Tag Archives: From Russia With Love

Bathe Like Bond, The 007 Shower Experiment

21 Dec

Someday in the future I expect to get asked questions like this one:

“Hey, 007 Experiment Guy, how can I start living like James Bond within the next 30 seconds? Also note: I can barely afford a daily package of ramen noodles – so please don’t tell me to buy a Rolex Explorer online.”

Yes, in many ways we humans seem to live in a time-starved world and the only people who have patience are medical doctors who don’t spell right.  But in this case we’ve got a solid answer for our hypothetical and broke question-asker.

Step-by-step:

  1. Move away from your computer.
  2. Go to your bathroom.
  3. If you weren’t already naked, disrobe now.
  4. Step into the shower.
  5. Blast yourself with water from the cold tap only.
  6. Wonder if you should be taking advice from people on the internet.

Elapsed time: approx. 30 seconds

We are introduced to this hardcore version of the James Bond Shower in Chapter 2 of the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, first published in April of 1963. After quickly downing a quarter of a bottle of Taittinger Blanc de Blancs, Bond “…then went into the bathroom and had an ice-cold shower and washed his hair…” Perhaps 007 drank the champagne to fortify himself for the chilly ordeal that followed.

What’s nice is that in order to emulate 007 in his ablutions you needn’t become a member of the Polar Bear Club outright. In chapter 11 of From Russia, With Love, published 6 years before OHMSS, we learn about the contrasting shower Bond likes to take following the calisthenics he performs to alleviate boredom. Here he showers under “very hot then cold hissing water for five minutes.“ You get to start with hot water – yay!

Why does Bond torture himself this way?

Part of Bond’s shower routine is due to the era he was living in. Medical historian Peter Morrell explains how in 1950s Great Britain, your average working class family members bathed once a week in a tin tub with water heated in a kettle on the coal burning stove. Bond is decidedly middle class and could afford a water heater but I believe he used it sparingly, partly because he’s a badass and partly because he had the austerity mindset that was common in post-WWII Great Britain. Cold bathing wasn’t torture, but habit.

Did this contrast shower help elevate his mood? An oft-cited medical article about the role of norepinephrine in depression casts doubt on this idea. However, in his book The 4 Hour Body,  Tim Ferriss points out that contrasting showers have effects that stimulate the immune system, evident in the increase of circulating norepinephrine. Maybe immune system exercise translates as pleasant emotions. From personal experience with the contrast shower I can say that whatever your mood just prior to the icy dowsing, you’re in for a system reboot.

How is this going to help me get ripped?

Being cold helps you burn fat. Cold to the point of shivering increases metabolism and burns evil ‘white’ fat by stimulating ‘brown’ fat to use the stored energy to keep the body’s core temperature steady.  The less white fat you have covering your sexy abs, the more visible they become. This Daily Mail article goes into further detail about the cold water effects on body fat.   Our 007 is described in From Russia, With Love as being 183 cm (6 feet) tall, weighing 76 kg (167.5 pounds). That’s about the same height and weight as Justin Timberlake, a fellow that few folks in the world would consider overweight. At the time of this writing I cannot give any information about Mr. Timberlake’s bathing habits (it probably involves swimming around Scrooge McDuck-style in a bank vault full of cash and women).

SexyBack circa 1957.

Ok. What’s the drill?

Someone whose bathing habits we do know a bit about is swimmer Michael Phelps. In addition to the Olympic swimming thing, apparently this gentleman is also afforded the luxury of ingesting 12,000 calories per day. Which is rather a lot, by most estimations of caloric intake, yet he decidedly does not resemble a whale. NASA boffin Ray Cronise drew inspiration from this factoid and added science to it in order to discover how someone could ingest so many calories yet still be built like, well, an Olympic swimmer. The calories-in/calories-out, eating/exercise math didn’t add up. Cronise’s “eureka!” moment came when he recalled that the energy Phelps’ body was putting into maintaining his core temperature in cool pool water accounted for the difference. Cronise experimented on himself and lost a lot of fat in a short period of time in the process. His fat burning successes piqued Tim Ferriss’ curiosity and Ferriss, in turn, created the following protocol (excerpted from The 4 Hour Body):

