The Wim Hof method

Since I was a child, I’ve always been attracted by the Guinness world record book. Towards my teenage years, on an Italian TV channel they started with a show dedicated to it and people from all over the World could participate and get their records validated.
On one episode they said that a Dutch man would be fully submerged in ice and he’ll try to stay in it as long as possible.
I remember watching this man who was only wearing some undies and a few sensors, simply standing there while they were literally pouring thousands of ice cubes around him. How could he manage to not freeze to death?
Not only he set these type of records, but he also almost summited Mount Everest only wearing a pair of shorts and boots. Not bad.

I’m currently reading The World’s Fittest Book from Ross Edgley and in one of the chapters he mentions “The Wim Hof method”. Method? I thought that guy was simply a super human and had some insane super power. Nope, apparently there’s a method to it and everyone can learn it. That doesn’t mean you can go and climb Everest wearing shorts, what it means is that you can slowly train by starting with cold showers of a few seconds, to a couple of minutes, a few minutes, cold baths and then ice baths.

Why?

Well, studies show that cold helps speeding up recovery after intense trainings or performances. Rugby players and other athletes started using cryogenics chambers in the last few years. They wear undies, gloves and a pair of slippers and stand in a chamber at -130°C for a few minutes.

How does it work?

Many athletes use cryotherapy for muscle or injury recovery after exercise. The cold treatment helps the muscles repair themselves and prepare for the next training session. In a recent review published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers found that cryotherapy helped reduce muscle pain in 80 percent of the observed studies as well as improved athletic recovery and performance in 71 percent of the studies. As such, when incorporated into a regular post-workout routine, cryotherapy can reduce recovery times and improve performance going forward.

https://www.brownmed.com/blog/cryotherapy/4-health-benefits-of-cold-therapy/

Why do I care and why should you care?
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been taking multiple cold showers everyday and last Saturday I took a cold bath right after running 22 km. I either became a super athlete, or this cold business really does help with recovery, because I simply feel amazing.

I started by taking short showers, around 15 seconds, starting with my legs, then arms, and then my chest and back.
After only a few days I could easily stay under the cold shower for 2-3 minutes while washing my hair and my body. The approach to cold taught in the Wim Hof method simply works and it is true that you get used to it pretty quickly. Don’t believe me? Try it! You’ll be amazed of what you can achieve when you learn how to control your breath and your mind.

On top of the benefits of a faster recovery and reinforcing the immune system, I also realised how much this mind control helps during endurance performances. I normally do simple meditation, but I now implemented the Wim Hof breathing method and cold method to my regular mediation. The results are pretty impressive.

I practiced freediving at a pretty high level -well, for my age- for years and the only way to succeed in such a sport is to have a positive mindset. I found that the same approach worked pretty well in skydiving, BASE jumping and also when I was lying in bed after my incident. What I’ve learned in the past 15 years about positive mindset is now extremely helpful when I try to “think of something else” during a long and painful run.

Are you going to try taking a couple of cold showers? If you’re interested, make sure you do it properly and in a safe environment. On his website Wim Hof shows with a couple of free videos how to approach his breathing method and cold showers.

I will post more in detail about meditation and how it helps me overcome boredom, pain and tiredness when performing longer runs in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for reading. Happy runs and happy cold showers.