“Being fit” usually means to be able to display an above- than-average amount of strength and endurance. These two skills, if well developed, increase life span, improve life quality and they make us more confident.
For many people that’s enough to face everyday challenges, we are constantly living in a controlled environment. We don’t have to face the harsh nature like our ancestors did. Air conditioning, means of transportation, 24/7/365 food availability have detached us from our hunter-gather being.
For the people that want to test themselves in endurance events, strength and cardio-vascular fitness aren’t enough. To resist out there in the wild you need more than brute force and stamina.
To endure in a 12+ hours event, constantly soaked, exposed to (sometimes) extreme cold, tired and with very small time available to eat, you must train to adapt to these conditions.
Training means to administer a manageable dose of stress by which we can get the body to adapt to it.
Cold and caloric restriction are two powerful forms of stress. In this article we are going to learn how to withstand and turn them into our allies.
Stress response is controlled by the mind. The brain is the master controller, it is in charge of controlling how to handle an external stimulus. If the source of stress is new and/or too much the brain will not be able to handle it and it will shut down inducing a panic-like mode.
We have to train our mind first in a way that it can handle the most stressful situations.
Meditation is a pillar of mind training. To meditate doesn’t mean to focus on complex thoughts or some weird metaphysical problem. To meditate means to educate the mind to focus on one thought per time. A laser-like focus is the key to withstand a harsh circumstance.
The simplest form of meditation is to be focused on breathing pattern.
3 or 4 sets of 30-40 breaths with some breathing retention at the end of the set is beneficial not only for the mind but also for the entire body.
Learning to be aware of the air flowing in and out is a technique that calms the mind and loosen the tension. Plus, an oxygenated body is a resilient body, it can handle the cold and other stressors more efficiently.
During meditation, try to visualize the response to the cold, a sense of heat coming from the belly and slowly rising up to the back of the head.
Right after meditation, take a cold shower, start with 30 second or 1 minute. Never allow shivers to show up; do it as long as you don’t feel too much uncomfortable.
In the beginning you have to force yourself to turn the knob to “cold” and feel the freezing water on the skin. Go ahead and trust us, you will stop feeling the bite of the cold in few seconds. During the cold shower keep the focus on the heat you have inside. When you start feeling uncomfortable turn the water into hot and finish showering.
Every week add 30 seconds to your daily cold shower to a max of 10 minutes.
What has been just briefly described is the gold standard in cold adaptation: the Wim Hof Method (www.wimhofmethod.com).
To know more about it go to his website.