Taking a cold shower at home? Here's my "Beginners Guide" to get you started!

Richard Staudner
Richard Staudner

The Optimizer

In one of my last articles I told about a safe and healthy start with ice bathing in nature. As you can imagine, a cold shower is something completely different. And thus, I have to deal with it differently to get used to it. Simply standing in the cabin and turning on the cold water could cause you to give up on cold therapy faster than you started. 

Therefore, I would like to give you a little guideline today. This should give you a pleasant start and slowly get you used to the cold. 

Cryosauna and cold chamber I have hardly mentioned yet. Of course, these have certain advantages, such as a low temperature without direct water contact and therefore less subjective pain. Furthermore, they show great success in the medical sector, such as skin or joint problems. But of course it is rather a luxurious therapeutic measure. A session nevertheless strikes from approximately 30 to 50 € to account. And this usually for only 2 to maximum 3 minutes. 

Cold showers vs outdoor ice bath 

First of all, I have to tell you, there is no either or! If possible, go out and take advantage of the many benefits of nature! And in everyday life you can just stand under the shower. 

Cold shower Outdoor ice pool

Cost-effectivefree of charge except for the journey
simple and daily applicable higher time expenditure
no travel expenses individual travel expenses
Variable temperatureConstant temperature 
monotonous appearance (shower stall)motivating and calming environment
running water is more stressstanding water is more pleasant (lakes)
never covers the entire bodyCaptures the whole body evenly 
hot-cold alternating bath possiblehot-cold alternating bath impossible

The preparation for your first session

Before you step into the shower stall for the first time and enjoy your cold shower, let's make a few preparations. 

Tense or relaxed after all?

Due to the cold-shock response, your body's reaction to sudden extreme cold, a very quickly increased stress level is quite normal. 

Breathing becomes fast and shallow and your pulse increases. You have stress. 

Your body changes from relaxation to tension. From "rest & digest" mode to "fight or flight". You are fighting the cold. Scientifically speaking, based on your nervous system, you have left the parasympathetic state and switched to the sympathetic nervous system. It's like the saber-toothed tiger is after you. 

This is perfectly fine, but try to get back into a relaxed state as soon as possible. And here I explain briefly how to do that!

Our goal is to adapt to the cold and relax within 30-45 seconds. A simple breathing technique supports us in this. 

As you may already know, your pulse rate increases when you inhale and decreases when you exhale. Furthermore, how deeply and consciously you breathe determines how easy it is for you to calm down in the water. 

Deep abdominal breathing and focus on long exhalation will help you to relax before or in a stressful situation. It is perfectly sufficient to inhale for about 3 seconds, but very important to exhale long and consciously. At least 5 to a maximum of 10 seconds is useful. This way you can actually act on your "autonomic" nervous system and calm your heartbeat. The stress level drops rapidly, thoughts become clearer again and the feeling is usually more pleasant. And always water eases the pain and muscular tension. 

You can close your eyes to be even more aware of your breathing. But please make sure that you do not lose your orientation. For the first few times in the shower, it's better to hold on to the showerhead holder or something similar. 

Please be sure to try this breathing technique beforehand in a quiet environment and in a seated position, i.e. outside the shower stall. I recommend that you practice this breathing regularly. You will benefit from its relaxing effect not only during an ice bath. Breathing techniques that lower our stress level and thus make us "parasympathetic" are also worth their weight in gold in everyday life. 

Please do not underestimate the advantage of a relaxed posture during cold therapy. Of course, you can "endure" cold water for a few minutes. But it should be much more of a pleasure in the long run. How can you use ice baths for years if it is a huge shock and a lot of stress for you every time?   

So far and no further 

Under the shower head and turn it on full? No, I don't think that makes sense. 

Of course, you can take cold showers all over your body right from the first sessions, but that only works in the long run with really hard dogs. And even then it's not even necessary. 

I prefer a slow approach. I want you to get comfortable with the cold and hopefully enjoy it for a long time. 

