The Cold Shower Challenge

cold-shower-challengeFor the last 2 and a half months, I’ve only taken cold showers.

Why?

Because Nick Reese challenged me to do it when we recorded last week’s podcast session back in March, and now I’m afraid if I break the streak I won’t want to start again.

Bryn and my friends think I’m crazy. They’re probably right.

But call it a coincidence — things have been going pretty well since I turned on that cold water!

During that time I:

Why Cold Showers?

Nick, who’s more than 500 cold showers deep at this point, explains it started as a fat-burning hack.

Indeed, the tactic was mentioned in The 4-Hour Body as a way to kick-start your metabolism and shock your body into burning calories to heat yourself back up afterwards.

There’s some thermodynamics involved. It’s the same science that explains why Michael Phelps could eat 12,000 calories in a day, even though he wouldn’t burn that number through exercise alone. He’d expend a few thousand calories heating his body spending hours in the water.

(Another reason why swimming is such great exercise, but also explains why I’m always starving after I go!)

But beyond triggering weight loss, the cold showers became a mindset challenge for Nick.

Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s uncomfortable.

But it’s also only 5 minutes and you’re going to live through it. As much as it sucks, it’s not life-threatening. (Kind of like a failed business project.)

It’s a small act of defiance that prepares you to carpe the crap out of the diem.

Confessions:

  • I sometimes suddenly find a new list of things I should do before jumping in the shower. Even though it feels great after, the anticipation isn’t awesome.
  • It took a while to break the now-pointless habit of “letting the water warm up” before getting in.
  • Sometimes I’ll do some pushups or kettlebell swings to warm myself up before getting in.
  • There’s usually swearing involved.

A couple days were particularly difficult. One was an afternoon session after walking the dog and getting hit by a cold rain halfway through. The other was after a day of skiing in a blizzard.

But I survived.

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Nick calls the cold shower challenge “getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Have you heard the “eat the frog” story?

An old saying is that “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long!”

Your “FROG” is the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it now!

It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.

You’ve got an important task to get done, or something that’s been collecting dust on your to-do list for ages, it makes sense to knock it out first thing in the morning.

Perhaps the cold shower is your frog, or perhaps it will just get you pumped up to conquer your real frog.

You’ll feel accomplished and the rest of your work will seem like much less of a challenge.

Take a deep breath and get ‘r done. The first 30 seconds are the worst.

I thought it was crazy too, but it works. That’s the weird thing, since I cold-turkeyed  the hot water, I’ve gained a lot of positive momentum on my projects.

Could it just be coincidence, or is there maybe something to it?

Unfair Advantages:

  • It’s never THAT cold here.
  • I don’t typically shower first thing in the morning.

Cold Shower Placebo?

One common pushback I hear is that the shower really isn’t accomplishing anything on your task list. Whether the water is hot or cold, you’ll still have the same amount of work to do when you get out.

And that’s true.

But I’ve found I emerge with a completely different attitude. Even if my task list is the same as it was before, those tasks are attacked with new hustle and vigor.

Will You Join the Challenge?

Who’s with me? If you’re willing to give cold showers a chance — hey, the weather’s heating up — leave a comment below and let me know you’re in.

5 minutes a day for 30 days.

You can do it. Prove it to yourself.

A 5 minute daily reminder of your hustle and your goals.

We’ll circle back in 30 days to see if you can feel a difference in attitude, mindset, productivity, and results. I’m confident you’ll feel great!

Remember, deep breaths!

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33 thoughts on “The Cold Shower Challenge

  1. I might have to just take you up on this challenge. Living in Michigan, that definitely would not happen in mid February. What a great way to kick up the discipline and move your life from where it is to where it needs to be!

  2. Interesting article, Nick. I’m in. I thought you were going to say it was a productivity hack because if you’re guaranteed not to spend any more time in the shower than needed. Fat burning. Carpeing the heck out of the Diem. How can I say no?

  3. Love this idea. I did this while traveling Europe many times (not by choice). And I always felt so alive afterwards and productive that day. It is an excellent way to start the metabolism too which is a problem for both overweight and underweight people.

      • Yea its even worse when they are community showers. However After living in Hostels for months on end, room temp showers became the norm. You had to get pretty unlucky to get a sub 40 shower. On a completely related note. Do you still live in Seattle? If so we should hit the links. Ill trade some golf tips for some Side Money tips.

  4. I’ve been sorta doing this for a while. Here in south FL the water really never gets that cold in the summer because the pipes are in the attic and it’s way hot up there. It’s actually kind of annoying not being able to have a cool shower. Even the pools are naturally 86 degrees without a heater. I’ll have to see if I can record the shower temp. A Google spreadsheets graph of everyone doing this could be kind of fun.

  5. I’ve always been a fan of nice, hot showers but you make a good argument for going cold. Perhaps I’ll give it a try and see it if has as much impact on me as it has on you.

  6. And of course there is the hundreds of dollars you will save every year with surely shorter showers and no electricity or gas to heat the water. I bet this would save me (a long shower taker) at least $300 a year.

  7. Nick,
    I’m up for the challenge. I was familiar with the fat burning effects and I have been doing push-ups to get ready for a law enforcement job I am going after…..This morning I woke up at 300.00 on the scale—I am 6-3 and most people think I’m about 250 @ 40 years old but I need to be a ripped 260—-so I except the challenge and will start a new weight loss blog today!!!!

  8. Wanted to wait a bit before commenting on this post… but I’ve been doing the cold showers ever since this one came out. I’m very aware of kinesthetic anchors and this is one hell of a powerful one when the “entrepreneurial mindset” is attached to it.

    I friggin’ love this challenge. Well, it’s no longer a challenge, it’s the way I operate. And it’s started to move out into other “moments of hesitation” in my life. When that funky little feeling comes creeping up trying to get me to slow down or stop… the “JUST TURN IT ON AND STEP IN” anchor triggers.

    Action follows.

    Thank you Nick for spending time on this lifehack – it’s more than just a health-hack – it’s a mind-hack. Love it!

  9. I am trying the cold shower challenge and am on day 3. This morning I cursed you out very loudly, I would not have heard about this if it was not for you I never would have heard of this goofy idea. I then cursed myself out for having to try every goofy idea I read :)

    Thought you might think that it was funny at a house in a Chicago suburb today someone muttered “F**king Side Hustle Nation!”

  10. Completed 7 days in a row Nick….misread the challenge originally I guess :) Nothing to it now, been doing it every few days. I may go back and do 30 in a row. The “not flinching” has carried over for me to other aspects of daily life.

      • Yes, “normal” people don’t notice or care about the temperature of the cold water, but I have noticed significant differences. In my experience, the cold water in hotels is relatively warm. The water at my house in Kentucky with an uninsulated crawl space varies with the weather (the challenge is real in the winter).

        Thao, it sucks, but you will survive. That is basically the point of it.

  11. Nick, this is awesome and I was totally in on it at the beginning of the article! Then I started really thinking about it, and I’m wondering how much razor burn I’d have on my legs :) I scrolled down and saw no other female commenters willing to do this (shocker haha).

    That being said, I’m willing to give it a shot. We shall see! :)

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