Wim Hof is the Iceman.
He is an extreme athlete who has set many world records for things such as longest distance swimming under ice, and fastest barefoot half marathon on snow and ice.
He has also proven under laboratory conditions that he can exert control over his immune system.
And he says he is not special, anyone can learn how to do these feats with the proper training regimen. A regimen that he calls “The Wim Hof Method.”
Learn what it is (and about my experience with his 10 Week Course) below.
I have always hated the cold.
And I have always had a low tolerance for the cold. It is like my kryptonite.
But I am always searching for new ways to improve myself and help other people improve themselves.
So when I heard about the Wim Hof method from a friend who extolled its benefits I did some research. Only to find a Ted Talk by a babbling shirtless Dutchman talking about the benefits of cold. And then proceeding to immerse himself into an ice bath on stage.
Not exactly my idea of a good time...
But I kept hearing about him and eventually found that while Wim is Wim, there were other people who were able to express the benefits of his method in a more palatable manner.
My favorite is a book called “What Doesn’t Kill Us” which was done by an investigative journalist who liked to travel the world, find gurus, and prove that they are selling lies.
Which worked well, until he came to Wim Hof, and found that what Wim was selling was truth.
If you are really interested in a full rundown of the method you should check out his book.
And now I can say that I am also a believer.
What are the Benefits of the Wim Hof Method
If you go on the website WimHof.com you can find the list of benefits:
-Boost your immune system
-Improve mental health
-Increase sports performance
-Improve workout recovery
-Deal with depression
-Recover from burnout
-Relieve symptoms of Lyme disease
-Improve cold tolerance
-Relieve autoimmune diseases
-Improve mind-body connection
There is something on this list for everyone. And I can’t say that I experienced all of them.
But I can personally attest to the asthma management and improved cold tolerance.
How Does the Wim Hof Method Work
There are 3 pillars of the Wim Hof method: cold exposure, breathing, and commitment.
Commitment is a necessary part in any training regime.
Things that you don’t do won’t make a difference (more on this later).
So obviously you need to practice the method, and practice it consistently to get any benefit.
Breathing is an important component of many physical and mental training systems, including many yoga, strength training, and meditation practices that I am familiar with.
But the Wim Hof method focuses on one specific type of breathing. It involves a deep inhale into the stomach, then the chest, and then just relaxing to let the air out, in a fast manner that is similar to hyperventilating.
The purpose of this is to increase the oxygen levels in the body and decrease the carbon dioxide in the blood.
This makes the body more alkaline (the opposite of acidic). (1)
But the real kicker is you use this change in your psychological environment to practice holding your breath.
The last pillar is cold exposure. My kryptonite.
The 10 week course starts off with 30 seconds of cold water at the end of your shower, eventually working up to a challenge week where you take 10 minute cold showers every day. Then it transitions back to 1 min cold / as much warm as you like / 1 min cold showers with breath holds during the cold.
And then there is the challenge of an ice bath and/or getting into nature.
Although not noted as a pillar there is also a daily exercise component in the course which is a yoga practice that he developed. It focuses on stretches, hand balances, and inversions. And it includes one particular pose he calls the “horse” which is used for warming the body before and after cold exposure.
How to Learn the Practice
There are many learning opportunities provided by Wim Hof's company.
There is a free mini-course and a free version of his app.
You can also pay to upgrade the app to the full version and they offer 2 paid online courses (the 10 Week Course referenced earlier and the “Fundamentals” course.
You can also go to events with certified Wim Hof instructors who have had extensive training in the system. These range from one day introductions to 5 day treks with instructors.
I started with the free app and mostly just suffered. The problem with the app is that it tells you what you're doing and gives you a way to track it but doesn’t give you guidelines on how long to do it or how to advance.
After doing some research about the difference between the 10 Week Course and the Fundamentals here is what I learned:
The 10 week course is the older, “classic course” and from the reviews I read/watched most people said that it does a better job of helping you develop your own daily practice.
The Fundamentals Course, which is new, more expensive and better produced, goes over more exercises in detail (there is a real yoga teacher they bring in to help teach that better), and gives you the information and exercises as opposed to a lot of information you have to learn on your own.
It seemed like the only part everyone could agree was better about the Fundamentals Course was the yoga, and since I am a yoga teacher, and because it is cheaper, I decided to do the 10 week course.
And then a month after I put it on my “Someday, Maybe” list, I got an email saying it was on sale for Black Friday so I decided now was as good a time as ever.
The 10 Week Course
Should you choose to do the 10 Week Course the first thing to know is that it takes about an hour a day to practice as instructed in the course.
About 20 minutes of breathing, about 20 minutes of yoga, and then a shower every morning.
The first thing I noticed was that I suddenly didn’t need coffee as much in the morning.
The cold has a way of jolting you awake.
Next, the breathing certainly felt a lot like running and my lungs started feeling better after about the first week.
My breath holds steadily increased and now at the end of the course I usually get at least to a 2 minute breath hold on my 3rd or 4th round.
Also, the amount of pushups I can do has increased and I definitely improved my arm balances and inversions. But not any better than they would be if I practiced yoga daily in the morning without the Wim Hof Method.
The cold was not as bad as I thought. Except for a few large jumps in the course the progressions are reasonable and I adapted.
By week 7 I could go outside in “cold” weather – Wim is in Poland and obviously I am in Israel, where it just doesn’t get as cold. But, it was winter here when I did the course and now I can pretty easily do 5 minutes outside swimming in 6 degree celsius (43 degree Fahrenheit weather)
I have had a few opportunities to go swimming and actually enjoyed them (something the other people I was hiking with couldn’t do at all).
The course was worth it just for that.
The biggest criticism I have of the course is that it is much more time intensive that they lead you to believe.
An hour in the morning every morning is a serious commitment (Remember: One of the pillars is commitment).
The problem with the method is more a problem of human psychology. As stated before, nothing you don’t do will benefit you. Except for smoking…
It is mentally very hard to get in cold water when you know you don’t have to.
Many people are resistant to it.
It takes a lot of mental toughness and discipline but if you can get yourself to do it there are benefits to be had.
If you are ready for a challenge and to develop some mental strength this method is a must-try.
It unquestionably provides some benefits and will help you get in shape and be a stronger version of yourself mentally and physically.
But it is tough and not for the faint of heart.
If you have any questions about my experience send me an email.
And you can find more information about the method on the Wim Hof website.