In general, the most common question is: “Massimo, why do you bathe in cold water!?” and the answer is “Because it makes me happy!”.
Making the cold become an ally allowed me to transform what I considered an enemy into a friend.
Since October 2015 I expose myself regularly to the cold at least three times a week and this practice is changing my body. To the questions “Do you still feel cold?” “Are you still feeling the pains?”
My answer is that the pain I feel when I dive into cold water has changed, but it has not disappeared and the perception of cold has changed. In addition, these signals give me an idea to evaluate when to get out of the water!
Parallel to the practice, I began to read up about the effects of the cold always paying attention to the body and listening if it was confirming what I was reading.
When I began to enjoy, exposure to the cold took a new dimension. Seeing the faces of passersby when they were asking me “Are you sure? How cold is the water?” I was smiling back saying “Sure is a wonderful clean river and around 5ish Celsius” and the answer varied from “Good luck!?” “You are crazy!” “Brave man!” Being able to listen to my body allowed me to experiment with the physical effects of preconceptions.
An example that comes to my mind is the expression of my brother with whom, during Christmas lunch, I talked about the swim in the Limmat: his shoulders began to tighten, the hands wrapped the biceps and he told me “You are crazy. … BBrrRRRRR … I feel cold just by thinking of it!” My answer was: “Are you afraid? Do you perceive it as a threat? What memory do you have about cold water? What judgments are crystallized in this memory?”
And … what happens in your body when you think about exposing to the cold?
Now, when I talk about it or think about it, I immediately feel the temperature of my body rising.
In both cases, although no one was in cold water, the body was preparing to live this experience: the mind uses painful/pleasant experiences and “beliefs” transmitted orally/read/observed.
Sending impulses to the heart to pulse in a new rhythm, breathing follows the information received from the mind and the heart. The energy exchange between cells and vital organs changes rhythm. At their own pace, communications in both directions follow each other to find a new balance.
To get back to the cold, my mind has crystallized some of the following judgments and suggestions: “If you go in cold water you’re crazy! Enter slowly in the water that otherwise you get congestion! Do not stay too much in the water it is dangerous!”
Since I started to have fun, I started not to assume a priori that the outcome of the experience was madness, dangerous for my digestion or for my life.
Over the course of my life, I have noticed that these judgments and recommendations have limited me and have become a block.
At this point, the cold has become an ally and a master for what concerns my feelings! It has helped me finding a way to transform blocks into borders while listening to my body during my experience with the cold. So I continue to swim in cold water.
Along with the cold, pain is a teacher, that makes me attentive to the block and then to the border. Therefore, depending on the sensations of the body, I decide how long to stay in cold water.
This conscience gives me a position on the steps to follow during the experience when I am off my path a painful signal comes to warns me. The more it is painful the more I am on a dangerous road.
Having faith in the body and paying attention to its messages allows me to live an experience in full respect of my nature.
I also pay a lot of attention when the head is too dominant because the signals of the body have less space and can be muted. So you have to take every step at the pace the body needs to get back in balance(2).
This makes it possible to approach the next signal and allows you to go through the door of pain to reveal one of the capabilities of our body that until now was hidden(3).
What were the steps I took to make the cold an ally?
+ To read studies(4) and to understand what it means to have an experience of hypothermia with its physiology.
+ put into practice! I started with cold exposure by going around with my jacket in my bag, so if it was too cold I could wear it. Then I walked barefoot in the snow. Then the meditation, during winter time, on the terrace dressing shirt and shorts. All this involves preparation, attention during the experience and incorporate the beauty of the experience as I lived it(5).
I must say that having met Wim Hof in 2016 spurred me to look for other people who work with cold and breath(2). I have found many confirmations about the body’s innate ability to adapt to its surroundings and how important it is to listen to one’s inner voice. The meeting with Sabrina Wiedmer opened up the world of swimming to me.
A very important aspect of the body is that it needs to be “tested” without taking anything for granted and without disrespect. Now I don’t let my thoughts stop me, but I try to go through it and feel my needs.
The curiosity of wanting to live experiences that I wanted to avoid before, has allowed me to be happier and to expand my knowledge.
(1) Show Filo Diretto dated 7th of February from minute 53.30
(2) See also: Homeostasis and Hormesi.
(3) The Exhilarating Peace of Freediving, Guillaume Néry, TED Talks This freediver is well describing how our nature is intelligent and adapting to the outter world, despite what the phisiologyst thought it humanly impossible to survive below -100m (minute 4 then minute 6, minute 7.30, minute 8.20).
On Hypothermia (1)
On Hypothermia (2)
Open Water Swimming (1)
Open Water Swimming (2)
Open Water Swimming (3)
Open Water Swimming (4)
Lynne Cox, has swum the Bering strait despite Prof Bill Keatinge warn her she could die (2)
Lewis Pug: ocean advocate for UN (1)
Lewis Pug: ocean advocate for UN (2)
Reserches on hypothermia and Immune System activation(1)
Reserches on hypothermia and Immune System activation(2)
How cold water swimming improves stress management
(5) See also: Critical and judgmental mind