When I went sailing on the bay for the very first time, the skipper told me two things:

First, don’t get hit on the head with the boom: You’ll either die or you’ll wish you died.

Second, if you fall overboard, remember to hold your breath before hitting the water. Otherwise, the cold water will knock the air right out of you and you’ll be gulping salt water, throwing up, and running out of air all at the same time.

You probably experienced a similar shock in the shower. When I started cold showers as an exercise in tolerance range, I tried all sorts of tricks to avoid the shock. I started the experiment in the spring and at the time people thought I’d change my mind come winter. Of course, I’m just experiencing the oxymoron of a California Winter, but the water has definitely gotten colder—the water coming out of the unheated water heater is colder than the water coming out the cold faucet from underground.

What’s interesting is that there’s no cold water shock and no tricks needed. I take my showers in a normal fashion only registering that maybe my scalp is going numb and maybe I should move my head.

There are some propane saving benefits in using cold water. It’s quite expensive to heat 5 gallons of water from near freezing. However, a greater benefit is in the freedom of not being dependent on having the water be a certain temperature to take a shower.

Further benefits of cold showers: The bathroom doesn’t steam over. The water is refreshing. You don’t become languid like after a long warm shower. The skin does not become puffy or clammy. The air feels warmer afterward—specifically, you don’t feel like staying just a minute longer just because the air outside is relatively cold.

Warm showers have one benefit: They are not shocking to someone without tolerance.

The lesson should be obvious, but let me hammer home the obvious. The rich person is not the one who sits on a plushy couch or otherwise needs a lot of stuff or a lot of conditions to be satisfied to be comfortable. In fact, such a person is very poor having externalized their ability to be comfortable. The rich person is the one who can be comfortable or happy in any kind of situation.

Jacob comments: Pointing out how much it costs to heat water or how much is saved in money terms is missing the point I was trying to make. This would be like asking why one should go jogging when a bus ticket only costs $1.50. The point of jogging isn’t to go from A to B in order to save $1.50 on a bus ticket. It is to get exercise to improve one’s health and make other physical tasks easier. The point of cold showers isn’t to save $10 on heating. The point is to increase tolerance ranges and capability—to make cold, like being outside on a winter day, more comfortable. You probably know people who can clear five floors of stairs without getting winded and get there faster than other people need to wait for the elevator to bring them up. Why would the former even think of using the elevator? This is the state we’re striving to achieve. The point is not to save a few bucks. The point is “better, faster, stronger”. I often get the impression that we’re talking about an entire paradigm shift. A good example is the “couch to 5k”-programs. It’s almost unimaginable to me not being able to run 5k. This is a different level/paradigm than thinking of being able to run as a major challenge.

Originally posted 2010-12-28 20:42:21.