Physical stress helps the body perform better, says a growing body of research, and Silicon Valley’s best and brightest are embracing the shock to the system as a way to improve productivity, focus, and overall health.
In The Wolf of Wall Street, stressed out brokers indulged in sex, drugs and alcohol to keep themselves from imploding under pressure. Over time, the thrill dulls, necessitating the introduction of head-shaving bets on the office secretary, and midget-tossing.
But this isn’t Wall Street, and it’s the opposite of a thrill. Silicon Valley techies are turning to ice baths, freezing showers, and fasting to improve performance.
This is an industry that believes in positive stress as a stairway to success.
Science supports the idea, too. Unless you have a heart condition, an ice bath is an elixir for all kinds of things. It can fight depression, improve productivity, and detoxify, improving your blood circulation and metabolism.
And their taking the “positive stress” movement started by the entertainment industry to new heights.
To induce further physical stress, they also seek out restrictive diets, punishing exercise routines, and general discomfort.
Whole body cryotherapy — complete with electric walk-in cold chambers — is also a thing now. For those who have time, it means hitting up something that looks a bit like a tanning booth while your body is flash-frozen with liquid-nitrogen vapors reaching temperatures of -200 to -300.
Techies are embracing the shocking ‘fight-or-flight’ experience—and so far, they’re fighting.
The entire premise is that nothing should be moderate. There’s hot, and there’s cold—warm will get you nowhere. Related: The Fintech Giant Backing Bitcoin
The movement’s thought leaders in the athletic world post videos of their own extreme experiences to assure their tech industry counterparts of the effectiveness of their methods.
Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof earned the moniker "ice man" for his ability to withstand severe cold using deep breathing exercises. Last year, Hof did a Silicon Valley speaking and workshop tour that gained him a loyal following in the Bay Area.
"There's a really big segment that has gotten into it recently," said Joel Runyon, a triathlete and cold shower enthusiast who's given TED talks about “positive stress” in the past. He trademarked the term “cold shower therapy” and created a mobile application to tap the tech labor market to grow his subscriber base.
But American tech elite aren’t going to stop at ice baths and cryotherapy. This is the tech industry, after all—and they’re gunning for all-out immortality. If a death hack is going to come from anywhere, this is the industry, and now it’s setting the pace for the trends of a new lifestyle, even if it’s not an immortal one.
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