Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cold Water Diving Part II: 4 Ways To Motivate Yourself

Today I dived into a river that was a touch over 50 degrees fahrenheit, 10 centigrade. I did three different dives for only about 10-second immersions each. I feel like I am becoming more cold adapted.

By now we've determined that cold-water immersion (CWI) has beneficial health effects. It is an anti-inflammatory activity that has positive metabolic effects over time (you burn more calories and stimulate BAT–see Part 1 of this article), at the very least. It also counts as hormesis, meaning it "hardens" the cells against other insults or "bad things" such as infections. CWI might even have a strong placebo effect, which means in essence you are fooling yourself into a healthy state (better than deluding yourself into an ill state!).

So how do you motivate yourself to do it?

Keep personal records, your P.R.: Keep track of the coldest water you ever dived into, or the longest time you spent in water less than 60 F. or 15 C., so that it becomes an internal competition, a self challenge. This is human nature; the longest you ever swam, the tallest mountain you hiked, the longest you ever threw a frizbee, etc. This factor may appeal to more competitive personality types, but everyone has used the technique of setting or seeking a memorable goal as the simplest form of motivation. Keep a diary or log of your cold-water swims and dive-ins.

I have a kind of index that I track that combines the ambient air temperature with the water temperature. For example, my record is 100 for the combined cold-water immersion and air temperature (which involved diving into 50 degree waters when the air was 50 F., too). It's another P.R. that you can track. for example, today was a sunny 59, and the water was just over 50, making it a 109-110.

Notify your tribe. Share what you did with your friends and fellow CW swim fanatics or health buffs, such as via email or Twitter.  This gives the event more meaning to you than internal gratification, and can motivate others to choose a new healthy activity.

Along the same lines, join a cold water swim or "polar plunge" club, which makes CWI more of a fun social event. It also makes it less likely that you dip your feet in the water and do the old 180 ("Not today…").

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cold Water Swimming 2014, Redux

I earned a pat on the back today, by doing the 30-yard swim to "the rock" in 53-degree river water. I felt good about it because I had stood in the river for several minutes, getting psyched, and entertaining the notion of actually not doing it. 

The nice thing about this routine is that the swim forces about a 30-second immersion through a mild river current, involves a little scramble on to the rock (which is warm), then forces me to swim back to shore, so I get two cold-water dips.

The river was 46 degrees fahrenheit a couple of weeks ago and I only stood up to my thigh. Then I took two dive-ins this week at 52 degrees, so I feel like I am gradually becoming cold-water adapted again. A man came down to the riverside with his dog the last time, and expressed skepticism (re: fear) about getting into the water ("Gee, only young people do that…"). I've heard this bias against cold water expressed many times.

The "hazards" of cold-water dips, based on the temperature alone, are greatly exaggerated, and derive from an overly pampered population that spends too much time in artificial environments.

The human body can adapt to both cold-water immersion and hot weather. Ancestral peoples of different cultures have used cold river swims, and hot springs, for health reasons for many centuries. Cold thermogenesis, the fancy, science-y term for swimming or immersion in waters of less than about 68 degrees F., is so good at reducing inflammation and tuning the body, that it's now used as an advanced athletic routine (not just after events, but before them too).

Among other effects, cold immersions spur the recruitment and generation of "brown fat" or brown adipose tissue (BAT). This is a kind of fat, unlike white fat which is a storage tissue, that actually has metabolic activity and burns calories, somewhat like muscle or lean mass. BAT is more vascular, thus explaining the brownish color.

When you become cold adapted, you increase body-heat production via non-shivering thermogenesis, which means you burn more calories at rest by means other than shivering. This is called "adaptive thermogenesis." In other words, don't get FAT get BAT!

I'm going to try to swim the cold river five times per week, and to go as late into the year in Vermont as I can. That's the goal, anyway. The next chapter is to spend at least 15 minutes at a stretch in waters less than 60 degrees.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Compulsion: The Third Karl Standt Crime Novel Now Available

Manhattan is locked into a bitter winter, and gripped by gruesome crimes. Someone is killing people through an online dating agency called EliteAirs, in the new crime novel on Kindle, Compulsion.

Months after the Kauai episode, and still healing from his psychic and physical wounds, Karl Standt finds out about the case from his New York Post crime reporter friend, who uses a lurid Twitter feed to keep his followers up to date on felony and mayhem. Standt pursues the killer, with a segue into Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, along with his brave young crew of colleagues, including Church, a hacker, Katie, a Slate reporter, and iz, a goth poet with a taste for nightclub dancing and MMA moves.

Standt also teams up with Vlad, a Russian emigre with a taste for Stoli Elit and a current job with the Detective Bureau.

Compulsion is the third book in the Karl Standt series,  after Barbarous Coasts and the equatorial noir novel, Gone On Kauai.