When birkenstocks became cool again I was indignant.
“Nah fuck those weird German shoes. They were ugly in highschool and they’re ugly now.”
I’m always the latest of the late adopters.
Cut to today, and the fashun police have recently put up signs all down my street: “White sneakers and extraordinarily-ugly platform slides only.” Birks have fallen from grace.
So naturally, I’m now over here in my own 1 person Birk revolution singing “Birks 4 lyfe” as I shuffle down the street in these giant German sandals that are far too wide for my feet.
Luckily I live part time near the Byron Bay region, where no footwear other than brown Birks exist.
Customs officials rummage through your bag when you arrive in Byron Bay. They fling all your non-Birk footwear on the runway to be sped over by 747s.
Outside my favourite Byron yoga studio (which is, of course, a bamboo tent in a Paperbark forest), there’s a full time Birk monitor who oversees the exact placement of each Birk to ensure that no one mistakes any of the 40 other identical Birks for their Birk.
I also resisted the high-waisted huge-pants movement, right up until the day that I didn’t.
I’ll probably never wear any of my skinny jeans again because my floaty-floaty huge-pants are so much more fun, especially since I increased in size by 10 kg and discovered that
my skinny jeans now require the assistance of a crane to get into them.
So when I heard people going on (and on) about Wim Hoff and the cold shower/ ice bath phenomenon, I took this new information, collated it with the data coming from my thermoreceptors (“Absolutely fucking not”), and filed it under “Never happening”.
This was many years ago. Since then I’ve heard more and more people ranting about the benefits of cold water immersion.
One friend started raving about how he’s been having a cold shower every morning and I laughed, “Ah, finally got sucked in by the Wim Hoff podcasts eh?”
To which he replied “Who is Wim Hoff?”
Apparently Chris or Liam unsure-which-is-which Hemsworth have more handsome-clout than the 64 year old Dutch man who discovered the phenomenon.
I’ll take an exuberant, bearded Dutch man who shouts “Breathe mother fucker” at people cowering in ice baths over Chris-or-Liam any day.
Nonetheless, I was intrigued, so I watched a bit of Chris-or-Liam freaking out while walking on a tall crane, and doing some cold water type things, then checked back in with my thermoreceptors about their thoughts on the occasional cold shower.
They shivered dramatically and responded as a united front: “The answer is no and it will never be yes”.
So I filed cold showers under “Never” once again.
But then, the part of me that loves to take on trends shortly after they’ve become uncool encouraged me to listen to this podcast a friend sent me with a Danish cold-water researcher called Dr Susanna Søberg.
Susanna talked about how much she hated the cold before she started researching Danish sea swimmers, and my ears opened slightly in curiosity.
She’s now a Danish sea swimmer. In winter.
My thermoreceptors became cross and tried to close my ears.
Susanna shared so much compelling research in the podcast, about how 30 seconds of cold swimming (or cold showers) a few times a week can increase your brown fat, which warms you up from the inside, also increasing your metabolism and ability to burn fat, as well as stimulating a surge in lovely neurochemicals which make you feel alive and energised.
But what finally got me was when Susanna said “Use it or lose it. If you never let yourself get cold, you become more and more unable to tolerate cold”. (Or something along those lines).
No wonder I tremble like a leaf when the temperature drops below 25 degrees celsius.
I hate, hate, HATE being cold.
I travel to warmer places for months at a time to avoid Melbourne winter, and I’m very impatiently awaiting the arrival of my new Oodie, another trend party to which I’m about 3 years late.
Haven’t heard of the Oodie? It’s a wearable fluffy fleece lined blanket-jumper-dress that I won’t be removing til the end of winter.
In corporate workshops I teach the idea that as humans we’re like rubber bands.
If we never get stretched (with stress), we grow brittle and lose our ability to be flexible.
Experiencing a bit of emotional stress from time to time actually increases our resilience. So long as we know how to manage stress*, it can make us stronger, wiser, and more tolerant.
*Curious to learn how to manage stress better? Check out the Bloody Good Life program.
I’m so grateful for all the emotional distress I’ve experienced in my life, including the horrible trauma bits, because it’s all made me much more resilient, more empathetic, more wise.
I’d never considered that the same concept could apply to cold-stress.
And so, since the start of this year, I’ve been leaping into the cold pool at my house in NSW, and turning the shower cold for 30 seconds at the end of a piping hot shower in Melbourne. Even now that it’s winter.
(See instagram for video evidence!)
Bloody Good Bloke routinely walks in while I’m deep breathing my way through the desire to scream and leap out of the shower.
He smiles and shakes his head. We both stare at me in disbelief.
I’m the last person in the world either of us would have expected to voluntarily choose cold.
BGB even bought me a cute little timer to go in the shower, so that I can time exactly 30 seconds and not stay in a second longer than necessary.
I always leave the shower feeling great. Cold but also warm at the same time, I actually feel a lot warmer for the rest of the day as my brown fat sets about doing what it does best.
And it gives me a feeling of confidence in myself, knowing I’ve already done something hard for the day that I really didn’t want to do.
Also, the serotonin, dopamine, cortisol and noradrenaline can’t hurt.
Is there something you avoid? Is there an area of life where you’ve lost resilience or tolerance?
Exercise? Socialising? Difficult emotions? Asking for needs to be met? Taming your mind with meditation?
We get bad at what we avoid.
We get good at what we practise.
It sucks… but it’s also the best.