07939 235671 [email protected]
When I was a kid, we had no central heating. I can remember my hands and feet feeling like blocks of ice on winter mornings; trying to button up my shirt with numb fingers and pull my socks over chilblained toes. I can vividly remember shivering on the walk home from school, and then sitting cross legged on the rug, warming my hands and face in front of the fire. As an adult I have avoided the cold as much as possible. My house is positively tropical. My car has heated seats and a heated steering-wheel, and I never leave the house without multiple layers of clothing, even in the summer. So, having said all that, you might be surprised when I tell you that I have become a huge fan of the Wim Hof Method which mainly involves cold exposure. I first came across Wim Hof (also known as “The Iceman”) in a TV documentary several years ago. I could hardly believe the sight of this man swimming amongst icebergs, looking so serene and relaxed. How was that even possible? Fast forward to last spring and I see Wim Hof again, this time on a YouTube documentary, highlighting the incredible health benefits of his ‘method’ which involves breathing exercises, mental focus and cold exposure. The more I discovered about the Wim Hof Method, the more it made sense to me. The problem, it seems, is that we are creatures of comfort. We love warmth and ease, we avoid discomfort, but ironically, the avoidance of discomfort is frequently the cause of our dis-ease. We invent transport to save ourselves from walking but then become too sedentary, we invent processed food to save ourselves from cooking, but then clog up our arteries with unhealthy fats and we keep ourselves permanently warm, which also, it transpires has a negative impact on our health. We were made to withstand a variety of temperatures. Our bodies are made to adapt. Until recently, we had to tolerate the cold in order to survive, so this new switch to life inside our temperate comfort zone doesn’t allow the body to use its naturally adaptive ability. But the cold is a force to be reckoned with. Let’s not beat about the bush here; it can kill you. But Wim Hof has developed a breathing technique, which, when combined with mental focus and relaxation methods allow you to tolerate the cold for long enough to give your cardio-vascular system a much-needed work out. After all, we have roughly 125,000 km of blood vessels in our bodies and the cold exposure and breathing technique of the WHM help these blood vessels to constrict and dilate more efficiently. Scientific research into the Wim Hof Method has proved that it can:
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower heart rate
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Balance hormones
  • Lower inflammation
  • increase energy
  • Improve mental focus
  • Improve sports performance
  • Provide faster recovery
This all sounded so interesting to me, that I booked a week in Poland to meet the man himself and experience his teachings first-hand. And I have to say, the expedition did not disappoint. I was one of about a hundred people who ranged in age and fitness as much as they did in nationality. My fellow Hoffers had flown in from all over the world, Australia, Singapore, America, Russia, Iceland, oh, and a lovely couple from Cheltenham who had treated themselves to the week’s challenge as a 60th birthday present! From the moment we arrived the activities were full on. We started the first morning with breathing exercises and were led on a barefoot walk to the river for an ice-cold dip with Wim Hof himself. For a woman who never goes anywhere without slippers, this was a massive challenge. But off I went, into the forest, shoeless and filled with trepidation about my imminent leap from a cliff into the icy water below. Wim stood in the water with us until we were all breathing calmly and then led the way back to the sauna for a meditation session. It was an empowering experience. I had been so frightened of the cold all my life, and yet here I was walking barefoot in my swimming costume in frosty conditions and jumping into a river which was minus 2 degrees. And how did I feel afterwards? Cold, yes, but also more alive than I’d felt for years. Completely exhilarated and alert. I swear the colours of the forest looked brighter and the birds seemed to sing a little louder than before. And I felt invincible. During my five-day stay we were to repeat that ice-water dip twice more and on the fourth day, we also hiked 5 miles up Mount Sniezka wearing nothing but shorts and a sports bra! It was minus 6 degrees that day, but by breathing deeply and keeping our focus, we didn’t feel the cold. I usually suffer from Raynaud’s where my fingers turn white and numb and then turn blue and become very painful. I decided not to wear gloves on the walk and instead I visualised the warm blood travelling from my heart through to my fingertips and my hands were fine for the entire walk. Apart from anything else, the views on the walk were astonishing. A dazzling snow blanket covered the ground stretching out into the distance towards the border of the Czech Republic. The clear, blue sky and tracing-paper sun made it more than picture-perfect. It was like being on the inside of an unshaken snow-globe. We walked two-by-two in silence, concentrating on our breathe. It was an exercise in mindfulness. And talking of being in the moment, I realised from our first cold water dip that mindfulness comes easy when you connect with the cold. You don’t wonder what’s for tea or why your boss made that comment in the office last week. Your mind stays exactly where it should be, with your body, in the cold. I’ve been back a week now and inevitably, the sense of euphoria is beginning fade as every-day life begins to snatch me back. But no matter what, I am determined to keep up the routine of daily breathe-work and cold showers and hopefully reap the rewards of the Wim Hof Method for life. If you’d like help sticking to your health and wellness resolutions, why not give me a call on 07939 235671 for a no-obligation chat and find out how I can help you.