I’m going to start this off by saying that routines can be an awesome way for one to develop extremely productive circadian habits, or conversely for one to establish some incredibly detrimental life style norms. Lately I have developed the ritual of taking a 10 minute ice bath when I come home after I workout. Sometimes I come home 8 hours after I workout, yet still the first thing that I do when I walk into the house is start running some cold water and fill up a big bowl with ice from the freezer. An example of a detrimental post-workout normality would be demolishing three Big Macs following one’s workout or pounding a 40 of OE as a “recover drink” immediately following a workout (you get the idea).
The reason that I entitled this post “Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” is because I have been practicing just that when I take my daily ice bathes. I practice visualization and sports meditation while in the frigid bath. What I mean by sports meditation is that I take long, slow, and deep breaths imagining them tracing all the way down to my base of my pelvic floor and then I breath out in an equally relaxed and precise manner. As I am breathing in I say “strong, strong, strong” in my head and as I breathe out I say, “relax, relax, relax.” This relaxing breathing technique can be utilized before and during any type of competition as well. I have found it very beneficial over the course of the last year. The “strong/relax” mantra comes from a sports psychology article that I read in the Performance Menu, which all three of the people who read this blog should subscribe to http://www.performancemenu.com/pm/index.php. While breathing and relaxing I visualize myself achieving my goals: dunking a basketball, clean and jerking 115kgs and snatch 85kg.
By relaxing and visualizing strong performance I am not only reiterating the confidence and sense of purpose that I need to possess when attempting to achieve my goals, but also I am getting comfortable being uncomfortable. I am going to be honest... ice bathes suck. They are not fun. In fact last night I was shivering for approximately 8 of the 10 minutes that I spent in the tub. By envisioning psychologically positive imagery and instilling a sense of supreme relaxation in myself I am in essence creating unwavering calm and comfort in a situation, which is ostensibly uncomfortable.
I just realized that I failed to elucidate the many benefits of taking post-workout ice baths. So here we go: (1) subjecting one’s body to very low temperatures beyond about 5 minutes reduces systematic inflammation dramatically, consequently increasing one’s work capacity in the coming days and weeks of training (2) interestingly enough ice baths have been proven to increase insulin sensitivity (A person who is insulin-sensitive needs only a relatively small amount of insulin to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range and to keep the body’s cells supplied with the glucose they need. A person who is insulin-resistant, on the other hand, needs a lot more insulin to get the same blood-glucose-lowering effects)...in short increased insulin sensitivity counteracts symptoms of type 2 diabetes and is a very good thing (3) it makes you feel like a bad ass just as completing a Crossfit WOD, a weightlifting PR, or backflip makes you feel.