Could you sit in a freezing cold ice bath for three minutes?
Warrnambool residents and visitors have been testing their fortitude and mental strength, jumping into freezing cold ice baths each Saturday as part of a new craze sweeping the south-west.
Cold Culture relocated to Warrnambool Lawn Tennis Club in December after operating from Logan's Beach, and has a band of regulars who return each week for the challenge and the buzz they get after completing the icy task.
Facilitator Louis O'Connor, who is also a primary school teacher, devised the program which includes mindfulness, mindset, gratitude and breathing exercises to prepare participants to jump into the freezing cold water.
"When you're in the ice you're going into a stressful situation and your mind is just focused purely on that," Mr O'Connor said. "It creates a presence of mind where you're not thinking of external things, it really focuses you on the now.
"So for three or four minutes you're totally present because that's your only focus. You think afterwards 'I haven't been worrying about anything else'.
"Some people come because they want the challenge of doing it once. Others come with that goal and love it that much they decide to stay and end up coming every week.
"Then other people love that type of thing and love to do it with other people, rather than practising on their own. It brings a bit of a community aspect."
He said afterwards participants went out for breakfast to support local businesses and the social connection was a big reason why people stayed.
"They say 'this is the best part of my week'. They go for coffee afterwards and they're meeting people they would never have met before."
Mr O'Connor said he'd worked with students who had been hesitant, but once they completed the mindset and breathing exercises "they become almost pumped up".
"They're like 'I can't let myself down. I can't not do this and find an excuse'. And it's a real change in mindset. They're thinking 'I'm only letting myself down. I need to do this for me now'. It shifts perspectives a little."
Mr O'Connor said participants spoke of the various physical and mental health benefits they'd experienced and he'd had "overwhelmingly positive feedback".
"To deal with a stressful situation (in the ice bath) then you can apply it to outside as well. If you conquer this, you're achieving something early in the morning. We say 'win the morning, win the day'."
Mr O'Connor said it was a mood enhancer, raising the body's core temperature and participants felt invigorated and more awake for the day.
"I've had incredible feedback," he said. "People with severe injuries, inflammation and soreness come through and feel really good afterwards. It's just a great way to start their weekend. They miss it when they don't come."
Mr O'Connor said he used a different set of weekly questions which encouraged a "stop and smell the roses-type mindset" for people to reflect on the positives in their lives.
"It's setting your intentions and tuning into the best things you have in your life and seeing if those things change from week-to-week. To make sure you keep focusing on the people in your life, what you're grateful for, what you're proud of and what you're committed to.
"They're fairly consistent and then I'll have a different theme or a bigger question to ponder or leave with people."
It's on each Saturday from 6.30am to about 7.45am and there is also Sunday and mid-week evening pop-up sessions throughout summer. For more information or to book go to the Cold Culture Warrnambool Instagram page.
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