Wim Hof Method explained – Benefits of cold exposure – How and why do I swim in the North Sea
On the photo you can see how you will feel after implementing the Wim Hof Method 🙂
Some of the best moments in my life has been while taking control over my mind and body and being immersed in nature in the cold sea or mountain lake! You might have seen me posting photos and videos about my cold showers and swims in the sea and you probably thought that I must be crazy! (Some people commented too 🙂 ) As they say perfection requires a touch of madness, but my habit of exposing myself to cold temperatures is actually a very smart and useful habit which has been proven by many people and now even by science too. Let me explain 🙂
If you’re too lazy to read you can watch a shorter video version with slightly less details 🙂
I heard about the Wim Hof method in October 2016 on the Joe Rogan Podcast (I’m writing this in May 2017). Here he explained how his method helps and has helped many people suffering from all kinds of diseases (literally all kinds!). He also talked about how it makes people feel great and strong and happy and healthy. This made me really interested, as we are on the same mission of helping people and I’m open to any method which can make people and myself strong and healthy and happy.
Wim Hof is 58 years old from the Netherlands and is famous for enduring extremely cold temperatures. For example, he ran a marathon in snow at -20 celsius, barefeet and in shorts only. He also ran a marathon in the Namib desert, without water. He climbed to 6.7 kilometres (22,000 ft) on Mount Everest in shorts only (wearing boots tho J ) and he has the world record for being immersed in ice for 1hr 52mins. What is that if not mind blowing?
What impressed and interested me even more is the statement that he can control his immune system and kill/supress any disease with his method. Then you might say ‘ye right’… That’s what I was thinking too. And then he goes on saying that this has been proven by doctors. He has been injected with e-Coli bacteria which usually cause very bad headache, fever and muscle pain. Through his breathing method he managed to supress all this. And then you (and me) say, ok he’s something special.. to which he answers.. no I’m nothing special, I can teach anyone to do the same. Then he goes ahead and teaches a group of people in 10 days, and they are tested too with the same bacteria too. The result? They felt fine too while a control group got the usual symptoms of being sick and having pretty bad pain. Here I was thinking: “Take my money and teach me master!” 😀
I started the 10 week Wim Hof Method online course just after Christmas. I won’t go too much into the science but I’ll do my best to explain how it works. So the Wim Hof Method is composed of 3 parts. A breathing exercise, training of mindset/concentration which involves some stretching (or yoga asanas, whatever you want to call it) and cold exposure. Let’s break it down.
The breathing exercise itself is pretty simple yet very effective. In our everyday life we breathe way to shallow.. Through the Wim Hof method the goal is to load not just the lungs but the whole body with oxygen. This is done by breathing in more than we breathe out. It’s kind of a controlled hyperventilation. So by loading the whole body with oxygen we don’t only provide lots of potential to create energy for the body but the PH raises and the body becomes alkaline. From the average 7.4, with the method the PH levels go up to around 7.7-7.8. As you might know in an alkaline environment no disease can thrive and spread and you can imagine as through doing this regularly illnesses can be cured also. Have you ever felt a burning sensation while exercising? That’s the build-up of lactic acid due to the lack of oxygen. Loading the body with oxygen also prevents lactic acid production and allows better sports performance. And that’s just part of all the benefits, let me continue 🙂
The effectiveness of the concentration techniques was proven by the medical test which I mentioned above. This was the first ever proof that we can consciously control our immune system. The difference from usual meditation and concentration techniques is that while most techniques focus on relaxation and the reduction of stress hormones, the Wim Hof method aims to put the body in an active state, rather than a relaxed state. Furthermore, the method actively increases stress hormones, thus the production of inflammatory proteins is reduced. By doing this, the stress reaction aka. Fight or flight response can be steered… yes now we are getting there.. so this is how I don’t freak out in the cold! 🙂
Benefits of cold exposure
So let’s talk about the cold exposure. First I’ll tell you the benefits of cold, then I’ll explain how the method gets people ready to endure cold.
As mentioned above, the inflammatory proteins (cytokines) reduce while implementing the method. While immersed in ice, these proteins reduce to nearly zero. The results of the study also revealed that white blood cells showed a lower production of cytokine, even after 6 days.
Heightened levels of these inflammatory proteins can stir an increase in inflammations that can cause all kinds of physical ailments, such as fatigue and anaemia; they can trigger influenza symptoms, particularly among individuals with autoimmune diseases and infections. So you can see the benefits of reducing these cytokines. Another study conducted by the Thrombosis Research Institute (ME, CVS, Documentation Centre, 1994) showed that people who took a daily cold shower had significantly more white blood cells in comparison to people who did not. White blood cells are cells that combat diseases.
The investigators declared that, by taking a cold shower, the metabolic rate during and after such a shower is increased to keep the body warm. At the same time the immune system is activated, resulting in the release of more white blood cells. This study indicated that exposure to the cold boosts the immune system. Other than all these physiological benefits, a cold shower also makes you feel strong, fresh and energized. It lifts your mood and it also helps with fat loss as to heat your body up after. The metabolic rate can raise up to 3 times normal. Hope this is enough to show you how good cold is good for us. As Wim says: “Cold is our warm friend” 🙂
(This is just part of all the benefits of cold exposure as I didn’t want the post to be too long.
Obviously, going straight into an ice bath or a cold sea/lake/river can be pretty dangerous. So very smartly and cautiously the Wim Hof Method exposes people to cold gradually. The 10 week online course starts with finishing a normal warm shower with 30 seconds at the end, and builds up gradually to a 10 minute fully cold shower. (Which is an awesome feeling to achieve btw! 🙂 )
Getting started with the Wim Hof Method
Although the 10 week course isn’t cheap at €179 you can get started for free. (I personally think that nothing that makes you healthy and feeling great is too expensive). If you go to wimhofmethod.com there is a free 3 part video course where Wim himsef walks you through the breathing exercise. Yes for FREE. He also has a handy PDF for a cold shower challenge. This lasts 4 weeks where you take normal showers and finish with a few seconds of cold. It’s a great start.
You can download that PDF here: http://explore.wimhofmethod.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/coldshower-exercise-wimhofmethod.pdf
He also has an app called Inner Fire or Wim Hof Method (which I haven’t used). I assume that it has similar content to the free online videos and shower challenge. This app also helps you keep track of your progress. I believe if you finish all the exercises in it it gives you a code for 30% off the price of the 10 week course. Also, there is a Wim Hof Method Facebook Group with a great bunch of people who are happy to help beginners. So here you go 🙂
Image shows the free breathing video with Wim.
If you to want to know more about the Wim Hof Method
If you want to know even more about the method just google it, there is LOTS of information on it everywhere. Video, articles, studies, professional documentaries and amateur videos of peoples experiences, interviews with Wim, whatever you want 🙂
To express my gratitude to Wim Hof I created a tribute video of some of the amazing swims in nature I had. I could have never done this without his help. I found similar video very motivating when I started and it kept me going with the cold showers. Hope you like it and it might motivate you to make the cold your warm friend 🙂