There’s a little known trick that could help you get through winter.
Well, it’s just about Springtime here in Maine. But why not prepare for upcoming cold weather starting now?
Actually, while this trick is little-known today, it’s been practiced for eons.
The trick? Cold exposure.
Wait a minute, you might be thinking, winter time is already full of cold exposure!
True. But have you adapted to that cold yet — to the extent that you don’t mind it, to the extent that it doesn’t hinder your life?
If not, certain factors might be holding you back and preventing you from adapting fully. An analogy will probably help us really understand this…
Sometimes it takes a nonspecific, intense action to make any given specific action less tiring. Just as doing squats with 200+ pounds will make climbing your next flight of stairs feel effortless, exposing yourself to cold in an intentional, specific way will make weathering your next winter storm that much easier.
Because in both cases, you can train your body in such a way as to eliminate normal “rate-limiting factors.”
In the sports-performance world, there’s a training concept called periodization. Periodization dictates that training should begin in a nonspecific way before gradually becoming more and more like the workout or competition of choice.
Periodization counterintuitively states that those who want to get good at climbing stairs shouldn’t just climb stairs; it states that those who want to become acclimated to cold weather shouldn’t just venture outside to start their car on cold mornings.
And in both cases, periodization is right.
(No wonder Soviet Russia used it to win so many gold medals!) LINK
With this precedent in mind, we can leverage the concept of periodization to adapt to cold.
The first step? Before you feel compelled to jump outside in your T-shirt, it’s worth figuring out what the rate-limiting factors involved in your acclimation to cold really are.
We’ll spare you the effort, because much of the research out there shows only two:
Brown fat development, and good circulation.
And the good news is both of these rate-limiters can be targeted in ways less painful than you might think! Let’s look at brown fat first.
Brown Fat: It’s Red Hot
Sorry for the second-rate title, but it’s true! Brown fat is like the space heater of fat cells. Funny thing, because fat was once thought to be a totally inert substance used only for storing energy.
But in the past few decades of research scientists have learned that’s not the case — especially with brown fat.
Brown fat helps other fat cells regulate their energy, and in some cases it even burns your body’s other types of fat cells...for its own fuel! Brown fat is also unusually dense in energy-producing mitochondria, which in turn produces unusually inefficient energy.
What happens when a motor (of any sort) is inefficient? It gets hot.
Activate your brown fat, and your whole body will become more flexible in its ability to deal with cold temperatures.
And brown fat — true to the concepts of specificity and periodization — can be targeted.
In adults, most of it is present in the upper back area. You don’t have to visit the artic to activate your brown fat; all you have to do is take a mildly cold shower or put an ice pack on your upper back!
Do this for a few days or weeks, and you’ll notice something tangible whenever you are exposed to full-body cold. You’ll notice heat radiated off your upper back area, keeping your whole being just a little bit warmer. Like we said. it’s like your own personal space heater...and it will only get more pronounced over time. As long as you keep the cold showers up.
Other things can boost brown fat levels too. Check out this article to get the full rundown, or check out the bulletpoint-ed list below:
Capsaicin (in hot peppers)
Ursolic acid (in apple peels)
Just think: you could be only a few cold showers, a few bottles of CBD, and a few bottles of tabasco away from getting through the upcoming winter with ease.
That is, of course, unless your hands and feet still get cold…
Putting the Circle in Circulation
Another crummy title, another crummy analogy...but still, what happens if you have a really good space heater but no way to move the heat it produces around? The outer edges of the barn/garage/house you have the thing in will still get cold!
Obviously the human body is a bit more complex than this, but still! To ensure you stay comfortable this winter — extremities and all — you’ll need to work on your circulation.
How? According to Wim Hof [nickname, the Iceman] it’s simple: practice makes perfect. Wim advocates just sticking your hands in ice water to whatever point you can handle. Simple, right? This method definitely tends towards the specificity side of periodized training.
Thankfully, there are some other methods! Certain plants, herbs, and even breathing techniques can increase circulation:
Garlic (via allicin)
You might notice there’s some overlap here with plants and herbs that boost brown fat. It’s almost like nature wants to equip us to be warm? One can hope, at least.
Regarding special breathing techniques...those are outside the scope of this particular article, but if you’re interested don’t let that phase you! Instead check out more of Wim Hof’s stuff — it includes near-otherworldly breathing exercises.
Written by Thomas Wrona, Cannabis Consultant & Copywriter.