The cold wraps my body like a vice.
Holy shit…I am going to die…I’m an idiot…
I’m sitting chest-deep in a pool of ice-filled water.
Why was I doing something so insane? Well, because of the Ice Man.
Who Is The Ice Man?
Wim Hof—also known as the Ice Man, the Dutch Daredevil, and all-around bad-ass—has accomplished some incredible feats. Here are a few. This guy:
- Climbed Mt. Everest in a T-shirt and shorts
- Run a marathon in the Namibian desert with no water
- Submerged himself in ice for nearly 2 hours
And that’s not even getting into his TWENTY-SIX world records for other superhuman stunts. Or that he is able to regulate his core body temperature and immune response, seemingly at will.
I’d read some blogs talking about Wim Hof’s online course a couple weeks ago. And just as I was about to sign up for the course, I saw that he was coming to LA over the weekend. Since I’m a firm believer in synchronicity, I bought a ticket.
I had no idea how popular Wim Hof was—there were over 500 of us packed into the warehouse space on La Cienega.
Wim is in his late 50’s, but he moves like a teenager. Bounding on stage, he dropped into a full split. Hopping up, he launches into the lecture.
“I found these answers in the cold,” he told us. “You don’t need to learn this in books, you need to learn from your breath. Listen to your breath. Your heart center.”
After some presentations by various doctors and scientists, we go into the breathing routines. The point of the routines, Wim said, was to flood your body with oxygen and engage with the parasympathetic nervous system.
Right away, I can tell there’s something to this technique. My shoulders feel loose. I’m calmer than I’ve been in years.
During the breaks, I got a chance to talk to some of the other people in the workshop. One guy was a doctor, who told me he could hold his breath for 4 minutes. Another guy, a capoeira instructor, said that the breathing techniques had killed his food cravings, eliminated joint pain, and even eliminated his need for caffeine.
And then it was time…for the ice bath.
Listen To Your Breath
Cold exposure is a major part of Wim Hof’s technique. “The cold will be your teacher,” he said. “It is where I learned these methods.”
Outside, in the California heat, a row of inflatable pools sit, filled with ice water. Instructors stand by the pools, giving words of encouragement.
Finally, it’s my turn. 10 of us climb into the pool. It’s colder than anything I’ve felt in my life, including 4 winters in Chicago. My legs immediately go numb.
I breathe deeply, expanding my ribcage. The cold grips me. I fight the urge to feel warm. Let the cold in. That’s the secret, Wim said.
I go inward, focusing on my heart center. I’m cold, but it doesn’t hurt. I’m one with the ice.
“Time!” the instructor yells. And then it’s over. “If you want to dunk your heads under the water, do it now.”
I pass on the head-dunking. One thing at a time.
I get out of the pool. And I feel…fine. In fact, I feel fantastic.
The next day, I signed up for Wim’s 10-week online course. (I’m currently on week 1.)
Some of the effects after only a few days:
- Decreased anxiety
- Less muscle soreness
- More energy
And the most interesting effect? How I can hold my breath. I’ve always been terrible at holding my breath—10 or 15 seconds before I turn into a gasping mess.
This morning, I held my breath for 2 minutes. Pretty cool.