatures, and interval lengths will likely change as you become more accustomed to your contrast showers.
One last thought on timing. We strongly suggest your contrast showers be a morning practice and not an evening one.
One of the more obvious impacts of a contrast shower will be the “awakening” caused by the cold. The sudden cold blast causes blood flow to your vital organs, and it activates your parasympathetic nervous system. This will give you a huge energy boost naturally.
This is highly beneficial to start the day but counterproductive in the evening when the goal should be to “wind down” and relax.
Time to Get Wet
If any of the above benefits seem of even remote interest to you, we suggest you bite the bullet, overcome your fear (mental block) on the “cold”, and give contrast showers a try!
Having used this process now for many years, every single morning, we are quite confident, if you make a cognitive decision and introduce them properly, you will thoroughly enjoy the benefits and increased sense of energy you start your day with.
Enjoy your shower!
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Now, onward! You only have one life to live, one body to live it in...so take care of it. Progress, not perfection. Good, better, best with your food intake and some form of "movement" daily. Get your nutritional foundation from food, supplement where necessary, and drink plenty of water.
And, don’t forget, always consult your physician before making any changes to your diet or exercise regiment.
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