Here's a scheme for how you can approach it in the long run:

WeekBody regionDuration
Week 1Feet & Ankles30 seconds
Week 2Lower leg & knee 30 seconds
Week 3Total legs, buttocks and arms (without torso) 30 seconds
Week 4Whole body incl. face (without head)30 seconds 
Week 5Whole body incl. face (without head)45 seconds 
Week 6Whole body incl. face (without head)60 seconds 
Week 7 Whole body incl. face (without head)75 seconds
Week 8 Whole body incl. face (without head)90 seconds
Week 9 Whole body incl. face (without head)105 seconds
Week 10Whole body incl. face (without head)120 seconds

Keep the shower head moving, for example from front to back or from left to right. You are welcome to hold the shower head rather still for the focus on breathing. With a fixed shower from the ceiling, try to hold the respective body part in the water jet. 

Longer than 3 minutes I consider counterproductive for regular or even daily use and low temperature. It is simply too much stress. Initially it still feels good, but not infrequently it then comes to rejection in the long run. Or even to negative physical side effects. 

What about the temperature, actually? 

You should go through the above scheme with a temperature of your choice. You don't have to choose the lowest temperature right away. You can go through the scheme two or three times. Remember, ice bathing is something for your whole life and not a therapy that you go through once and then thatʼs it. You have all the time in the world, build yourself a pleasant routine! 

And what about the head? 

You can also shower your face with cold water. I would definitely leave out the head at the beginning. The brain is very sensitive. 2-3 seconds will probably not be a problem. But running ice cold water over your head for more than a few seconds can cause dizziness for several hours. You have to get used to it very slowly and for a long time. I, at least, am on a quest to optimize my body in everyday confrontation with the cold. Increasing the defenses, improving the well-being and an active start to the day. I do not do this to feed my ego. 

Yes the cold has an insanely invigorating effect on your mind, but you can also create this state with a cold face wash. Is also great for the skin 🙂 

Should I use heat as well? 

Of course, you can start your shower with warm water. Just to wash your hair makes sense. With cold water it is little fun and the subject of cold on the head I have already described. 

But it can also be useful to start with warm water and take 10-12 long breaths. This will give you a chance to relax. It can happen that the change to cold water is easier for you. 

Just try it.  

How many times a week should I take a cold shower? 

Taking cold showers three to five times a week is a great goal! Of course, once you get used to it, you can do it more often. 

But please set a realistic goal at the beginning. 

For example, starting next week, I'll be taking cold showers every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. 

When should I take a cold shower? 

Your timing is actually a very important issue! I find mornings or during the day ideal for a cold shower. It invigorates, gives me energy and clears my head. In the evening, definitely make sure you have at least two hours after your cold bath before you go to bed. Remember, the cold can activate you a lot. In a really hot summer, of course, it can be pleasant and relaxing, but you'll have to figure that out for yourself. 

In studies they have even been able to show that ice bathing leads to increased restlessness. Core body temperature can take up to 5h to return to baseline levels after intense cold applications. In experiments they found altered sleep quality in the first 3 hours as a result, but the effects seem to be small when we look at them over a whole night. Melatonin our sleep hormone was also not affected in the studies. So it probably depends on how sensitive you are to ice bathing. Maybe watch your sleep initially and you'll have it out soon! (1-3)

Breaths vs Time under Water

To measure your time in the cold shower, you can of course use an egg timer or a stopwatch. You set the desired time and concentrate fully on your breathing. 

Another variant would be to measure your breaths. This way you are also focused on your breathing, but not dependent on a clock. 

Let's assume you can get by with 6 breaths per minute. That's not hard, with a little practice you can do it with much less. 

You inhale for about 3-4 seconds and exhale for 6-7 seconds. And you do this 12 times. Then you have spent about 2 minutes in the cold shower. 

To avoid getting confused, you can count to each inhale and exhale. 

Inhale 1 - Exhale 1

Inhale 2 - Exhale 2

Inhale 3 - Exhale 3

Inhale 4 - Exhale 4

Inhale 5 - Exhale 5

Inhale 6 - Exhale 6

and so on 

Please remember, ice bathing is very healthy, but also causes a huge stress. Especially for beginners. If you haven't done it yet, you should also read my blog article "How cold can affect your health". 

So enough philosophizing! Now it's time for your first cold session in the shower. I look forward to an email with your impressions to 

Your Performance Optimizer & Biohacker
Richard Staudner

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Richard Staudner

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