Thermal Loading: a consultation exercise

03 Jan

The problem with being 50 is that you really have seen it all before, with the possible exception of this computer stuff, and space travel, and girls with tattoos (there was none of that when I was 20, I can tell you). Much of what I saw as a youngster I had hoped never to see again.

One thing in particular, from my public school days, was cold showers. God, they were awful. There is something relentlessly piteous and headache-inducing about being forced to stand under an ice-cold stream of water, or for that matter, getting into a bath full of it. Or for that matter running, jumping and scrambling in and out of muddy rivers, ponds and lakes.

It is quite simply, deeply unpleasant, and bloody cold. It knocks the breath out of you like being hit by an express train that stops and reverses back over you.

But the reality was that it did me good. It built my character, and helped me loose weight: it also drove me a tiny bit, er, mad.

Yep you guessed it,  part of this year’s new fitness craze sparked off by Tim Ferriss’ new book the Four Hour Body, good old fashioned abuse is back, but without the prefects to chuck you in and laugh at your shrivelled willy, and with a cool new name: “thermal loading”.

Whoot whoot

There are lots of methods: sitting in cold baths, showers, ice-packs on your neck. Lots of methods are discussed on the website.

I hope to have a trainers’ meeting later this week and discuss the possibility of everyone bringing a swimming costume to the session, then getting you all  outside while the trainers throw buckets of water over you. Obviously we would have to charge a bit more due to the costs…..extra buckets, ice insurance.

What do you think?

That said there is a serious side to all this. If your body has to keep itself warm, it uses up all that extra fat you have been storing for a rainy day. Do you need your central heating on all day? Do you get out enough in God’s holy fresh air? (gosh I’m loosing it now)

Anyway, I’d never ask anyone to do something I havn’t done myself. So in the interests of scientific experiment, check out the film: The reality is that its as awful as I remember, but, you get used to it, and you feel great afterwards


26 thoughts on “Thermal Loading: a consultation exercise

  1. The (slightly less) painful method:
    Sit under warm water for 1 mins. (hummm. Warm)
    Go slightly colder: 1 min
    little colder: 1 min
    Suck it up. Turn the hot water off. 1 min.
    Over time, work your way up to 10 mins under cold water.
    As Andrew has shown us, it sucks while you do it. However, once you’re done and the initial shock has worn off, you feel pretty fucking awesome. It works better than coffee in the morning too.

  2. As my first session back in 6 months nearly killed me there is absolutely no way I am doing that! Crazy, crazy people 🙂

  3. First day back at work tomorrow – thanks Andrew needed something to cheer me up. I often have a cold shower after a WOD – though never deliberately.

  4. Our boiler broke for three months last year, so Ruairi and I took cold showers every day for three months… Did feel great afterwards, and started to kinda enjoy the buzz, but as soon as the boiler was back we caved…

  5. Been doing cold showers for couple of decades now, ala Crossfit metcons they have same effect on me which my wife calls ‘CF cock’. Luckily everything returns to normal once you’ve warmed back up again 🙂

  6. i’m beginning to think this website is part fitness resource, part fetish video business for andrew and kate. highly entertaining guys!

  7. I’ve used the (slightly) less painful method. Though once I after the first round, I pushed the level all the way to pure cold and it sounded like the video he did. (Which made me laugh even more b/c I’d been though it). I think the key think I realized then was the imporatance of breathing then.

  8. They really wake you up and leave you feeling energised after much more than a hot shower.

    I’m preferring sitting on the sofa with the frozen peas on my neck trying to get my Brown Adipose Tissue activated.


  9. I just started this whole regime for the past week I can’t tell you about weight loss yet but I can tell you the effect that it has on me personally.
    I take 2 could showers a day once as soon as I get up before breakfast I use the aclimation method. I would do the normal washing bit put my head up against the wall and reduce the tempature as cold as I could stand it at this point it is winter and it gets very cold I’m not up to moving around it more and the shower length is increasing. I’m also going to start on the ice packs this week and since it’s winter timed exposure outside in nothing but a pair of shorts.
    The reason? because as bad as it sucks I feel incredible. I skipped them for one day and I saw a huge difference.
    So yes I recommend it.

  10. as an update, this is/was not such a brilliant way of starting. ease both the starting temperature down befiore yiou start and start taking it down once you are in… much more humane, but , possibly, less news worthy. Still, its a great effect.

    Ray from thermogenics rcently posted about an experiment that we all did at school ( well i did in 1972) you get 3 bowls of water hot/cold/ tepid, and by changing the order you put your hands in them, you chance how awful it feels. ie tepid becomes warm, if you put your hands in cold water 1st. basically we have all got used to being too lazy and comfortable. if people nod off at work in the afternoon, certainly carb has a role, but excessive warmth must have an “off to sleep” effect too.

    in short with a bit of effort, its easy to reset your temperature expectations lower. Being in a colder environment, your body actually has to work to keep warm.

  11. Andrew – just a question. being from northern canada (which though cold has very even-temperatured houses) I can’t help but think that long-term exposure to colder temperatures would signal in your body a need to put on fat to keep warm, meaning you’d suddenly be a bit more hungry and little by little you’d get a bit more plump? Everyone where i’m from puts on a bit of weight int he fall and it disappears in the spring… I feel like playing with your metabolism like this could backfire?

    for example, i’m sure if you regularly take cold showers your body will burn fat to keep warm, but it will also produce fat in anticipation of this – meaning if you stop suddenly it could really be a problem (similar principal to people who run 30 marathons in 30 days… on day 31 they can’t stop running completely….)

    what do you think? i have no real understanding of the science behind this… just a guess.

