A Dutch Daredevil, The Cold & What I've Learned About Being Healthy, Strong & Happy
Last August, I was on a Skype call with a good friend of mine. He was telling me about this documentary he watched and wanted to know if I was crazy enough to start a 10 week training course with him. I knew I was in, but I wanted to watch the documentary first, and I was blown away. I wanted what Wim Hof teaches.
Wim Hof is known as the Iceman, he believes the cold is his greatest teacher. The most fascinating thing about Wim to me was that, not only did he believe in himself so much, but he wants to scientifically prove his methods can be learned by every single person alive. His mission is driven by a love of humanity and the desire to end mental illness for everyone.
If you google Wim Hof's name, you'll quickly learn the man is known as the Iceman for a reason. He's climbed past the death point of Everest in nothing but shorts and spiky shoes. He's ran a marathon above the arctic circle in Finland, in nothing but shorts (yep, no shoes) in temperatures that were -20º C (-4º F). He also holds the world record for the longest time fully submerged in ice, as he stayed in for 1 hour 52 minutes. The man, when looked at like that, seems a bit crazy.
But I was intrigued. If you go to his site, you'll notice claims you'll sleep better, reduce inflammation, increase your energy, reduce stress, feel happier, burn more fat and feel more creative, among other things. I wanted that. In the middle of a rough year, the idea of feeling all those things...of feeling happy and content instead of hopeless and depressed. I wanted it. And I was ready to commit.
I told Brian that I would be his accountabilibuddy and together, we'd commit to the 10 week online training course. I was scared. You see, Wim's training is a combination of breath retentions (similar to Tummo meditation), cold showers (or other cold exposure) and stretching/yoga. The whole point of all this is to wake up our bodies, to get them running more smoothly and cleanly, and to feel more alive...fully alive.
The way most of us live our lives now is one of comfort. We control the temperature around us, in our homes, in our cars. We control the amount of clothes we wear. We're constantly comfortable, all the time. But we weren't created to live this way. There are so many things our bodies were built to do to help us survive, and the way we live has left those abilities laying dormant.
Which is where Wim comes in. His breathing methods force your brain to tap back into those survival mechanisms. It involves deep inhales, exhaling part way, then fully inhaling again, until you get light headed. Then you breathe fully in, and fully out and see how long you can go without any air in your lungs. It's crazy how relaxed you get...the lights you see, and how relaxed you feel. I've been meditating for years and never ever felt this blissed out on a consistent basis.
The next step is the cold showers and cold exposures. It starts slow with 30 seconds of cold at the end of your normal shower, and I'll be honest, those first 30 seconds were torture. But over time, you learn how to generate your own heat. I hardly ever turn the water to warm anymore, it's never hot, and I've been enjoying lake swims lately 1 or 2 times a week. The last time I went in, the water was about 30º F and the air temperature was a warm 14º F. You do the breathing and your skin gets cold, but internally I'm completely comfortable. Every morning I go out and stand in the cold in a low horse stance for about 10 minutes. I'll do it on the snow/ice (if there is any present), and yet, I don't feel cold, ever. I never dreamed something like this could be possible.
Then comes the strength/flexibility/yoga. I've learned better body control and built muscle. My core has never been stronger and my balance has never ever been better.
All of this to say, committing to this training has removed any signs of depression in me. I really don't think I've ever felt happier and more energized than I do right now. I'm excited for every day, and Lord knows there are some heavy challenges in my life right now. I'm more patient. I'm more content and better able to handle the stress that's all around me. I really could go on and on about the benefits I've seen and felt in my life, but I'll get to the point...
What I've learned is this. My wife and kids need me to be at my best. They do. And for the longest time, I've given my all, and never did much to fill myself back up. To be able to keep giving all this love I have inside to those in my life, I had to commit to taking better care of myself. I had to find something that recharged me...something that was challenging, and required a good deal of commitment. Wim's training became that for me.
I want you to pause for a few moments. Think about how you feel, right now. Are you worn out? Are you tired? Do you feel like you're treading water and fighting and kicking and pressing on and you don't feel like you're getting anywhere? I know you have a good heart and your intentions are top notch. You're human. Deep down we all have good hearts. But if you aren't feeling well, you've got to ask yourself why. Then figure out a few things that will help you feel the way you want to feel, and commit to doing them. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to be the best you that you can be.
Those are some of the lessons I've learned from a Dutch daredevil, the cold water and how it's taught me all I ever need to know about being healthy, happy and strong. What are some things you do in your life to fill you up? How do you recharge? And can you recommit to making that I priority? I'd love to hear from you.