My Body Love Tip this week might make you think I’m crazy…but bear with me…
I wouldn’t recommend anything I don’t already do and benefit from myself, and so I can say with 100% certainty (and sanity) that this practice can absolutely help change your energy, mood, metabolism and even the appearance of pesky cellulite:
Start your day off with a hot/cold shower!
Before you dismiss the idea, let me tell you that this is one of THE most therapeutic and feel-good practices I personally use and recommend for a daily dose of Body Love!
Why take hot/cold showers?
The benefits of regular hot/cold showers (also known as hydrotherapy) are well recognized and recommended in alternative medicine – and after doing this practice myself for at least 10 years, I completely stand behind it as an effective and invigorating self-care regimen that I personally don’t like going a day without.
I first felt the benefits of this therapy while visiting a Scandinavian-style spa many years ago – where they have you doing circuits of hot (sauna, steam room, or hot tub), cold (pools of various chilliness), and rest. The heat is meant to be sustained for the longest (15-20 mins), followed by brief dip in cold (15-20 secs) followed by a 15-20 min. rest period.
If you’ve ever spent a day at one of these spas, you know that there’s absolutely no doubt of the rejuvenating and revitalizing hydrotherapy benefits. I, for one, never came out of a spa day without feeling relaxed, calm and energized all at the same time, and feeling like I’d just had a fantastic detox.
But I realized that I didn’t need to go and spend hours and dollars at the spa every week to get these benefits. I could get very similar results at home, every day, in just 10-12 minutes/day – by re-creating the experience in my own bathroom shower.
Granted, with simply hot/cold showers, we can’t get the added detox benefit of the sauna, but that doesn’t mean that this home practice doesn’t help with removing toxins from the body. Because it absolutely does.
In fact, I’ve incorporated this practice into my daily routine because I’ve learned about its immense benefits to overall health – not just to my energy level – and I’ve even come to crave the way it makes me feel when I step out of a hot/cold shower (especially first thing in the morning…it’s not my most chipper time of day)!
Here are some of the wonderful benefits you can get from hot/cold shower therapy:
Heating up the body with hot water allows blood to flow freely to the extremities, while cooling down with cold water brings blood towards internal organs for protection. So alternating between the two really gets the blood moving!
Improved lymphatic function
The lymphatic system is like the body’s internal “garbage system”; in other words, it flushes out the sludge. But unlike the circulatory system, which has a heart to keep in pumping, there’s no pump to keep the lymphatic system moving. It has to be “manually” pumped – which is mostly done through exercise. But there are a few others ways to help the lymph vessels get pumping – one of which is hot/cold hydrotherapy. It helps to create a “pumping” movement by causing lymph vessels to contract in the cold, and relax in the heat.
Why is this important?
A well-functioning lymphatic system has several sub-benefits, which are definitely noteworthy:
- improved immune and circulatory systems;
- reduced inflammation;
- and even some cosmetic benefits like clearer skin and decreased appearance of cellulite.
So, if you’re not working your muscles all day long every day, and you don’t want your lymphatic system to stagnate, a nice hot/cold shower can help keep your lymph fluid moving between workouts!
I personally find that a few rounds of hot/cold hydrotherapy in the morning is equivalent to several cups of coffee by the energy it gives me (though now, as a mom, I still enjoy (i.e. need…) that coffee!) This is a personal testimony only, not a scientific finding, but I think if you gave it a real honest try, you might agree that it’s an amazingly invigorating practice.
Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!
I’ve been called crazy by friends and family for enjoying a hot/cold shower every morning. But until you’ve tried it, you can’t really say whether or not it’s for you, can you?
I admit, in the beginning, it really wasn’t a very comfortable thing to do – and most days still, the first round of cold still makes me cringe a little. But I know how it will feel after I get through that first one, and I know the end benefit, which motivates me to continue doing it. And now that I’ve made it a regular routine, my body literally craves it. I don’t necessarily do it every day, but I really don’t like to go a day without it!
So if you’re digging the potential benefits, but you’re still weary of trying it, I thought I’d share with you a few tips to make taking regular hot/cold showers a breeze.
How to Take a SIMPLE hot/cold shower:
- You may need to allot a little more time for your shower than usual to complete 3-4 rounds of hot/cold hydrotherapy (10-12 mins is a good ballpark)
- Start your shower off a little warmer than usual, and get your entire body wet – you want your body to get uncomfortably warm, like the feeling you would get in a hot tub or sauna
- When you feel your body heat up from the hot water (about 2-3 mins in), crank the dial to cold (all the way if you can bear it!) and cover your entire body (including head & face) with cold water. This first time you do this, you will probably hate it (and me, for encouraging it), but try to plug through about 20-30 seconds before turning it back to hot.
- Enjoy the relief of feeling blood return to your extremities 🙂
- Stand for another 2-3 mins in hot, then crank it to cold for 20-30 more seconds.
- Repeat this cycle another 1-2 times, depending on how you’re feeling and how much time you have (trust me, it gets easier and more comfortable with each round!), for a total of 3-5 cycles of hot/cold. I generally average 3 – more if I have more time, or am feeling more tired than usual.
- Enjoy the incredibly invigorating feeling as you step out of the shower!
- If you’re showering in the morning, finish off your shower with a cold cycle; if showering at night, finish off with hot – the cold will energize you, and the heat will relax you.
- for added benefit (particularly to the lymphatic system), do some dry skin brushing before hopping in the shower
- If you’re concerned about toxins in your water supply (which can be more easily absorbed through the skin when exposed to hot water), I highly recommend a water filter for your shower head.
Note: I do believe that most people could reap the benefits of hydrotherapy, but there can be exceptions. If you have a health condition that you feel could be aggravated by this practice, please talk to your doctor before trying it to ensure it’s safe for you.
Do you have your own “crazy” self-care practices that you swear by?
Please share them in the comments below!
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