  12. Brie,

    It turns out there are hibernators and false hibernators in the animal world. Humans are neither. There have been proposed hibernation diets – bears eat honey, so…wait, winnie the pooh eats honey; no, wait, bears don’t really hibernate. Ok, just joking, but you get the point. It might be easy to become confused (For the record – I haven’t tried a spoon full of honey at night and it very well may have an impact on RMR while one sleeps, but it’s not related to hibernation – let’s do a self-EXPERIMENT).

    Most hibernators put on body fat for energy stores. False hibernators (e.g. bears) also put on fat for energy. There is also a secondary benefit in the increased insulation. The insulation comes with the fat for energy storage as an added bonus. All of these animals are well-suited for cold environments with significant coats, increased fat, brown adipose tissue, and adaptive cooling techniques (for summer exposure).

    There are a host of other animals that live permanently in Arctic conditions. penguins, seals, polar bears, etc…all have very specific physiology to protect from the cold in a frigid, aquatic conditions.

    Humans don’t get fat to withstand winters from any evolutionary adaptive need. We adapted through clothing and environmental control. It’s more likely that in cold areas there is excessive bundling (extra clothing) that retains the heat and the associated caloric energy. As well, environmental exposure (warm feels good in the winter), combined with an over eating response (boredom? depression?), perhaps due to appetite triggers on brief periods of exposure to cold; this all can cause a net caloric surplus.

    In studies of long term human response to cold temperature, long term adaptation (chronic cold) usually corresponds to decreases in core temperature (up to 2C) to suppress thermogenic shivering – especially at night. Australian aborigines that sleep nude without covers down to 0C and shiver all night with perfect sleep have a corresponding drop in temperature compared with non-adapted white control groups that were miserable and could not sleep at all. Intermediate (tropical aborigines) in fact had much more measured fat (skinfold), but still did not have metabolic suppression at the same level as the chronic cold exposed.

    What this means is that in very short term exposure, it is unlikely that you will have a drop in core temperature and associated depressed metabolic rate. There is no mechanism to “fatten for the winter” in humans other than increased eating that would typically be controlled with any dieting. Increased exposure to cold does elevate overall metabolic rate and that can in fact drive hunger, but it’s no different than running further than average and depleting other caloric stores.

    The key to success with thermal loading is to eat a balanced diet with a good exercise FIRST and then add the cold exposure on top without increasing caloric intake. This will result in a net caloric deficit and weight loss will be more rapid while the body maintains sufficient macronutrient/micronutrient for normal body function and repair. There are many strategies to increase satiation.

    There are a whole host of papers and associated incorrect reports (especially devoted to swimming and fat loss) that miss the connection. These are often shown to be wrong with follow up work, but those papers tend not to be quoted or referenced. The papers are not wrong, but many of the conclusions inferred on websites and in media are inaccurate.

    Caloric deficit = weight loss. Always. Nutrient balance can be maintained and caloric requirements can be increases with exercise (motion + heat) and thermal loading (heat). In extreme thermal exposure involuntary shivering is essentially working out in place.

    Gloves before sweater, make you look better…

    hope that helps. I just want to see the video of Andrew in the ICE BATH next! who’s with me???? The next double rainbow man!


  13. Just an update and hopefully better spelling.
    Down 2 pounds since I posted. Now I’m not attributing it all to cold therapy I’m on a slow carb diet and a regime of supplements.
    However my cold exposure is getting a little silly and slightly adictive. Beleive me I’m being careful and won’t put myself in danger.
    I’ve extened my shower time to 10 minutes on pure cold by turning off the lights and playing Corvus Corax best of album it is how I keep track of the time. Since their music sounds like a soundtrack to any number of barbarian movies you can put yourself into that mindset of fierce barbarian able to wistand the hardship of your artic home.
    Yes I am a geek it works for me takes my mind off the cold and allows me to increase my exposure.
    I’m also experimenting with cold breaks when I was home last night I went out to the back yard and took off my shirt bare chested in 28 degree and slacks not cold weather gear and stood out their txting and listening to an audio book for 15 minutes.
    I used to smoke and have kicked that habit but I joined a buddy outside and dropped my jacket to my hips keeping my hands warm and stood out side with my light cotton polo no hat and chatted with him and others all bundled up and it didn’t really bother me though I think ear muffs are needed if I continue to use that mehtod.
    Everybody thinks I’m crazy but I recommended it to a friend who is suffering chronic migraines and it took the edge off of her pain and she slept soundly with out the addtional aid of sleep medication.
    No I don’t intend this to be a cure all or snake oil pitch. I see the benefit and I will continue to experiment with it but keeping it safe just like any diet and exercise program.
    Keep an open mind but dont’ be afraid to be sceptical I certainly was. If nothing else it gives me Macho points 🙂
    Thanks for reading.

  14. I like to think i have quite alot to contribute to this subject with my Royal Marine background and i can tell you that coming back from Christmas leave feeling a little bit down a quick visit down to the bottom field with 22lb and a rifle strapped to our backs then politely asked if we would break the ice on the monkey bar tank by running through in two nice neat rows! And i felt great after that i tell u!
    And yes Andrew I vouch with the fact of turning you a little bit mad! When i found Crossfit after I left the corps I finally found a bunch of people that were equally as bonkers as I am! Great stuff!
    Count me in for ice water bucket throws after training! I hate leaving with a good wash!

  15. Think i might just stick to not switching the heating on, save some money in the process Im too chicken for a cold shower

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