Cold conditions aren’t necessarily fun when we think about it. All we want to do is bundle up and stay warm. Its our first protective instinct as a human being. However, I’m here to introduce to you, considering you aren’t aware, of how cold conditions can actually be good for you. I decided to write about this since I’m asked all the time why I take my morning fasted cardio or interval sessions outside when its cold, or what a contrast shower is and why do I add them to my lifestyle. I research and apply everything I learn before sharing it with others. I love and believe in credible research and application because it gives me the ability to use it long enough to see if it works. It’s after I’ve done it that I can pass it along. Knowledge is power but only when you apply it.
Here’s my reason for cold condition training:
Taking your workout outside can be extremely beneficial to you when its cold and here is why; we have 2 different fat tissues. Adipose tissue (better known as the white or outer layer of fat), which contains a single lipid droplet and then there is brown fat. Brown fat is located deeper in the adult body in the chest and neck area and uses calories from adipose tissue (white fat) to burn it. The reason it’s brown due to the increased fat cells and number of iron containing mitochondria. Its primary function is to generate body heat in animals or newborns that do not shiver, but works in adults as well when its cold. The brown fat is activated and is burned off to help keep us warm which increases the fat we burn in total. Want more fat burn? Take your workouts to the cold outdoors!
It works the same with taking straight cold or contrast showers after training! Just be careful with contrast showers because when you begin, your lymph system is not used to it, and is affected negatively if you don’t slowly introduce yourself to them by alternating warm first, then cool and once you can handle that, you can go into very cold and very hot. A contrast shower works best when you use the extremes of both temperatures, so be careful both when starting out and once you’re advanced. The intervals of a contrast shower are usually 4-6, thirty second intervals (you can find articles all over the internet about different timing and intervals). I’m a sucker for a contrast shower sometimes after my fasted morning LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) cardio sessions, but especially after my intense workout later in the day.
With a contrast shower, there is an increase in blood circulation, which helps in the detox process by increasing the excretion of metabolic and cellular waste from the body. It can also help in transporting the nutrients and oxygen to the damaged tissues and activate the brown fat I discussed above. Contrast showers also increase the number of white blood cells. It is part of a skin cleansing process. There are also recovery benefits from contrast showers. It helps speed up the process of healing the muscles in the body after they’ve been broken down from training. There are tons of reasons for cold conditioning or a contrast shower but I’m sure you get the picture.
It’s not recommended for everyone. If you’re asthmatic (I am but its not severe enough to affect me anymore), have active autoimmune disease, inflammation, cardiovascular issues, pregnant, temperature insensitive, weak feeling or otherwise feel awful after doing so, do not take a contrast shower! You can always ask a specialist if you would like to introduce them to your routine. Just be sure its safe for you and enjoy the cold conditions!
Fitmark Ambassador 2013