Cold Exposure Training (Tadaang Sangaay St’igagaa)

Cold Exposure Training (Tadaang Sangaay St’igagaa)

I grew up in a small Inupiaq village in northern Alaska. Cold exposure was a part of growing up. Winter officially started in late September or early October and did not seem to warm up until mid May. All activities of hunting, ice fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, and exploring took place in a frigid environment that no matter how warm you dressed getting cold was a part of living. Dealing with the cold was also a part of survival and being trained as an outdoorsman required you to learn how to produce your own natural body heat and maintain body temperature without sweating or loosing core temperature. This was often done through exercise or increased movement.
Since moving to Southeast Alaska I have continued cold exposure training as part of my daily practice. Along with the many benefits that I will share shortly, I have found in my personal training that cold weather training has conditioned both my physical as well as mental ability, allowing for me to push harder in training and out in the wilderness of Alaska.

Here are some of the many benefits of cold weather training.
Ø  Improves Mood
Ø  Increases Calorie Burn
Ø  Boosts Immune System
Ø  Improves Cardiovascular Circulation
Ø  Strengthens Stamina
Ø  Improves Performance
Ø  Improves Lymphatic Circulation
Ø  Reduces Muscle Inflammation and Recovery
First Nations people have practiced Cold Exposure Training for centuries. In my wife’s Haida culture, cold exposure training took place at a very yearly age to prepare the young warrior for the hard life ahead of them. It also enabled a hunter or canoe paddler an ability to live and prosper in an area that is wet, cold, and full of environmental dangers. Along with cold exposure to weather, cold water training was also highly practiced. During the summer months Haida men and women would go into the ocean or streams once or twice a week, during the fall 2-3 times a month, winter months 1-2 times, and spring time 3 times a month. Along with the cold water training there was also what I refer to as a spiritual or mental mindset of the action taking place of how one would enter and exit from the water. This practice of entering and exiting into the water will not be shared in this format, but we do share in person during our weekly entry into the ocean for our physical and mental discipline of training.
            Now I don’t recommend that someone who has not built up a tolerance or an adaptability for cold exposure just throw themselves into, but I do believe that regardless of who you are or your background that you can make the necessary adjustments to make it a gradual part of your life. One of my core pillars is Train the Mind which focuses on hardening the body and resilience upon the mind through daily practice of cold exposure training. Here are some of my recommendations for making this apart of your life.
1.     Start slow, one of the best ways to introduce your system to cold exposure is through your daily layering of clothes. It is easy to control your core temperature through the clothes that you wear. So by removing out layers until you can feel the cold layer upon the skin is a great place to start. If you are moving, you may find that you can take more layers off or if you are in a static position it may require adding on a layer or two. The key is to start slow and try to maintain that body temperature for as long as possible. You will find over time that you will be able to wear less for longer periods of time.
2.     Have extra layers available. It is important to understand your limitations and cold exposure risk is serious. If you find excessive shivering or numbness of the hands and arms occurs, it is time to add on layers and warm your body slowly.
3.     Stay in controlled locations during early training. The best places to start cold exposure training is in areas that provide opportunity for getting warm. It is not recommended to journey into the woods during winter temperatures with minimal clothing. The risk and potential of getting hurt or hyperthermia is real.
4.     Start with a cold shower before journeying into the ocean, lakes, or streams. Cold showers provide a controlled location and duration to assist your body as well as mental stamina to endure over long periods of time.
5.     Practice deep breathing techniques. This will assist in entry to cold water and will help with maintaining composure and control over shivering, numbness, and pain.
6.     Understand your limitations and when in doubt err on the side of caution.

My PersonalTestimonial:

Now I know that voluntarily subjecting yourself both mentally as well as physically to cold exposure and water training can come across on the side of “a little crazy”. I hear from friends all the time that they are “warm blooded” or “can’t handle the cold.” The truth is I personally struggle everyday with this training. Although I can sit under a cold shower for 5-10 minutes in perfect control or walk confidently into the freezing cold ocean or lake, every part of my body and minds is telling me to run out, to get warm! I have to make the conscious decision everyday to ignore what I call my survival instincts. I do this because I believe in not only the training applications but also the health benefits that cold exposure training provides.
Over 2 years I ago I went an entire year feeling the worst that I have ever felt. I was dealing with stomach issues, head fog, headaches, lack of energy, couldn’t sleep, had loss of memory, and a variety of other issues. I eventually decided to visit the doctor and get some blood work done and when everything came back good, I decided to not pursue additional testing but to take control of my health through physical and mental discipline. At this time, I didn’t hesitate to jump into the water, but is was a rare occasion and was usually just for fun. I decided to get back to daily training where I focused on my diet, on my mobility and flexibility, on meditation, strength training, as well as daily cold water and exposure training. I found within weeks that my brain fog was deteriorating quickly and my energy level was increasing. 2 years later I feel that I have gotten in some the best shape of my life, and I believe that cold exposure training has played a significant role in overcoming these health issues.
If you are interested in pursuing cold exposure training and have any questions, please feel free to ask below or send us an email!
 Hawsan dang hl kingsang (Until we meet again)

Haw’aa,

-Clint (Guuj gadda-White Wolf) MVMT LFE

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