Superhuman Ice Baths & Guinness World Records: Welcome to the Wim Hof Method
Updated: Oct 10, 2020
As I sat submerged, neck deep in a small pool filled with hundreds of pounds of ice, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, this time, I'd gone too far? Scott what did you get us into? How much do ambulance rides cost? You'd think I'd know by now.
But wait, I could do this. It was time to breath...
It was time to find out if the Wim Hof Method was hype or for real. Time to climb a new mountain and take on a new experience.
Have you ever heard of the Wim Hof Method?
or The Ice Man?
Or Wim Hof breath work?
If not, you are in for one heck of a wild ride. The Wim Hof method is an experience all to in itself.
As a form of breath work, it's been proven to:
- Boost metabolic rate
- Improve your Immune System
- Reduce and control the sensations associated with cold
- Create an incredible meditative experience
- Reduce stress, and bring out your greatest sense of inner peace
- And ultimately, turn you into one a kickass superhuman
Or so I was told...
The question was, could the Wim Hof Method really be the new must have tool for the 21st century? Or was it all hype?
We at The Inspired wanted to investigate. And the best way to investigate anything, is to jump in, neck deep, literally, into the experience.
First, what of it's biggest claim - the most amazing ability the Wim Hof method delivers?
Well it's not the ability to regulate aspects of your subconscious such as breath, or the ability to withstand cold, by increasing your metabolic rate, which alone are remarkable.
No, the most incredible aspect of the Wim Hoff method is the techniques ability to generate an untapped mind altering source of power inside each of us.
Result = YES. It's true.
After months of Wim Hof breath work practice, and my very own in-person Wim Hof experience including ice bath, I can personally attest to it's claims.
Better than any cafe latte, or double shot espresso, the Wim Hof Method will give you copious amounts of added happiness to your day. It will improve your thoughts and actions. And without doubt, it will give you a sense of power and control of you body and senses that truly is remarkable.
But before we get into the technique itself, let's learn a bit about the man himself.
Who is Wim Hof?
"On March 16, 2000, Hof set the Guinness World Record for farthest swim under ice, with a distance of 57.5 metres (188.6 ft). The swim at a lake near Pello, Finland was filmed for a Dutch television program, and a test run the previous day almost ended in disaster when his cornea started to freeze and he was swimming blind. A diver rescued him as he was starting to lose consciousness.
On January 26, 2007, Hof set a world record for fastest half marathon barefoot on ice and snow, with a time of 2 hours, 16 minutes and 34 seconds.
Hof has set the world record for longest time in direct, full-body contact with ice, a total of 16 times, including 1 hour, 42 minutes and 22 seconds on January 23, 2009; 1 hour, 44 minutes in January 2010; and 1 hour 53 minutes and 2 seconds in 2013.
In 2007 Hof climbed to an altitude of 7,200 metres (23,600 ft) on Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts and shoes, but failed to reach the summit due to a recurring foot injury. In February 2009, Hof reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro within two days wearing only shorts." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wim_Hof
Wim Hof's feats speak for themselves.
There are adventure seekers and then there are humans like Wim Hof, driven by some deeper purpose to push body and mind to the absolute limit. To use one's own body as mechanism for experiment and change.
Wim Hof has lived this way for decades. He is the real deal on land, sea and in copious amounts of ice.
Most recently, Wim Hof has been on world tour, where he travelled to my city of Vancouver, Canada in the fall of 2018.
This is where my good friend Scott Janzen and I saw Wim Hof live, learning the Wim Hof method and his philosophy in person.
The session included an introduction to who the man was, the science behind breath work, and an instructional breath work session that lasted for hours, preparing us for my first ever ice bath!
While our training continued inside the convention hall, 300 pounds of freezing cold ice was submerged into three 12 foot round pools outside.
To me, it seemed like an unnecessary quantity for such small pools. But what did I know?
Then, with our bodies fully oxygenated, alkalized and our metabolic rates increased, one by one, wearing no more than our swim suits, and short shorts, we slowly walked outside to fulfill the ice man challenge.
Under the instruction and supervision of Wim Hof's staff, we gathered in small groups and lowered ourselves into the ice.
It was the coldest moment of my life, but it would have been much colder, and likely impossible to withstand without the Wim Hof breathwork method.
When your body enters into extreme conditions the subconscious mind attempts to take over. It tries to force you out of the water.
We sat in the cold ice bath for 1 entire minute. Ok, I know that doesn't sound very long, but, well, you'll just have to trust me that it is. Or, the next time Wim Hof is in your home town, be sure to try the experience. NOTE: Do not try this on your own.
BOTTOM LINE: I learned in that moment how to embrace the cold.
What is fact and what is fiction?
Wim Hof was fact, and not fiction. But we must continue to question what we understand, and what is still to be understood. Wisdom after all is a combination of not only knowledge through study and education, but also derived from experience.
Wisdom = Education + Experience
Journal Entry Feb 2019: "Did Wim Hoff this morning. Very interesting experience. Magical. But a little scary too. I think I almost passed out? Is it possible to pass out? I literally forgot to breath. But it felt as if I no longer needed to breath anymore - until I did. I was buzzing. And then the incredible sense of power, and peace came over me, once again.
From an experience standpoint, this itself proves an incredible claim by Wim Hoff. One that may seem an incredible tale until you experience it yourself. And that claim is this:
Through the Wim Hoff method of breathing, anyone can take control of their limbic system, a feat once not thought possible by modern man."
But there's much more to Wim Hoff... from the profound to the super human.
