The 911 Challenge: Why I Take Ice-Cold Showers Every Morning

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Scott Tousley
Scott Tousley



Want to gain fat, increase depression, get sick more frequently, and lose attentiveness?

excited puppy running

Cool, then keep taking hot showers. Because that’s what happens every single time we take one.

According to a study from New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, a hot, steamy shower makes us groggy and lethargic. Additionally, hot showers before bed are suggested by doctors for insomnia.

... Not exactly an ideal way to start an eight-hour workday. 

So if you’d rather feel energized, rejuvenated, and pumping with adrenaline, try the opposite — cold showers.

Before you get all defensive and say “umm hell no, I love my hot showers” (I used to say that, too), hear me out. There are some insane benefits, including more energy, fat loss, getting sick less often, reducing depression, and recovering faster after exercise.

Yet, I know you're still probably hating on the idea. I was, too. So I came up with my own system of easing into it. I dubiously call it … the 911 Challenge:

For 9 days, I’d increase the time I’d be in cold water by an additional 11 seconds per day.

I’d start with hot water, then end my showers with cold water. But each time, I’d reduce the amount of time in hot water and increase time in cold water. Since my showers usually only last a couple minutes, my 911 Challenge looked like this:

Thus, by the 10th day, I could take a completely cold shower. Because after 1 minute and 39 seconds of cold water, my body was adjusted. I could handle any amount of time after that.

Despite the obvious fact why it’s called the 911 Challenge (9 days; 11 second increases), there is a slightly deeper meaning.

I have a roommate. So the first time I turned on that cold water, I let out a shriek so loud he almost called 911. 

That is the challenge. When the cold water connects with your skin, shocking your system, don’t scream so loud that anyone in your house is tempted to call an ambulance.

Instead, take deep, controlled breaths. That's how I learned to remain calm through the frigid water. According to Harvard University, deep breathing is our body’s only built-in stress reliever.

Yet, despite the tips and tricks, you may still not be convinced: 

No worries. It took me a longgg time to try cold showers. But now I'm never turning back to hot showers (unless I'm trying to fall asleep), due to the massive adrenaline rush I get from cold showers. 

Allow me to scientifically break down the benefits:  

  Get a (massive) energy boost

I’m talking like an I-feel-like-Godzilla-I-could-take-over-the-world-I-don't-even-need-coffee-anymore energy boost. Research shows this is because cold water shocks our nervous system, which triggers our body’s fight-or-flight response, producing an intense adrenaline rush. 

  Burn fat

We have two types of fat - good fat and bad fat. White fat, the bad stuff, creates those awkward love handles. Brown fat, the good stuff, is what keeps our body temperature regulated. Research suggests that when we’re exposed to the cold, the “brown fat” acts as a body temperature regulator, burning calories in the process.

  Get sick less often

Unlike what mom said growing up, spending time in the cold can actually increase immune strength. According to a study, those who take cold showers have higher white blood cell counts, as well as higher concentrations of plasma, T helper cells, and lymphocytes. This all helps regulate our immune system, reducing likelihood of being sick.

  Recover faster after exercise

LeBron James (proof) and Kobe Bryant (proof) use ice baths after games and practice. Enough said. 

  Relieve depression

Feeling down in the dumps? According to a research, cold water sends electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could results in an anti-depressive effect. 

Moreover, the Spartans of ancient Greece refused to take hot showers because it made them weak; whereas cold showers provided alertness and stamina. And when they were fighting off swarms of sword-wielding Persians, they required serious adrenaline — not lethargy. They believed hot showers were made for sissies, not Spartans.

After putting off cold showers for the longest time, I finally decided to give it a go since I realized that I’m not a sissy (I like to tell myself that) and I wanted to see if this whole “it will boost your energy!” thing lived up to the hype. I'm glad that I did. 

Now I experience the vast benefits of cold showers, all for a few minutes of uncomfortableness.

Start small (at 11 seconds) … or if that is too much, just do 5 seconds. Wherever you start, just keep increasing in tiny intervals. Make small improvements, building tiny habits until you’re on a full on cold shower (i.e. The 911 Challenge). 

Because according to the Spartans of Greece, hot showers are for sissies.

You’re not a sissy, are you?

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