In a world of pandemics, blue light, caffeine and desk jobs, it’s not hard to end up an unhealthy, sleepless wreck.
But at the same time as social media has taken away our self-control, an industry has cropped up where ‘healthy living gurus’ show us how to get it back.
From scorching saunas to ultra-endurance marathons to ice baths, there are a lot of mad strategies we have been encouraged to challenge ourselves with of late.
Enter: Joe Rogan – a 53-year-old podcaster and UFC commentator. Whether you dismiss him as a ‘bro’s bro’ or whether you froth over his curious soul, you can’t argue with one thing: he’s bloody fit.
Rogan this morning took to Instagram to share a radical departure from his usual mind-melting activity (the sauna), sharing a 20-minute video of himself in the ice bath. The reason he gives for filming it? To pressure himself into lasting longer.
He can be seen sucking in big breaths for the first 10 minutes, before starting to really shiver around the 10-minute mark.
“Oh fuck. Wooooo,” he says, getting out of the bath (at 20 minutes) and then stumbling onto the ground.
“Oh fuck, I can’t move.”
“I don’t know if that was smart, but I just did 20 minutes,” he says, explaining that seeing as his friend Jocko’s son did 20 minutes, he figured he should too.
“I think the big thing is the breathing exercises. Once I did that it was way more tolerable,” he tells viewers at the end, through clenched teeth.
“Now my whole body is just fucking freezing.”
“But it’s nice to know I can do it.”
Rogan captioned the video: “I’m not sure how I did it, but I did 20 minutes inside the ice bath. I blame @jockowillink’s kid!”
“The @morozkoforge cold plunge keeps this thing at a steady 33 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s fucking wild.”
“I was shivering after this for a solid 30 minutes. I drove to work, it’s 90 degrees out in Texas and I had the AC off and I was shivering the whole way to work.”
Quite the departure from his usual challenge (see below), that’s for sure.
Rogan has certainly come a long way from the days of telling listeners, “just pick up the damn mug” – the first piece of motivational advice that really stuck with this author, which cropped up during a podcast episode in the early days, when Rogan was talking to a fellow comedian about depression, and about (not) leaving kitchenware to rattle around in the footwell of your pick up truck.
Rogan has also recently shared with his 12.9 million followers on Instagram that he is now enjoying switching between the ice bath and the sauna.
He said: “The sauna is challenging, and very beneficial to your health, but WAY easier to endure than the ice bath! That @morozkoforge ice bath is 33 degrees Fahrenheit!! I’m gonna have to work on enduring that shit!”
Study after study has suggested cold water immersion has serious health benefits.
Just taking cold showers can boost muscle recovery, immunity, circulation, alertness and even aid with depression.
Media coverage reflects the public’s increasing interest: from this Vice article on the popularity of swimming (in trunks) in Brighton’s icy waters to this ABC report on an Aussie ‘outdoor swim enthusiast’ who travels to New Zealand to swim naked with icebergs, cold water therapy is a burgeoning phenomenon.
Before it goes mainstream, though, it’s important to understand the health risks, because even people like Peter Hancock, who “has been pursuing outdoor swimming for more than 20 years” (ABC) are not immune from “afterdrop” – a potentially deadly phenomenon which occurs after exiting freezing cold water.
“I come out cold, but then as the blood from my extremities returns to my core, I’ll start to get cold again,” Mr Hancock told the ABC; “The rewarming, and preparing for that, is very important.”
According to Dr Garry Couanis, a specialist sports physician, you can train to increase your body’s capacity to deal with this, but never completely eliminate the risk, telling the ABC, “Cold water cools the body faster than almost any other medium.”
“The reason there is so much risk of hypothermia is as warm-blooded animals we rely on … stored energy in our muscles to burn it to generate our own heat,” he added.
“As the body shuts down, the brain gets confused, the heart rate slows, and a slow heart rate puts you at risk of developing arrhythmias.”
So why, again, do people do it? As Mr Hancock’s next comment suggests – for the same reason they climb mountains, surf and skydive.
“It gives you a bit of a buzz.”