Scott Janzen, who's been practicing Wim Hof daily for months, explained it in his own words:
"I've been thinking about Wim Hof experience. Joe Rogan explained it really well in that the most profound lessons do not have english words to describe them.
My experience will be very different from other people's experiences. I think this is a thing that you can only tell stories surrounding your own experience but it's hard to impart the meaning to others.
For me, I am feeling like I am gaining control over areas of my life that were not under my control. I'm able to push through barriers that others have on me and end up changing their minds on what is possible as well."
So What is the Wim Hof Method?
Again, here's the detailed breakdown from Scott on how he does it each day:
I start by laying down on a yoga mat with a pillow under my head. This is done for ease of breathing, but also so if I pass out I will be in a safe position.
Next, I breathe into my stomach, then into my chest followed by an exhale. I don't force the exhale and keep the exhale short. Like keeping a 1-2-3 beat and exhale only on 3. I repeat this 30 times and then do a full exhale and hold. I try to hold this non-breath for 2min, but my first attempt usually ends after 1:30min. When I feel the need to breath, I tense up my muscles from my feet and hands all the way back up to my heart and head. I'm trying to push my blood to my heart and head to allow me to hold the breath longer. This becomes easier each round. You may find your muscles spasming and your lungs trying to cough but you can push through it. It is possible for you to pass out if you hold your breath too long. Don't worry, if you pass out you are in a comfortable position and your body will start to breathe on it's own again. DO NOT ATTEMPT NON-BREATH HOLDS UNDERWATER, NEAR WATER, SOMEWHERE YOU CAN FALL OR WHILE DRIVING!!!
After I do two rounds of 2min non-breath holds, I repeat the breathing sequence once more.
After I have done the final breathing sequence, I do a non-breath hold again and immediately start doing push-ups. You can do shallow fast push-ups or slow deep push-ups, but what is important is that you keep the non-breath hold for as long as you can (I do 50s-1min) and then continue the push-ups until total muscle failure (I make it to 1:30min). Here there is also a risk of passing out so, if you feel dizzy, tilt you head to the side so you will land safely and stop the push-ups. Once you do this for a while, you will understand the limitations of your body and breath and begin to stretch those limits.
I usually have a temporary hearing loss (like everything is mostly muted) after the push-ups most likely due to loss of blood flow to the ears while the blood rushes to my pectorals. This may or may not happen to you, but how your body reacts will teach you more about yourself.
This is the most variable part for me and can give me a good indication of my mental state. The more calm and confident I am, the more cold I can bear. I start my shower by setting it to a comfortable temperature and turning it on. My shower takes about 15s to warm up, so the initial water on my head is cold and then warms up. Once I have cleaned myself, I set the temp to cold, start the timer, put my head under for a full Gayatri Mantra, then my chest, followed by my back. It is important to get the cold where your neck meets your back as this will encourage the growth of brown adipose fat. You may feel heat coming from this part of your back for quite a while after you shower.
After I have done one round of cold, I turn the temperature to very cold and repeat. Finally, I set the temperature to fully cold and try to get through as much of the cycle as possible. Depending on my mental state and what I ate the day before, I am able to stay in the cold water between 1 and 3min.
Just like cooking, everyone has their own taste, so feel free to make adjustments to this recipe for Wim Hof as suits your body and mind. When I first starting practicing this breathing technique, I had a very different routine. After attending a Wim Hofworkshop and sharing notes with other practitioners, this is the recipe that I have found works well for me.
During the Wim Hof workshop, we all ended the session by sitting in an ice bath. Recently, I swam in the Ocean when it was -4 C outside and 8 C in the water. These experiences can be done periodically to increase your ability to control your heat through vascular constriction and to promote the growth of brown adipose fat.
This practice, for me, is a way to gain control of your body you didn't think possible and to become more immune to external influences. I listen to the limits of my body and I try to push them gently to new levels. The goal is not to attain a world record breath hold or ice bath immersion; the goal is to know thyself better.
- Scott Janzen
Surprise Bonus Video! Wim Hof in Action: The Janzen Way
During an unusual cold snap in Vancouver most of us ran for shelter. But Scott looked for a beach, which if found very empty and perfectly suited for his afternoon out to explore the benefits of Wim Hof in below zero weather. It was a windy, humidly cold -4 Celcius this day. And thanks to Deepak for the video and lovely editing. Also, if there was ever a reason to buy a Tesla, it's in the last shot of this video. Marshmallows not included...
Great job Scott!
To Learn More about the Wim Hof Method
For those interested in trying the Wim Hof Method of breath work checkout Wim Hof's official site:
In the mean time I'll see if I can line up an interview with the man, the myth the legend for a follow up article and to learn what's newin the world of the ice man.
My personal Wim Hof Recipe
As Scott mentioned above, how often you practice the Wim Hof is your personal choice. But for me, I try to combine 2 -3 Wim Hoff breath work sessions in any given week.
Usually I'll start with 10 minutes of Non-directive Meditation and then, when the stresses of the world still have me feeling that the meditation that morning wasn't enough, I then know it's time for some Wim Hof breath work.
I'll complete 3 sets of breathing, doing 30 deep inhales and shallow exhales, a big exhale and breath hold for up to or over 1 minute, and then a 15 second inhale and exhale for each set.
I do the Wim Hof laying down because if the session goes well, you'll have a slight buzz right after.
Then feeling at peace, and realizing life really is a beautiful thing, I'm ready to not just take on the day, but enjoy and embrace it.
Thanks again for reading and I hope this article adds one more important life foundation in your Inspired journey.
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Peace, and may the Wim Hof be with you...