Willpower workout 7: Coldwater challenge

Willpower Workout #7: Cold Water Challenge

September 1, 2020

If you dabbled in the willpower or mental toughness space for any considerable length of time, then you’ve probably been wondering how long it will take for us to add a workout related to submerging ourselves in cold water. Well, it’s time!

Coldwater baths have long been a tactic for building willpower – and increasingly, for offering other health benefits as well. But they’ve grown dramatically more popular in recent years with the extreme feats of Dutch athlete, Wim Hof. You can read more about Wim Hof’s method on his site or watch some of his wild videos on YouTube. Wim Hof even describes how to use his method to increase your willpower.

Don’t worry. We won’t be doing anything too extreme in this workout. And please note that you should consult safety guidance and/or your physician before following Wim Hof’s guidance or submerging yourself in freezing cold water for extended periods of time.

How does taking an ice bath build your willpower? This may sound obvious, but being in cold water is uncomfortable. To tolerate discomfort, we must have a certain combination of willpower and motivation. To tolerate discomfort without a good reason, we must have a fair amount of willpower.

Day 7 Willpower Workout:

  1. Wait until you’re at normal body temperature (e.g., don’t do this after a workout when you’re all sweaty.)
  2. Find somewhere you can submerge yourself in water that is at least less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) (This is the definition HealthLine gives for a ‘cold shower’). I personally would recommend going a fair bit colder than 70 degrees. You want it to feel uncomfortable. The water I did this in was between 48-54 degrees Fahrenheit. (Video coming soon!)
  3. Go into the water at least up to your waist and ideally up to your armpits or shoulders.
  4. Remain in the water for 10-20 minutes. (I had planned to stay in the river for 20 minutes, but left after 12 because a river otter was heading my way!)

Again, please be smart about this and take the necessary precautions to avoid any health-related incident. Medical hypothermia corresponds to an internal body temperature of 95 degrees (~98 degrees is normal). If your internal body temperature goes below 96.6, get out the water immediately and warm up.

Evaluating Your Workout:

  1. What was the temperature of the water?
  2. How long did you last in the water?
  3. How did you feel when you first entered the water?
  4. At any point, did you want to give up? If yes, why?
  5. Did it get easier the longer you were in the water?
  6. What did you do to help yourself remain in the water?

Willpower Workout in Action:

I was hoping to last 20 minutes, but my cold water bath was cut short by the threat of what you may call a phantom river otter.

This is day 7 of a 40-day journey to explore your limits. If you’d like to receive a daily email with the willpower workout of the day, you can sign up here to start at Day 1 with the first workout:

If you’d prefer to jump in where Matt is right now and then make up the other workouts on your own schedule, sign up here:

Past Workouts: