Well I finally did it!
I kept stressing about my experience standing in the snow, and that readiness for real ice exposure was so far away. After a remarkably “comfortable” 10-minute shower the day before, my confidence was high and I had to test where my limit was. So I bought 32 lbs of ice from a gas station (for $8.50!?), and filled up my tub with it.
I filled the tub with cold water and then added the 32 lbs of ice. I let it cool while I did my usual routine of 3 rounds of WHM breathing, followed by another round of breathing ending with exhale-retained push-ups (38 in one breath!). Afterwards, I gave it a good stir, and took the temperature to confirm what I was getting myself into– 36-37 deg F!
I stood by the tub and did about 3 minutes of WHM breaths. This usually consists of cycles of doing 5-8 breaths followed by a short inhale retention (maybe 30 sec). As soon as I start retaining, I do a “kegel” and tense up my abs with a visualization that it’s sucking in adrenaline and adding fuel to a fire in my gut. Then I stepped in, and realized this was going to be a new experience:
The immediate numbness and burning in my feet made me hesitate and I started to think it was a bad idea. My wife who was taking the pictures started giving me the boot camp drill. She told me that if she was Wim Hof, my ass would already be in that water and enjoying it! There’s no where else for me to go except into the water. She was right. I had to do it.
To my amazement, there was virtually no shock! I felt the cold, took a few deep breaths, and then…smiled. I was in amazement that all my preparations made this so easy. The cold of the ice felt like the showers I’d been taking, but with a numbness and mild burning that was uncomfortable but not unbearable. In fact, it was a perfect thing to focus on and try to push away with my breathing.
I proceeded to do some breaths like I did outside of the tub. Probably 15 sec of WHM breathing, followed by an inhale retention, a kegel, a tightening in my gut, and then… relaxation. My mind turns over and I feel detached. The cold is hitting a shell that is around me, protecting me.
After a few breaths, I let go of my WHM focus and just talk to my wife and say hello to my daughter who has no comprehension of this. The water is damned cold, my skin has a mild burn, but I feel good–I’ve trained with enough cold water that I can “brute force” my way through this without WHM.
At about 3-4 minutes, the tips of my toes start hurting. A lot. It’s a numbing pain similar to what I felt standing in the snow. At five minutes, my wife snaps a picture of me smiling, and I get out. Hello lobster!
I’m not sure the picture captures just how red I was! It was enough that I was actually concerned, since I’d never seen it before. But I felt good, and only questioned whether it was it was a positive or negative sign of my reaction to the cold. I’m still not entirely sure, other than I’ve heard that “pinkness” is a sign that your body is restoring bloodflow properly. I’ve been pink before, but not red.
After getting out, I took my temperature, which was 96.7 F. That’s a 1.4 F drop from 98.1 F. Again, I’m not sure if that’s good or bad on an absolute scale, but it is what I’d expect from measurements taken from 45-50 F cold showers for 10 minutes.
This felt like a wildly successful experience. The fears I invoked after standing in the snow and suffering were only partly founded. I think that it’s true my hands and feet will suffer the most (and they did), but the rest of my body actually has acclimated well. I think my hands and feet just don’t get good exposure when in the shower, combined with increased sensitivity. I think I just need to do more ice bucket sessions with my hands and feet to get them up to par with the rest of my body.
Granted, this wasn’t 30-32 deg water. However, the ease with which I survived 36-37 deg water gives me confidence that I’ll be ready for my polar plunge in Februrary. I hope to be the only person there enjoying it!