In the book What Doesn’t Kill Us the author, Scott Carny, went to study the Wim Hof method from the ‘Ice Man’ himself, Mr Wim Hof.

Scott is an investigative journalist with a reputation for exposing frauds and pretenders so you know, if Wim and his method is the subject of Scott’s attention, then Wim is not going to be treated kindly if it turns out that he is full of BS.

In fact, Scott says that he wrote his book with the express aim of revealing Wim ‘as a charlatan who capitalized on the false hope of the gullible masses.’

What happens to Scott is a worthy read and I recommend it to you (see below), but there was a line in his book that had new significance for me as I prepare for MovNat Cert III:

“The only change I plan to make [to my training] is to do the Wim Hof Method as regularly as possible. Other than a few excursions I have planned, everything else should be the same.” – Scott Carny

For his book Scott planned to put expose his own body to a series of physical challenges and in preparation for them he would maintain his regular exercise program and add the Wim Hof method as the only variable.

I too am a big fan of testing theories on myself. For me, it really is the best way to learn. So why not follow Scott’s approach for my MovNat Cert III prep? I’ve nothing to lose right?

So like Scott, I’ve kept my regular training regime the same and added the Wim Hof method to see if it might help. So what does adding the Wim Hof method mean to fitness training and practice?

 

WIM HOF (Road Test 2018)

The Wim Hof method requires a person to breathe (in a certain way) and get cold. Cold! Something I hate (or hated) very much.

In July 2018, I first started to experiment with the Wim Hof method during the Perth winter. I pre-read a bunch of material from the Wim Hof site, Scott’s book and others -listed below. I downloaded the free Wim Hof APP and got started on 10 July 2018.

The APP is not perfect but there is a lot of value to be gained from the free APP. Make sure you have a stop watch handy before you start.

As I interpret the breathing part of the APP it flows like this:

  • Approximately 40 breaths (Wim loses count during the APP). So do I!
  • On the last breath, breath out and hold your (empty) breath for as long as you want.
  • When you’re ready to breath in, DO IT! And hold your breath in for 20 secs.
  • Expire and repeat the APP video 3 times.

 

For me, the goal in 2018 was to religiously practice Wim’s breathing technique and cold immersion therapy every day for one month. 

Every morning around 5:00AM I completed three rounds of the breathing practice lead by Wim Hof from the APP followed immediately by a cold plunge.

I hate the cold and my first attempt of a cold immersion (which was in a pool during an Australian winter; cold, but hardly life threatening) was embarrassing. I managed one-minute!

The experience of vasoconstriction (the narrowing of the blood vessels resulting from contraction of the muscular wall of the vessels) hurt! Clearly my vascular system was not working optimally. I shook like a leaf, whimpered like a baby and made a hasty exit to a hot HOT shower.

Vasodilation, that hurt too!

Despite these shameful beginnings progress was swift. After one week I was able to sustain a  three-minute immersion. By the end of the July I stayed in for five-minutes and by 10 August 2018 I was comfortably enjoying an eight-minute freezing cold swim at 5AM in the morning!

I wrote:

‘8 mins! Easy! Breathing stayed in the belly. No sign of shivering for 6 minutes. ‘Steel skin’ [my nickman for what happens to your skin after time in the cold] kicked in and I only experienced minor tremors towards the very end. Also, it was the coldest overnight temp here all winter; -1! So the pool has to be cold!’

My vascular system had become more competent. I learned during the process that just like a bicep, the muscular walls of blood vessels are also trainable! More fascinating than this was that fact that I’d become addicted to the feeling you get after a cold immersion; immediately after and throughout the day! You feel GREAT! And you seek out colder opportunities.

As I write now (2019), and in my humble opinion, the science on Cold Therapy or Cold Immersion Training and the process of hyper-oxygenating the blood steam in combination with cold immersion training is a ‘thing’. Actually it seems to be a really REALLY good thing.

We already know that ice is helpful for inflammation and muscle recovery, but the role of cold therapy and other outdoor pursuits to fitness, health and well-being runs way deeper and is far more important:

‘For at least half a century the conventional wisdom about maintaining good physical health has rested on the twin pillars of diet and exercise. While those are no doubt vital, there’s an equally important, but completely ignored, third pillar … environmental training.’ – Scott Carny.

We are learning (and quickly) that if we seek out and embrace the natural world as part of our pursuit of fitness our bodies will respond and unlock a ‘hidden wellspring of animal (and very human) strength.’

There’s more! There always is!

So I’ll close with a long quote from Scott’s book that had a profound impact on me and leave the rest up to you:

‘There is a growing consensus among many scientists and athletes that humans were not built for eternal and effortless homeostasis. Evolution made us seek comfort because comfort was never the norm. Human biology needs stress—not the sort of stress that damages muscle, gets us eaten by a bear, or degrades our physiques—but the sort of environmental and physical oscillations that invigorates our nervous systems.

 

We’ve been honed over millennia to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Those fluctuations are ingrained in our physiology in countless ways that are, for the most part, unconnected to our conscious minds. Muscles, organs, nerves, fat tissue, and hormones all respond and change because of input they get from the outside world.

 

Critically, some external signals set off a cascade of physiological responses that skip the conscious parts of our brains and connect to a place that controls a wellspring of hidden physical reactions called collectively fight-or-flight responses.

 

For example, a plunge into ice-cold water not only triggers a number of processes to warm the body, but also tweaks insulin production, tightens the circulatory system, and heightens mental awareness.

 

A person actually has to get uncomfortable and experience that frigid cold if they want to initiate those systems. But who wants to do that?’

Who? ME!

Go get your cold on.

 

Damien Norris is the founder and senior whole-body movement and lifestyle coach at The Wilding Project (LINK), Perth Western Australia.

Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!

Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”

Damien Norris