I frequently describe my life as “trying to fit 10 gallons into a 5-gallon hat”. It’s a self-imposed problem due to my love of so many different interests (and perhaps a penchant for “being busy” that I’m trying to break). I recently added a newborn baby girl to the mix which means the structure and routine I relied on has been tossed out the window and I find myself needing new techniques to excel.
Introduce our good friend caffeine. It’s always good for a pick me up, especially when I’m feeling slow in the morning. I’m not a coffee drinker but traveling in India and Southeast Asia got me hooked on a good cup of tea. Chai is my preference, but not the sugary kind you would get out of a box at Starbucks. I have a milk frother at home that makes a nice latte-esque cup from black tea leaves and spices. Side note: if you want a no-sugar-added chai at a Starbucks, ask for a “Chai Tea Misto”. It’s chai tea bags with steamed milk priced like a tea so about half the cost of a chai latte. Half the Starbucks don’t know how to make it though, so be clear it’s not a latte.
As a Northern Californian going through a drought, I have separately been working to minimize my showers. My shower takes about 2 minutes to get hot water so we let it run into a 5-gallon bucket. Once it gets warm, I would jump in, get wet, turn the water off. Wash my hair, my body and then turn the water back on to rinse before getting out. As someone who loves long, hot showers, this is both soul-crushing and terribly efficient. Combined with better managing our sprinklers and more water-efficient washer/dryer, we cut our overall water usage by 35%.
Let’s weave these threads together. Busy life. Little sleep. Newborn baby. Water restrictions. How can I optimize my physical feeling each day?
There’s a lot of research and/or hype about cold showers in the fitness world. They are claimed to help with fat loss and promote muscular recovery among other things. I am not a researcher and have no opinion on those. What I can tell you is that cold showers can wake up even the most sleep deprived new parent and kick start your day. Best part? The effect lasts for hours!
If you search for “cold shower challenge”, you’ll find lots of suggested protocols. I started with a regular hot shower and progressively added cold water finishes. Just for a few seconds. Then a few more seconds. Then a few more and so on until I worked up to half my shower under cold water. Here’s how I’m doing it now:
- Run a hot shower (into the bucket to save water which we use to water plants)
- Get in right as the water gets hot, scrub my face vigorously, quickly get wet (under 60 seconds)
- Turn water off, wash my hair and body
- Turn water back on to hot and begin to rinse
- Immediately move water to cold, as cold as you can without the shower turning off
- Try to remain calm as your body goes from 130F water to 60F water, finish rinsing off (another 60 seconds). Embrace the feeling.
- Exit the shower WIDE AWAKE
My mind is buzzing as I dry off and I walk into my home office with not so much a thought about needing a cup of chai.
My home is generally pretty cold so I used to stay in the shower for long periods of time to warm up my cold extremities. Now when I turn the cold water rinse off, the air temperature feels warm and I’m in no rush to dry off or put on clothes. If you’ve ever gone wakeboarding in a cold lake, it’s like how falling back into the water can feel great after the wind chill factor of being towed behind a boat at 20mph.
I still enjoy a good cup of chai because it’s delicious but I have found that using caffeine as a crutch has all but disappeared. And in a weird way, I now enjoy the feeling of shock as the cold water hits my head and the adrenaline starts running.
You can easily start with a 5-second cold finish. Move that to 10. Then 20. How about a minute? Try it out and tell me what happens below!