Ah, the shower. So pleasurable. So relaxing.
I hate just standing around doing nothing, even when it feels good. To combat this, over the years I have come up with a slew of options for making my shower time productive. Some are fairly simple, others may seem a bit odd to most normal folk out there. But what is “normal” really?
1. Calf Raises
The calves are oft-overlooked muscles when it comes to many workout regimens. But what they lack in glamour they make up for in utility; calves are important for ankle stabilization, generating power for many lifts, and even adding some inches on your vertical jump.
What better time to exercise them than when you’re just standing around doing nothing?
Standing calf-raises are quite simple: stand on one foot, clench all the muscles in your supporting leg to provide proper stability, and start lifting up onto the ball of your foot in a controlled motion. If you really want to work on your ankle stability you can do these without holding onto the wall, but be careful—falling down in the shower rarely ends well (I of course have absolutely no reason to know this from experience).
There is never enough time in the day to do all the stretching that I’d like to, so this ends up being by far my most common shower activity.
I typically only have time for the standing pike—bend forward, hinging at the hips, and try to touch the ground a few inches in front of your toes while keeping your back flat. I hold the position for 60 seconds, then sometimes throw in a bit of isometric stretching.
If anyone is interested in starting a proper stretching program, here is a great place to begin (at some point I may write about everything that I am currently doing).
And now we get to the mental side of things.
“But wait!” you say. “My showers are already meditation! I get all relaxed and my mind just floats!”
That is opposite of meditation (of the mindfulness variety at least—I won’t speak for every variation).
The essence of meditation is the process of eliminating all thoughts of the future or past and just existing in the present, reveling in the simple sensations of the body. For most people, the shower is their time to either daydream or just to think.
Thinking bad. Feeling good. Existing.
For those more interested in how to meditate, Sam Harris has an excellent written primer and guided meditation. The Headspace app also has a great, free, 10-day intro course of guided 10-minute meditations.
Oh, and yes I do typically sit down when I meditate. Even in the shower. I find that it makes it easier to focus.
I usually reserve these for morning showers.
Research shows that focused visualizations can have a profound effect on your mind and body. This works even to the point of building muscle mass via simply going through a detailed workout in your mind. If this sounds absurd, try going through this 2-minute exercise:
This same principle can be applied to almost any aspect of life. When I want to have a really successful day, if I spend several minutes envisioning in detail what that would entail, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
5. Power Pose
For those of you who are too lazy for the above four activities, here’s something nice and simple that takes only 2 minutes and might boost your testosterone by up to 20%: stand like Superman.
Put your hands on your hips, feet apart, thrust your chest forward, and stick out your jaw. Hold that pose.
Multiple studies have shown this to both increase testosterone and reduce cortisol (your primary stress hormone).
This can be combined with the visualizations for an even greater effect.
BONUS: Cold Showers
For those of you who were already thinking “Man, this guy’s showers seem like a lot of work. I just want to relax and enjoy myself!” this is probably the point where you completely abandon ship.
It’s been months since I’ve taken a hot shower.
I can go on at length about all the different forms of therapeutic cold exposure and their benefits, but to give a brief sampling, cold showers have been shown to:
- Increase alertness
- Refine hair and skin
- Improve immunity and circulation
- Stimulate weight loss
- Speed up muscle soreness and recovery
- Ease stress
- Relieve depression
- Boost testosterone
To work up to it, try taking a hot shower and then just ending it off with 30 seconds of cold. The colder the better.
I almost always use some combination of the above activities in my showers. When I don’t, I have been known to read books, hold long phone conversations, and even do handstands. I really do hate just standing around.
Pro tip: don’t do handstands in the shower.
Does anyone have any interesting ways they make use of their shower time?