Warming Up To A Cold Shower Challenge

Warming Up To A Cold Shower Challenge

It’s been a year since I first heard of Wim Hof’s cold shower challenge. I liked it, but I wasn’t sure if it was really for women. Then I stumbled upon a post on Twitter where I saw some women practicing his method and I figured – hey, maybe I could give this a try as well. But for some reason I was still hesitant. Then I saw this photo while looking for something online, and I thought – that’s it, this is a sign, I’m doing it!

wim hof method 20 day cold shower challenge

This article is a day-by-day journal of my 20-day cold shower challenge. Keep in mind that it’s the experience of a woman in her early 30ies. I’m not sure how much my age and gender influenced my experience.

Before I begin, I’ll just clarify one technical detail – I took my analog clock into the bathroom with me to measure my time. I definitely recommend a clock (digital or analog, doesn’t matter, as long as it displays seconds) rather than setting a timer or a stopwatch on your phone after the hot shower. This way you won’t interrupt yourself while you’re “in the zone” in order to go and set the timer.

WEEK 1 – 15 seconds long cold shower

Day 1

After the regular hot shower, I turned the water off for a few seconds, then changed it to cold. At first I was slowly sprinkling myself – legs, stomach, arms, face, back. 

I did this for about a minute. I realized I’d find it hard to do 15 seconds non-stop if I had to hold the shower head in my hand, so I put it in the shower head holder. It’s like ripping off a band-aid. When you’re the one doing it to yourself, you want to go easy on yourself. But this actually makes you stall indefinitely. When someone else is doing this to you, it’s quick and “merciless”, but in the long run, easier to bear.

So, it felt overwhelming at first, but then I got used to it. 

Once 15 seconds were up, I turned off the water and stayed in the shower until my breathing went back to normal. It got really fast while I was taking the cold shower. 

Observation: I feel far more energized than I do after a hot shower or a hot bath. 

Day 2

Overall, it was the same as yesterday. I thought crouching while sprinkling myself would make it easier but it didn’t. This is probably due to the fact that hot air is lighter, so the closer we are to the ground, the colder it gets.

I expected this to be easier than yesterday, but it wasn’t. 

Observation: Yesterday I wasn’t paying attention to my breathing from the beginning of the cold shower, today I did and it was much faster than usually.

a stream of cold water coming out of the shower

Day 3

No crouching. Sprinkling myself on and off for about a minute before the cold shower.

The cold shower itself was easier than yesterday

I paid attention to my breathing immediately and tried to breathe slowly, it seems that this made it easier.

Day 4

I wasn’t sprinkling myself at all. After the hot shower, I turned off the water and let myself cool down for about 1 minute. My breathing was similar to day 3, I even showered a few seconds more than I had to

Day 5

Again, no sprinkling. I managed to switch to the cold shower almost immediately, I didn’t have the 1 minute cool down period like I did these previous days. This made my first breath very heavy and uneven, but I remembered to calm my breathing down right after that.   

WEEK 2 – 30 seconds long cold shower

Day 6

At first it was almost as hard as the first day. However, I didn’t need to cool down for a full minute and I didn’t sprinkle myself. I suspect it was hard at first because I skipped 2 days of cold showers. 

As for the shower lasting 30 seconds, I had no problem with that for the most part. It only started feeling overwhelming during the last few seconds. 

Day 7

It was easier today. However, I’m still having a hard time switching to cold if I’m holding the shower in my hand. So, I put it in the handle while the water is off and I turn my back. It’s only after it’s done that I switch to cold. In this case, I have no choice but to got through with it, whereas I have a harder time with it if I’m the one determining where the water flow goes.

Day 8

My hot shower wasn’t particularly hot today, but I must say I’m satisfied because managed to switch to cold almost immediately, without the cool-down period. This was the most notable experience today. 

It’s also worth noting that I held the shower in my hand, and still managed to do this fairly effortlessly.

Day 9

Today I wanted to improve the success from the previous day. So I went straight to cold from a very hot shower, no splashing myself, no “getting used to it” in any way. Again, while holding the shower in my hand, not in the holder. 

I can pretty much say that I had no issues. I’m satisfied with my performance.

a girl taking a cold shower

Day 10

I actually made a 5 day break in my cold shower routine because I was on my period. I read in this article that women should avoid taking cold showers while on their period. I’m not sure how serious the impact may be, or if there’s any impact to begin with, but I wanted to play it safe. So, this cold shower came after the biggest break I made since starting this challenge.

I definitely didn’t have the mental resolve to immediately switch from hot to cold like I did on day 9. I switched the water to cold while the shower head was in the holder, and just stood next to it for 10-15 seconds, allowing the air to cool down a bit. Then I went under the water stream – it was shocking at first (far more than it was on day 9), but after around 10 seconds it felt fine. Paying attention to my breathing and trying to keep it steady and even really helped me get used to the cold.  I even stayed under the stream for around 35 seconds. 

