If you think I am crazy for choosing to jump in an ice filled bath of water at near freezing temperatures, you are wrong. No different than the average Joe, after I signed up for this once in a lifetime, 3-day weekend seminar, I frequently thought to myself, “Why am I doing this?“ After all, I absolutely hate the cold as much as anyone I know. I only made it 1 day in swim team as a child because the water was too cold – in Arizona during the summer!
So Why Did I Do It In The First Place?
- Wim Hof method has been researched and can mentally control his own immune system and inflammatory markers. As a physician that deals a lot with immune compromise patients and chronic inflammatory conditions, this could be something I could use with my patients. Secondly, one of the hard things about being a doctor is that its difficult to treat yourself. Any method of “hacking” my own body to improve my health sounds great.
- Sitting in an ice cold bath of water for extended periods of time makes you tougher than everybody else. Period. Wim Hof method is an absolute beast.
- There are only 2 certified Wim Hof trainers (both in AZ) in the United States and it was only a few miles away from my office and I didn’t want to miss out on the uniqueness of the event.
Has your doctor done Wim Hof? I really didn’t have any other reasons in my head when I signed up for the seminar. But what I got out of it was definitely different than what I expected.
Day one was a great introduction to the technique and the history of the Wim Hof. Chris and Jared shared stories of their first encounters with Wim and talked about their 10-day adventures in Poland.
The focus of Day 1 was on breathing technique and learning to create a hyperoxygenated state. A hyperoxygenated state is definitely something that wakes you up to new tingling sensations. My head, hands, feet, lips and ears all tingled incessantly for minutes on end, something I had never experienced before.
At the end of each breathing session, we practiced holding our breath using the focused breathing technique and it felt easier than when I had previously tried it at home before. 2 days prior to the training I tried to hold my breath as long as possible and reached only 41 seconds. I know that is not impressive, but my lungs have never been my strength. (If I only hadn’t dropped out of swimming!)
At the end of day 1 we had a chance to get in an ice bath of water, essentially a kiddy pool with about 70 pounds of ice or more in it. That made the water a balmy 45 degrees that night. While 45 degrees may not sound so cold for an outside temperature, in icy water it was ridiculously cold. On that first night I decided to get in the water quickly and not even think about dropped my legs in and sunk my chest down leaving only my head out of the water. I was in!
But a small side effect of being in the ice cold water was that I couldn’t breathe. My body seized up and left me gasping for air. I literally couldn’t get myself to take a breath.
So obviously after a few hours of training, I wasn’t quite just like Wim Hof. In fact I only stayed in the water about 3 whole seconds. 1.5 seconds until I wanted out and 1.5 seconds because the camera wasn’t working right so I had to suffer until I could document the proof! (Proving how tough I was, right?)
Day two I missed due to family pictures, which better turn out awesome because that was the day I was supposed to learn how not to be cold in the water! Day 2 they focused on mental presence, but I did not get this portion of the event.
Day 3 was the culmination, of the seminar. After implementing techniques from the first two days, the water was the final challenge. About 36 degrees of fun!
I actually showed up at the seminar on day 3 not planning on entering the ice water. After day 1 I felt really sick and stressed for about 24 hours. It was a weird mix as my body felt invigorated, but my neck hurt like something terrible, which it never does and I literally felt stressed as if I had just got into an auto accident or had an awful tragedy in my life. The water from day 1 stressed me so much that I didn’t want to do day 3 because I knew I had to work the next day and I was fatigued from the stress! Needless to say day 1 was a difficult experience for my body.
When the time came to enter the water on day 3 I didn’t want to. But, being that I paid money for the event, I decided I had to. So I did it! 36 degrees of water and I sat in the pool up to my neck for about 1 minute. Once again we weren’t timing it. Nobody was timing because it wasn’t about how long you could sit in the pool. There were plenty of guys and girls that stayed in the water much longer than I, but once again, it wasn’t about the time. After day 3 I felt the same invigoration, but not the stress.
Oh and by the end of day 3 I was easily holding my breath for over 2 minutes.
What Was Wim Hof About?
Remember that I absolutely hate cold water. When they asked me on the 1st day what I wanted to get out of the seminar my response was to do something I didn’t want to do because too many of us are weak and lazy. This may be an overgeneralization, but many people only do things they enjoy or things that come easy to them. Day 1 I entered the water kind of like how you fearfully jump of a cliff. Day 3 I gradually entered the water using focus and determination.
The Lessons I Learned
Lesson 1: By completing a task that I/you don’t want to do it empowers you to do more tasks that you don’t want to do. Whether you don’t like to fold laundry, eating healthy or running, the training definitely helps you make strong mental decision to accomplish a task and deal with what is present.
Lesson 2: We all have more inside of us than we think. If you think you couldn’t get in an ice bath of near freezing water, you are wrong. If a born and raised “city boy” like myself can do it, anybody can. Which leads to Lesson #3.
Lesson 3: By overcoming the “fear” of cold water it enabled me to feel much less fear of other things. Maybe for you it is the fear of spiders, dogs or heights, but by facing your fears with focus and determination and on your own will it will empower you in other areas of your life, just like it has mine. Think of the fearless nature of children, that’s what it has seemed to give me more of.
After The Seminar
To train cold exposure, cold showers are a simple way to implement the technique. So far, each day I have to think, do I really want to take a cold shower? So far the answer is yes, but also before I turn that shower to cold, I have to mentally prepare and learn the above 3 lessons each and every day. This is the long term benefit, a truly great experience!
Do I think I can now control my own immune system and alter my internal inflammatory reactions, probably not without a lot more practice, but it was a great experience. I believe that taking the stress of the ice cold water head on will definitely benefit me as I take on life’s stressors and challenges. To me the ice water was and is no different than any other obstacle that stands in your way to health and happiness.