The Wim Hof Method: An Overview
erhaps you have heard of the iceman, Wim Hof. Or, maybe you’ve never seen anything about him or his method before. Either way, Fitsom has received strong influence from this amazing man and his life’s work. He got his name, “the iceman” after defying normal, modern day human behavior and withstanding extremely cold circumstances such as, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a half marathon, barefoot, above the arctic circle, and staying covered in a bucket of ice up to his head for 112 minutes. He strongly believes that anyone can achieve these remarkable things. It just takes practice.
That is where his method comes into play. The Wim Hof Method (WHM), was designed by Wim himself to teach otherwise ordinary people how to accomplish extraordinary things. The method is comprised of three pillars: cold exposure, breathing, and mindset. As human beings, we are born with an innate power. When we are attuned to this power we are survival experts and it has gotten us to the point we are at today as modern humans. But in the present era, the need for innate survival tactics such as the body’s ability to adapt to extreme temperatures and cues of hunger and fullness have been pushed aside with clothing, temperature controlled environments and an abundance of food. We no longer have a need to find peace in freezing conditions or to store fat for the next famine. Yet, our genes still code for these circumstances, because that’s what we evolved from. And, when it comes down to it, life wants to survive.
The WHM takes our body’s natural ability to survive and utilizes the mind to cause it to flourish. Tapping back into these deep, innate abilities may allow us to increase our level of wellbeing. The first pillar, cold exposure, is purported to have many health benefits. There is plenty of evidence to support cold therapy for concentrated inflammation, so it makes sense that it would have the same effect systemically. Cold exposure may also be associated with improved quality of sleep, higher energy levels, and improved immune response.
The second pillar, breathing, is one that is more widely accepted as a tool for better health. It is something that we do everyday without thinking twice about, but in times of stress and anxiety, taking measures to tune into the breath and slow it down can have a huge impact on relieving those feelings. The breathing style of the WHM is ‘controlled hyperventilation’ or ‘power breathing.’ The intention is to flood the entire body with copious amounts of oxygen. By inducing a short-term stress response after the holding of the breathe throughout practicing the technique, your body has the ability to quickly adapt, becoming more resilient in the face of much larger stressors in everyday life.
Lastly, the WHM includes a third pillar – mindset. You can think of it as commitment or focus as well. It takes a fair amount of willpower to get through uncomfortable things in life, such as the other two pillars of this method, but with patience and dedication you can achieve just about anything. With the right mindset, determined to accomplish what you set after, you are bound to be a happier, more successful and generally healthier individual. Here at Fitsom, this is exactly what we are after. Leading more stress-free, happy, resilient lives, and teaching others how to do the same. Maybe this seems like it’s too good to be true, or something just the amazing iceman can do, but we assure you there is science to back it up.
In a 2012 study in the Netherlands, scientists found that Wim Hof can indeed manipulate his immune and nervous system after studying samples of his blood. They injected Hof with a endotoxin that makes average people very sick after about three hours. Hof had no symptoms of illness whatsoever, and his blood revealed that he had in fact, willed himself to ‘fight off’ the toxin. To see if it was applicable to others, in 2014, they held a similar group experiment where, “healthy volunteers practicing techniques from the WHM exhibited profound increases in the release of epinephrine, which in turn led to increased production of anti-inflammatory mediators and subsequent dampening of the proinflammatory cytokine response elicited by intravenous administration of bacterial endotoxin” (you can find the full study here). More studies, in larger groups among a vast array of individuals do need to be done, but one thing is for certain, we are on to something revolutionary.
Here at Fitsom, we have personally experienced benefits from the WHM, including recovering more quickly from the common cold, diminishing the debilitating effects of headaches and migraines, and calming the mind while energizing the body. We couldn’t keep this method to ourselves, so we decided to start hosting WHM Workshops so anyone interested could learn more about the method and how to safely practice. Last week, we held our first ever WHM Fundamentals Workshop and the turnout was great. Fitsom members and nonmembers alike gathered to learn about the WHM and put all of its pillars to the test.
“I just got out of an ice bath. And it feels, amazing. I can feel all my blood vessels just opening. And closing, just opening and closing. It was a breathtaking experience. Just amazing.” — Eric