Shivering My Way To Leanness

Went to the gym this morning at 7:45 AM in my tank top and shorts. It was a bit brisk, but not cold. At least that is what I thought. When I got home I checked the weather and it read 41 degrees (5 C). I guess I’ve acclimatized to the Seattle area. Last fall, after spending 7 years in Southern California, I would shiver like a frightened chiwawa when the temperature dropped to 60 degrees (15.5 C).

When did I embrace the cold? Maybe it was after I read Art De Vany’s Cold Exposure blog back in January.

I have long practiced forms of cold exposure. The brief shock of cold encourages a stress response and increases adaptive capacity to those exposures that are unplanned and more lengthly or severe. The adaptive capacity extends to other stresses as well and, thus, may protect you against a heart attack or a life-stressing event. Warm and cozy all the time is one of the many pathways to obesity in this comfortable, physically non-demanding we live in.

This rang true to me. My pal DW left sunny California to take a job in Moscow for a few years. When he returned he was noticeably thinner in the face. He told me he didn’t change his exercise or his diet. His wife cooks the same meals he had while in San Diego.

Upon further discussion with him I learned that he spent 30 minutes each morning riding an unheated metro subway into Moscow. This was the shock he was not exposed to in perfect SoCal weather. It reminded me of a bodybuilding trick that the late Dan Duchaine did with his athletes prior to competition. He would have them dunked into a bathtub of ice water for a few minutes. This shock allowed already lean bodybuilders to strip off just a little more body-fat prior to competition.

Maybe this principle is one reason why cities in Colorado always make the most fit list, whereas cities in Texas always make the most fat list.

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MAS

Critical MAS is the blog for Michael Allen Smith of Seattle, Washington. My interests include traditional food, fitness, economics, and web development.

2 thoughts on “Shivering My Way To Leanness”

  1. The trick of dunking is intriguing. Was the dunking immediately before, and just once before competition? Was it a regimen in the days before a competition? Fascinating stuff.

    I’ve been flirting with the 56F Ventura County ocean temperatures — not for weight loss but just to swim. I wonder if going in at this temperatures, even if briefly, might have secondary effects.

    I wish I was the guy with the mysterious ability to withstand colder temperatures. He defies what I was taught about temperature regulation in A&P class.

  2. It has been a long time since I read Duchaine’s work, so I don’t know his exact routine.

    Your body wants to be warmer than 56F, so it will use energy to increase your temperature. Beta-3 receptors, brown adipose tissue and thermogenesis are too much to cover in a blog comment, but from my limited understanding – you are certainly burning fat from the cold water effect – especially in the early part of the swim.

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