“Take 5–10-minute cold showers before breakfast and/or before bed. Use hot water for 1–2 minutes over the entire body, then step out of water range and apply shampoo and soap to your hair and face. Turn the water to pure cold and rinse your head and face alone. Then turn around and back into the water, focusing the water on your lower neck and upper back. Maintain this position for 1–3 minutes as you acclimate and apply soap to all the necessary regions. Then turn around and rinse normally. Expect this to wake you up like a foghorn.”

I appreciate how Ferriss’ steps are reminiscent of the Hokey-Pokey. I wouldn’t recommend, however, standing on one leg in the shower while shaking the other leg “all about.”

To make your literary James Bond Shower even more authentic, you might avail yourself of some Pinaud Elixir Shampoo as mentioned in OHMSS. That link goes to a nifty article about it from jamesbondlifestyle.com. Should you have some extra bottles of the stuff lying around, you might consider making a bit of money from selling your surplus at $150 a bottle to keenly interested parties posting on this thread from the awesome shaving website badgerandblade.com. That’s worth a lot of ramen noodles! Bond’s preferred bath soap is never mentioned in Fleming’s books – perhaps he didn’t use any, but this lively thread from Absolutely James Bond (abj007.co.uk) might help you figure out the aftershave situation that will get your face smelling like that of our favorite fictitious espionage agent.

Warning to the gentlemen readers: This shower protocol will also increase your testosterone levels and enhance your libido, according to The 4 Hour Body and this badass article from The Art of Manliness. Please bathe responsibly.

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Health and Fitness 007 Style

2 Dec

My buddy Damen is one of those people whose enthusiasm is infectious. One afternoon as we enjoyed a “few” pints of Czech beer we started kicking around ideas for new self-improvement challenges. As we were both in the process of rereading all the original James Bond books we decided to collate information about how the literary James Bond lives his daily life and incorporate some of that into our own lives. We already knew of some great online resources for information about the gadgetry, cars, clothes and such (here, here, and also here), so we reckoned we’d be adding to the wealth of data by collecting bits and pieces about eating and exercise from those Ian Fleming stories. Damen is tackling the eating info and I’ve tasked myself with the exercise.

So what does the literary James Bond do for exercise?

Here’s my primary inspiration, as I’m not going to take up golf:

“There was only one way to deal with boredom—kick oneself out of it. Bond went down on his hands and did twenty slow press-ups, lingering over each one so that his muscles had no rest. When his arms could stand the pain no longer, he rolled over on his back and, with his hands at his sides, did the straight leg-lift until his stomach muscles screamed. He got to his feet and, after touching his toes twenty times, went over to arm and chest exercises combined with deep breathing until he was dizzy.”

-Ian Fleming, From Russia, With Love

The above is not a whole hell of a lot to go on but it’s plenty to use as a foundation for a fitness program. James Bond had no need for gyms full of spandex and machinery that harkens back to the glory days of the Spanish Inquisition. James Bond wasn’t necking gallons of creatine and whey protein and fistfuls of supplement pills. James Bond wasn’t looking to hulk up into a ‘roid-balled Mr. Olympia. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things if they appeal to you but 007 didn’t need them so…

In the posts to come I’ll be tracking my progress, regressions, aggressions, digressions, and impressions of the The 007 Fitness Experiment. I’ll be taking that short excerpt from From Russia With Love and figuring out how to turn it into a solid fitness regimen.

How will I cope with the lifestyle changes? Will I literally get too big for my britches? Will smoking 60 cigarettes a day turn out to be a crucial element in the 007 fitness equation?

All these questions and many, many more will be answered one way or another. I hope you’ll join me for the fun.