Author Topic: Cold showers and shivering  (Read 9618 times)

Offline costello

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Cold showers and shivering
« on: November 13, 2011, 08:07:28 AM »
I think I remember some discussion about shivering in the cold showers either on this forum or the blog. I've realized I don't shiver anymore. I don't know when I stopped shivering. I remember shivering when I got cold when I was younger and much thinner. But this discussion made me realize I can't remember the last time I shivered.

I'm obese now, and I read on a diving site that thin people start shivering in warmer water than fat people. (The difference is only a few degrees, apparently.) As I mentioned on another thread, I don't have a working furnace in my house currently. Last winter the temperature inside my house got down to the lower 30's on a few occasions, and I don't remember a single shiver.

Is the shivering thing necessary to gain the benefits of cold showers? If I'm not shivering does this mean my core body temperature isn't getting low enough?

Offline Todd Becker

  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 442
Re: Cold showers and shivering
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2011, 08:55:19 AM »
I think I remember some discussion about shivering in the cold showers either on this forum or the blog. I've realized I don't shiver anymore. I don't know when I stopped shivering. I remember shivering when I got cold when I was younger and much thinner. But this discussion made me realize I can't remember the last time I shivered.

I'm obese now, and I read on a diving site that thin people start shivering in warmer water than fat people. (The difference is only a few degrees, apparently.) As I mentioned on another thread, I don't have a working furnace in my house currently. Last winter the temperature inside my house got down to the lower 30's on a few occasions, and I don't remember a single shiver.

Is the shivering thing necessary to gain the benefits of cold showers? If I'm not shivering does this mean my core body temperature isn't getting low enough?

The reduction or disappearance of shivering has been in observed in winter swimmers and others who expose themselves to cold water.  This is normal, and reflects a shift to what is termed "non-shivering thermogenesis", which involves a shift to increased production of heat by the body without shivering.  That's good news, because this is precisely the type of thermogenesis that provides the benefits of cold showers:

http://ep.physoc.org/content/85/3/321.full.pdf
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1399-6576.1980.tb01522.x/abstract

I find that I typically feel warmer internally as a result of cold showers.


Offline adaptimmune

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
Re: Cold showers and shivering
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2012, 08:39:13 AM »
Hey Todd.

I have a question about cold showers and shivering.


I tried my first cold showers earlier this week. The first time I did it for 4 minutes. The next day I did it for 8 minutes with really cold water. After that cold shower I was shivering and feeling cold hours after the shower was over. Granted that was a cold day outside but the heating was on at 80 degrees at my house but I was still shivering for up to 3 hours after that shower.


Is that a sign I'm not healthy enough to take cold showers yet? Is it normal to feel cold and shiver throughout the day, hours after the cold shower? Isn't the body supposed to warm up on its own?

Offline Todd Becker

  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 442
Re: Cold showers and shivering
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2012, 09:28:36 AM »
Hi adaptimmune,

What you are experiencing is called "afterdrop".  I've experienced it myself and it has been the subject of a lot of research.  I wrote about it briefly toward the end of my recent post on The Iceman, and there is a lot of discussion of this phenomenon in the book "Becoming the Iceman" by Wim Hof and Justin Rosales.

Here is what is happening:  When you expose yourself to cold water, your peripheral veins constrict to shunt warm blood away from your extremities and to your core organs, to keep them warm.  You will typically start to feel a bit warmer once this happens.  But then, when you step out of the cold, the peripheral veins re-open and the cold blood from the extremities re-mixes with your core blood, so you experience a sudden cooling or chilling effect.  This causes shivering, which can often last 30-60 minutes -- perhaps longer, as your case illustrates.

The good news is that the more you expose yourself to cold water -- colder temperatures, longer times, more contact with the water -- the more you adapt and the weaker the afterdrop effect.  In my case, I get absolutely zero afterdrop from cold showers, but when I shifted to ice chilled baths a few weeks ago, I begain to get strong afterdrop.  With time, my afterdrop effect has become much shorter and less severe, but I still go through a period of shivering.  It is definitely unpleasant.  

I've been experimenting and found several ways to really reduce the afterdrop effect:

1.  Back off on the duration and intensity of the cold exposure.  In  your case, you could tolerate 4 minutes, but not 8 minutes.  So go back to 4 minutes, or slightly warmer water, and gradually increase the time or decrease the temperature each time.  If you find yourself shivering, back off and proceed more slowly.  You WILL improve.

2. Exercise immediately after the cold exposure.  You will still feed the cold rush of the afterdrop and you will shiver, but the intensity and duration will be much shorter.

3. Follow the cold shower with a lukewarm shower, and then slowly turn up the water temperature until it is very warm or hot.  Do this gradually so you don't feel a "burn".  You will find that you may need a fairly long warm shower to feel satisfied -- probably as long as the original cold shower.  Wait until your hands and feet feel warm to the touch.  This is evidence that your core and peripheral blood temperature are now equilibrated.

The fact that you are shivering for more than an hour after your cold shower is evidence that you are not cold adapted.  But the good news is that you can adapt using some of the above suggestions, and you should experience a significant benefit in terms of becoming more habituated to cold weather.

See what works for you and let us know.  I suspect that there are a lot of people who could benefit from your experience.
 
Todd
« Last Edit: February 16, 2012, 10:43:22 AM by Todd Becker »

Offline adaptimmune

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
Re: Cold showers and shivering
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2012, 06:00:51 PM »
That's a relief to hear. I was afraid I wasn't healthy enough to continue with this cold shower therapy. Just read your Ice Man post, it basically addressed everything I inquired about lol. And thanks for those tips on how to reduce the afterdrop. I'll try going back to 4 minutes and I'll let you know  :).