Cold Challenge

Anyone who makes a Nietzsche reference in their book title immediately gets points on my nerdy philosopher scoreboard. The book that grabbed my nerdy attention is titled “What Doesn’t Kill Us”. The full Nietzsche quote (from his book “Twilight of the Idols”) that many of you have probably heard or seen quoted numerous times is: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

The meaning of both the quote and the book is that adversity leads to adaptation. In the case of the quote, the notion is quite general. In the case of the book, the author, Scott Carney, is being quite specific – exposure to cold temperatures will make you stronger.

Carney leads the reader through his chilling adventures with Wim Hof (aka the Iceman), climbing Kilimanjaro with no shirt on, jumping in icy lakes, and swimming in pools while carrying weights. The adventures are compelling and seem to suggest that cold exposure increases general physical and mental resilience. Throughout the book , Carney also references a growing body of scientific research that seems to be showing that regular cold exposure increases the efficacy of the human immune system.

The takeaway from the book for me was, that which makes you cold makes you stronger. There are obviously limits to this: frostbite and death being some pretty obvious ones. So maybe the takeaway should be that which makes you cold but does not permenantly damage you makes you stronger.

The book inspired me to start finishing all my morning showers by turning the cold water all the way up and turning off the hot water. It was, at first, remarkably unpleasant. After a couple weeks, it became tolerable. After three weeks, it became pleasant in a similar (but measurable opposite) way that very hot showers are pleasant. I don’t know that it has done anything for my immune system but it definitely gets me awake and alert for the start of my day.

Thanks to coach Spencer for the book loan. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in challenging themselves.

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