Getting Cold and Getting Warm (Day 320)

Today was a gloriously sunny day; the bay sparkled blue and the air was warm and clear.

Angie and I met up with Maggie again. We are very happy she has fallen under the spell of the cold, open water. Like last time, she jumped straight in. I can never do that. Even after all this time, I need to ease my body in, to let the cold seep in little by little. The water was 53 degrees today and it felt like it. After my long slow immersion, I had a lovely swim, feeling better and better with each passing moment. 

Now that we are firmly back in the world of cold water swimming, I’ve been going back down all of the rabbit holes I first explored last winter. I think the surprise of having something so uncomfortable also be a thing that infuses me with such well-being sends me looking for the why’s. Why is the pain of the cold water followed by such profound pleasure? Why does the misery of the shivering after drop so often leave me energized and alert for the rest of the day? 

When I was in Victoria, the Cold Water Addicts were talking about Dr. Susanna Søberg, a Danish Scientist whose forthcoming book, Winter Swimming, will be out in January. It sounds like the book will illuminate all sorts of benefits of cold water swimming and I can’t wait to read it. But in Victoria, they were talking specifically about her research on the activation of brown fat in cold exposure and her assertion that it’s best to let your body warm up naturally afterward cold exposure. She argues, for example, that if you are going from cold plunges to hot saunas, it’s best to end on the cold and to let your body restore itself to warmth without the aid of a heat source (like a long shower). 

This resonated with me. Last spring, I stopped hopping immediately into the shower after a swim. Mostly because when I get in the hot shower while I’m still cold from a swim, it takes SO LONG to feel warm and I never want to get out. With California in the midst of a mega-drought, standing in a hot shower trying to warm up is not sustainable. And I’ve learned that, without the shower, it takes the same amount of time to warm up. My theory is that since it’s my core that’s cold, blasts of heat from outside don’t really help. Drinking warm liquid helps. Exercising helps (or running around in circles while everyone else is still getting dressed, which is what you can usually find me doing). And if all of this shivering is activating my brown fat, well bonus for me I guess! In any case, I look forward to reading all about it when her book comes out.  

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