WEEK 3 – 45 seconds long cold shower

Day 11

I made a one day break in my cold showers between day 10 and day 11 and I managed to pull it off today. I was using the same technique as yesterday – the shower head was in the holder, I first stood by the stream allowing the air and my body to cool down, and the stream was medium, not the strongest. It wasn’t hard to start, and after I got used to it I turned up the stream. Overall, despite switching to 45 seconds today, it felt more or less like it did on day 10

Day 12

I decided to take it up a notch today and go back to the technique I had before my 5 day break: I held the shower head in my hand, and switched to cold immediately after the hot shower, without standing next to the water stream (and it was a full stream today, not a moderate one). I must admit this was one of the hardest days. After only 15 seconds I felt like I had more than enough. But, of course, I persisted. At that point I tried focusing on my breathing, calming myself down through breathing steadily and deeply, but it wasn’t until the 30th second that I actually felt better. The last 15 seconds of the cold shower were truly enjoyable. 

I’ll keep it up with this technique of switching instantly to cold and holding the shower head in my hand (rather than in the holder). I realized it pushes me towards my limits. Based on my experience from the previous week, once I get used to it, it really gives me mastery of cold showers. 

a girl bathing outside during winter

Day 13

As I decided to do yesterday, I switched to cold immediately, while holding the shower head in my hand. It only felt unbearable for the first 5 seconds (as opposed to the first 15 seconds from yesterday). However, I must add that I truly notice that 45 seconds is a lot. It’s like the switch from 30 to 45 is more noticeable than the switch from 15 to 30 was (though it could also be that my 5 day break took its toll – for this reason I can’t guarantee that it will be the same for people who don’t make such a break).

Day 14

Today’s experience was fairly similar to yesterday. First 5 seconds were hard, but I focused on breathing calmly and I persisted. The sole difference was that I didn’t (or more precisely, couldn’t) switch from hot to cold because I was out of hot water by the end of my hot shower 🙂

So, I switched from lukewarm to cold, but again, while holding the shower head in my hand, and without making a break. This is the first time I went from lukewarm to cold instead of switching from hot to cold (out of necessity).

That’s why I must say that there is still a very visible difference between a lukewarm shower and a cold one. If anyone thinks lukewarm showers are an easier way to achieve an effect of cold showers, I must say – you’re wrong. Cold showers put your focus “here and now” and force you to be present and focused on your breath. Lukewarm showers may be less comfortable than hot showers, and they may have some health benefits that cold showers do. However they don’t put your focus “here and now” like cold showers do. The unique feeling of cold showers is simply not there.

a guy taking a cold shower

Day 15

Today was by far the easiest day of the week 3. It even lasted a bit longer than 45 seconds (maybe up to 50) and I sensed that I could go longer. I guess it’s a good introduction for next week’s final challenge – 60 seconds. I’m excited!

WEEK 4 – 60 seconds long cold shower

Day 16

My subjective feeling was similar to the first day of 45 second shower. After a while it did feel like a lot of time to be under a cold shower, but in the end it felt great. 

A small “hack” I realized today – when I feel like the time is passing too slowly, it’s better to not look at the clock at all. 

Day 17 

Overall very similar to yesterday. However, I got used to the cold faster than yesterday and I even stayed in the shower a bit longer (around 65 seconds).

Day 18

Today I forgot to take my analog clock with me. I only noticed it as I was getting ready to switch my shower to cold, so I decided to count instead. I slowly counted to 80 because counting to 60, even slowly, probably wouldn’t be as long as 60 seconds. The most notable impression is how hard it is to think, or even count to 5, during the initial few seconds of the cold shower. Afterwards it got much easier and even enjoyable. I was never really forced to pay attention to how hard it is to focus on anything else during a cold shower, but it really is. 

Day 19

Today was a bit harder than usual. The only reason that comes to mind is that, by the time I got to the shower, I was very tired and sleepy, and did this right before going to bed. So, in future, I’ll try to take the cold shower sooner during the day.

Day 20

My last day! I’m so excited because I made it this far. It was really good, it’s a routine by now. I even showered for 20 seconds longer than I had to, so a total of 80 seconds. I’ll definitely keep taking cold showers!

Final thoughts

I’m putting this article together a few days after the end of my cold shower challenge. During these few days, I practiced cold showers regularly (always a bit more than 60 seconds, and yesterday I even went up to 2 minutes). It’s a truly unique feeling and as I said on my last day, I will definitely keep doing this.


When it feels you can’t take it anymore

There are two things you can do: don’t look at the clock (it will feel like an eternity), and move your body somehow. Move your legs as if you’re marching, raise your arms, whatever – as long as you’re moving, it will help you.

shower head outside during winter

Go all in

No lukewarm water, switch to cold immediately.
Also, cover all parts of your body and get completely soaked as soon as possible.

Soak the “hardest body part” as soon as you can.

The “hardest body part” is the one where it seems the hardest to endure the first splashes of cold water (for me it was the chest area).
You probably won’t be able to do this immediately after starting your cold shower. However, you shouldn’t be putting it off either. Once you’re done with the hardest body part, the cold shower gets much easier, and it’s after that point that it actually gets enjoyable.

Advice for women doing the cold shower challenge

If your cycle is usually longer than 28 days, start right after your period ends. This way you won’t have to make a break in the middle of your progress like I did. 
If your cycle is around 28 days long or even shorter than that, I’d recommend starting the shower a few days before your period. That way, once your period is over, you will go back to finishing the 15-second cold showers or to switching to 30-second ones. Either way, it will be easier to re-start the routine this way. Your first couple of days of coming back to cold showers won’t be such a big shock this way.
Lastly, if you wanna take cold showers during your period anyway, I’d say at least consult your gynecologist about it.