Lessons from 4 years of practice.
Photo by Havilah Galaxy on Unsplash
He dives in cold water, climbs the highest mountains in shorts, and all with a smile on his face.
Do I speak about the latest Marvel hero ? The Iceman?
Well, yes, they call him the Iceman. But he?s from the Netherlands, and as far as I know, his official name is Wim Hof, and he?s not a superhero.
Over four years ago, I came across the techniques he?s teaching and implemented them in my life.
Did I become an Iceman as well?
Who?s Wim Hof?
Wim Hof is a 60-year-old slightly crazy adventurer from the Netherlands.
According to his website, Wim Hof achieved 21 Guinness World Records. Listed below are some of his most memorable achievements.
- Running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle, barefoot only wearing shorts
- Swimming underneath ice for 66 meters
- Climbing the highest mountains in the world while wearing shorts
- Standing in a container while covered in ice cubes for extended periods
How did he achieve all those things?
He attributes all his successes to a method he developed, which combines breathing with cold exposure.
Many people around the globe were practicing his techniques and became fans.
Let?s take a look at the method.
The Wim Hof Method
From the first to the last breath, breathing is something we all do without paying much attention to it.
However, unlike our heartbeat, we can willingly influence the way we breathe. This is a powerful tool to change our autonomic nervous system.
We can control our bodily functions even under stress by breathing correctly.
The effects of proper breathing are wide-ranging from lowering cortisol to strengthening the immune system.
There are whole books written about perfect breathing.
One that I particularly like is The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown. He points out that the goal should not be to get as much oxygen into the blood as possible but to raise carbon dioxide so the oxygen will be released. This is called the Bohr effect and states that hemoglobin?s oxygen binding affinity is inversely related both to acidity and to the concentration of carbon dioxide.
Bear this in mind when I later describe the whole method.
Exposing yourself to cold, much like breathing, can significantly affect your health. A cold shower can lift your mood, reduce inflammation, and even boost your metabolism.
To me, cold exposure has one additional benefit. It?s unpleasant.
I?m not a masochist, but there?s something to the concept of regularly pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. Every time I stand under the warm shower and want to switch to cold, my body resits, my mind comes up with excuses why it?s ok not to do it this time or why it?s a stupid idea anyway. Switching to cold regardless of what?s going on inside is a small win.
After this small win, together with the endorphins your body releases during a cold shower, you will be much better off facing hard challenges during the rest of your day.
Combining breath work and cold exposure ? The Wim Hof Method
Next I?ll walk you through the method step by step. Practice in a safe and comfortable spot and don?t do stupid stuff like driving or swimming while going through this method. It?s probably best if you consult a medical professional before you do these exercises, especially if you suffer from any medical conditions.
The best time to do this practice is after waking up or before eating since your stomach is still empty. I like to do it first thing in the morning.
- Sit or lie down comfortably.
- Close your eyes and take 30 power breathsInhale through your nose deep into your belly. Once the abdomen feels full also fill up your lungs and expand your ribcage. Then without force, let out all the air and start over immediately.
- You might feel light-headed or experience a tingling sensation in your body. That?s normal when you?re a beginner.
- With the last breath exhale completely and hold your breath until you experience a strong urge to breathe.
- Inhale fully and hold your breath for around 10 seconds.
- That?s round one. Repeat this cycle three times.
- After you?re done, sit and meditate for as long as you like. You will feel a great calmness inside.
If you want, you can measure the duration of your breath-holds. It?s normal that you can hold your breath for longer each round, and you should make progress over time.
You can also experiment with doing pushups while holding your breath. Many people report being able to do more pushups. Since it further trains your body to operate with limited oxygen, I think it?s a good idea.
After three rounds, it? s time to hop under the shower.
- Start with a warm shower then switch to cold.
- Try to breathe slowly and deeply, even if your body wants to go crazy.
- Switch between cold and warm several times.
- Over time you can prolong the cold exposure
However, don?t be too soft on yourself. It?s ok if cold water feels uncomfortable.
Four years of doing the Wim Hof method
About four years ago, I discovered Wim Hof on Youtube. At the time, I was experimenting with meditation and breath work, and the practical nonspiritual approach spoke to me.
I dove right in with breath work, tested different times, and found right after waking up to be the perfect time for me. I didn?t experience life-changing effects as other people do, but I suppose that?s because I already lived a pretty happy and healthy life.
What I like best is the calm feeling and the slight boost I get from doing the breath work. This sets me up for a successful day.
I struggled for years to take cold showers in the morning. I just ate to freeze before lunch. That?s why I took my cold showers after my gym sessions or after soccer, not in the morning.
However, I recently started with cold morning showers in addition to my after-sports showers. I still don?t like it, but they really wake me up.
Do the practice in a way that fits your schedule and your personality.
The general philosophy of mine is that whatever practice you want to establish, it has to fit into your daily life. Not the other way around. Of course, it?s a great thing to be flexible, but if you load your morning routine with tactics and practices until it takes you all morning to complete them, you miss the point.
This is why the whole Wim Hof method takes me about 10 minutes, including a cold shower and not more. Could you profit from longer breath-holds, more rounds, and more time to meditate? Yes probably. But you also benefit from getting 80% and jumping into things that matter like building your legacy.
Do I recommend the Wim Hof method?
Yes, I do. Even though it didn?t completely change my life, since I started it, I rarely get sick, which is fantastic. I attribute a big part of my sound immune system to this method. The cold showers helped me to expand my comfort zone and brought me a step closer to my goal of living a healthy, vibrant, and exciting life.
I hope you will take this step as well and see the benefits for yourself.
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