16 Jan 2018

Call of the cold

From Summer Times 2020/2021, 7:10 am on 16 January 2018

Most people's reaction to cold weather is to stay indoors and rug up. But for enthusiasts, the benefits of exposure to cold outweighs the discomfort.

Professional BMX rider Jaden Leeming lives near Stanmore Bay, Whangaparoa, and as he prepares for competition he tries to go into the sea at least once a day.

"In the winter, going into the cold, I actually enjoyed the challenge."

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Photo: Riccardo Bresciani / Pexels

The natural instinct is to resist, but once you're in it's like a meditative state, he says.

To get into a similar frame of mind while BMX riding he uses breath work to let go of anxiety and enjoy the moment.

One of the more extreme proponents of the benefits of cold exposure, Dutch athlete Wim Hof, known as "Iceman", has gathered worldwide followers for his particular brand of endurance and specific breathing techniques.

But Tauranga fitness coach Brad Dixon has a gentler introduction.

After 30 deep breaths to "oxygenate the system" and make the person aware of their breathing, he'll send them into the sea to chest or neck depth.

Once the body is used to the feeling of cold "then you'll realise this isn't that bad," he says.

"We'll walk out and you'll have that amazing afterglow effect. You'll feel amazing for the rest of the day".

Dixon points out cold exposure training is not just about improving physical performance.

"I incorporated the cold training into my practice for overall wellness and longevity and cellular health rather than performance.

"But then I realised all of that ties into performance as well."

The practice "aligns your body and mind", creating a mindful but relaxed state, he says.

"When you're in the cold you can't help but be in the moment and be present,  because you think 'this is really cold' and your mind's not elsewhere - it's right here with you.

"Your whole body is hypersensitised, your nerve endings are woken up. Wim Hof says wake up, and breathe and live life. The cold is a gateway to allow for that to happen."

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