Is Cold Adaptation a Survival Skill to be Practiced?

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that acclimatization to cold occurs over a period of ten days. Dr. Jack Kruse, the famous (and sometimes controversial) neurosurgeon, observes that Sherpas, in the Himalayan Mountains, cold adapt in three to five days. A person who is cold adapted will obviously be more comfortable when away from a climate controlled environment. In my experience, those who are accustomed to the cold do not allow themselves to become distracted by weather and other environmental elements, and they are able to more effectively focus. They feel at ease when dealing with the elements, many times appearing stronger and more energetic.

Many years ago, I was forced into cold adaptation during military training (an experience for which I am now grateful) though I was not totally aware of it as it happened. After about two weeks of training in the snow, I no longer noticed the cold, nor any other discomfort, for that matter, and felt much stronger and happier. My experience of The Three Day Ruck Rule also occurred during this time. Other trainees  experienced the same benefits as we worked to accomplish numerous woods-related tasks.

So should modern man consider cold adaptation to be a survival skill, and should he practice it? I believe so, even as I now live in a warm environment, with little snow and ice. Cold adaptation can be gained and lost, by the way, so those like me who do not experience harsh winters must train with creativity.

Those interested in improving their cold adaptation will do well to consider the experience of Tom Brown Jr., of the Trackerschool. At an early age, Tom made the choice to be comfortable in the cold, and to accept it as natural and good. It seems simple, but those unaccustomed should learn to accept the condition, without fighting against it, as a start.

Outdoor time, sometimes called Dirt Time, presents an obvious opportunity to adapt to the cold. Simply wear a layer or two less and enjoy being outside. Focus on things besides the cold weather. It is interesting to note that Ray Cronise, the NASA Scientist who produces Hypothermics.com, tripled his weight loss by taking “shiver walks” in the cold while wearing a t-shirt and standard pants or shorts. Also note: clear any activity with your doctor before making major changes in your routine.

Dr. Kruse prescribes a specific “Cold Thermogenesis Protocol” that includes step-by-step methods to adapt to the cold, methods that escalate to body submersion in a number of different ways. His protocol is effective for cold adaptation, weight loss, and other benefits. Again, clear any new activity with your personal doctor.

Lastly, there are a devices on the market, such as The Cool Fatburner, that use ice packs to promote cold thermogenesis. Suggested training protocols are included with the purchase of many of these devices.


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With just a little reading and research, one can find and personalize a training protocol that is most consistent with their goals. As mentioned earlier, I was introduced to cold adaptation as part of military training, and experienced many of the benefits again years later while learning to distance swim in a cold pool. Cold adaptation is a skill that can be developed, a skill that may come in handy in the future. Weight loss and better health may be discovered as bonuses!


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