In the world of human physical performance, there is an incredible amount of knowledge and science in the realms of strength and conditioning. One of the beautiful aspects of evolutionary biology is that we can see when as a species we were arguably the healthiest, strongest and most robust.
An area often left out of human performance is environmental conditioning. The modern day reasons for keeping in optimal physical shape are for sports performance, the health benefits and an intrinsic feeling and understanding of the overall benefits from certain physical stressors. If we take a brief look back through our evolution the reasons were more a necessity rather than a choice, one had to have the explosive speed, strength and agility to survival and hunt animals. The main point of difference in human performance between now and then is the environmental conditions they had to thrive in.
Even though the human body has the ability to burn fat as a fuel source, most people would find it difficult to miss breakfast and lunch. That is a result of food being available at all times, poor macronutrient information and a lack of mainstream knowledge on the benefits of caloric restriction. The same can be said for environmental conditioning. The body has an incredible gift to regulate and keep its body temperature in a state of homeostasis through our thermoregulatory system. Even in extreme heat or cold, we are designed to thrive, the problem being the same as our lost ability to naturally burn fat as a fuel source when low on glycogen. If we do not stress and tonify our thermoregulatory system, then it atrophies and we lose our resilience.
Look at any major sporting event and you will see incredible feats of human performance. What you will also notice is that those athletes have a very controlled environment to perform in. The deeper I research and experiment the more I view a well-rounded athlete as one that can physically perform higher than others but also be able to do so in any environmental conditions.
The proven benefits of cold exposure are hard to ignore. The human body evolved under stress, we need hormetic stressors to thrive and the cold exposure training is just another string to add to the bow. The improved resilience to the cold, the evolutionary strength to be able to function and perform no matter what the conditions, the activation of brown fat, mitochondrial health and biogenesis, AMPK activation, the breakdown of biofilms and the benefits to circulation and cardiovascular health, to be the best and thrive, this is what I need.
All one needs to harness this strategy is to lose a jacket, take a bed sheet off, leave the fire off for the night, cold showers or lake swims and just like physical conditioning, build from there.
“With no challenge to overcome, frontier to press, or threat to flee from, the humans of this millennium are overstuffed, overheated, and under stimulated. ” ― Scott Carney, What Doesn't Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude, and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength