I’m the type of person who cold plunges
Three weeks ago I set up an old rubber horse trough so I could do cold plunges each morning, something I have been wanting to try for a while. I had to wait this spring for the overnight temps to be closer to freezing for this to work and not so cold that it would freeze my trough solid.
My first morning I went outside to give it a try. It had snowed the night before and was a couple degrees celsius below freezing. I looked at the trough after walking barefoot through the snow to get there. It was beautiful, the decision had been made months ago and so without too much thought I broke the ice with my foot, dropped my towel and sat into the freezing cold water. I worked to calm my breath to trust enough to lay back and cover up to my neck. I had started a stop watch just out of curiosity and a minute and a half later I got out of the water. I was cold, but by the time I went back in the house and dried off, the cold was not a factor and it was unquestionably worthwhile as I felt that I truly knew what it meant to be alive. It was like each cell in my body was awake; a very, very different experience than rolling out of bed in the morning.
The after effects of these cold plunges continued to pull me in, I would feel the need to feel awake and alive in a way that I couldn’t by other means. I would be struggling in the morning to make a plan, make decisions, choose what to do with the day. I was at a crossroads and trying to weave my way through an uncertain fog, so I would cold dip and feel a clarity in myself, what I truly wanted, needed, and felt called to manifest. Uncertainty became the trigger for the habit of cold dips. The thought of ‘how does anyone ever make a decision without first going into cold water?’ would come to mind. With a mantra like this, uncertainty feels like empowerment. The world gives us chaos and we plunge it into cold water and come out more ourselves, with greater clarity, direction, calm, and conviction.
I started to look for opportunities to be in cold water. Doing dips a few times a day, trying out when it felt best, what it was like to do it as a bedtime routine and still be able to fall asleep quickly. I went on a road trip into the mountains in spring and wondered how I could bring this forward. There are always cold showers available, but they don’t seem to offer me the same journey as a minute or two submerged. One morning I went for a run on a trail. I planned to return to the house and grab a towel, then go to the boat launch and have my cold dip, being able to scoot back to the house quickly if needed to rewarm. However, the trail ran along the river, was secluded, and had many lookout points with access to the water. On my way back I decided to try a mid-run dip. It was wonderful, much easier when my body was warm before and nice to be able to walk right into a calm river rather than having to sit or lay back in my trough. I returned home awake and inspired by how easy this could be now that I was looking for the opportunity!
The next morning, now in a different town at a different friend’s house, I once again went out for a morning run. I ran up, up, up, feeling the need to push my muscles and stretch my strength. I thought about cold dips and where I could find one. From here I had to go down to the river and then back up to get home. Today I was wearing shorts and a long sleeve rather than the previous day of pants and a jacket. Hmmm…. Once again the opportunity for experimentation. I ran down to the river and went for a skinny dip. It was harder to find a place to fully submerge but the water was very cold and I made it work. I put my shorts and long sleeve back on and felt fine, my legs a little heavy and my body a bit more alive.
As I returned home, my hands were fine. I have suffered from rainoids for as long as I can remember, losing the circulation to at least a couple of my fingers from touching a cold steering wheel or looking at a cold river. But I was fine! Was this just the circumstance of running first and then dipping, or were the cumulative cold dips having a healing and strengthening effect on me? It feels almost too good to be true that simply spending just a couple minutes a day could cure me of this poor circulation disorder, but at the same time it makes total sense. We are training our blood vessels to close and open, like lifting weights. Now rather than my extremities being closed off regularly, my body was strong enough to keep the blood flowing, how amazing! As I reflected on that morning run, I realized that I would have definitely caused rainoids previously by getting cold and keeping my hands uncovered.
This brought the question to mind that I have sat with before as I heal old patterns and injuries. Am I ready to let go of this challenge/disability/injury? If I let go of it, allow it to heal, forget it ever happened, it means I am letting go of the potential attention, empathy, and conversation with others surrounding this topic. The care they would offer when I lose feeling in my hands and my ghostly fingers are not capable of the slightest of tasks. When we let go of these opportunities we let go of the means for connection in this way. Could I connect with others over being healthy, strong, and vibrant? The bigger question: am I open to my identity shifting in a big way through a seemingly small change in my body? That is really what has the potential to ripple out from this recovery. I am becoming a new person, connecting with others in a new way, open to change and growth with the available space and attention not used up by empathy for an injury that is no longer mine. I am the type of person who seeks out new and healing experiences and pays attention to what happens, I am the type of person who cold plunges.