The hotel I stayed at for the past few days had a cold plunge pool. I was thrilled and looked forward to it all weekend. A cold plunge pool is exactly what it sounds like: a small jacuzzi-size pool of ice cold freezing water a person submerges into up to the neck for +/-3 minutes.
Cold plunges are great for muscle recovery, energy, blood flow, and a long list of other benefits. In college they were essential to me as a football player after intense practices and lifts. It’s almost magical how much they help. Cold plunges are also good for mental training and emotional control because they’re shockingly uncomfortable.
Like I said, I was looking forward to it all weekend. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, I headed down to the cold plunge pool. My first task was to see how cold it actually was by stepping in with both feet. Pretty damn cold. My mind instinctively and immediately reversed course.
“Woah. Nope! Nope! Too cold!. Get out! Get out!” At that point, my mind involuntarily began to work against me. A new internal voice showed up. It wasn’t the one that had been excited, anticipating this. The new internal voice was the one that feared it, that hated it, that wanted to do anything other than get in that stupidly cold water.
I stepped in to my knees. “Stop! We don’t have to do this! The warm sauna is right behind us.” Then to my waist. “Enough! No more. This is far enough. We’re good. How about the hot tub?” Further to my chest. “Ok. You proved your point. Do not go any further. Back up. Get out.” One deep breath and I fully submerged up to my chin. “WTF WHY? What are we trying to prove here? We can barely breathe.”
I stayed submerged for three-and-a-half minutes which is about the length of the Travis Tritt song “Great Day To Be Alive”. I know this because that’s the song I played on my phone sitting on the ledge just before I fully submerged. Ironic right? It was a strategic choice.
The idea of the cold plunge is exhilarating. Its all positive anticipation, excitement, and enthusiasm. Once I encountered the uncomfortable reality of it, my mind forgot those things. It discarded them for negative anticipation, avoidance, and anxiety. As soon as my feet touched the water, the fun experience I imagined shattered against the ice cold reality and a battle started in my mind.
A 3-minute cold plunge would not hurt me or kill me. There’s nothing to actually be afraid of, no legitimate threat, no true risk. Yet my mind worked as hard as it could — as hard as it could! — to convince me the threat was real and avoidable. All it wanted to do was leave and seek comfort. Any comfort. It didn’t matter what kind as long as it wasn’t in that stupid freezing water.
But if I wanted to experience the benefits then that cold water was what I needed. I chose to win the battle in my mind and take the plunge. Twice.
Everything is training for something. Do the work.
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Brian Kight is a multi-industry leader on the topics of leadership, culture, and behavior. He provides simple systems that produce exceptional results for organizations, teams, and people.