Updated: Jun 27, 2020
Health has always been a big topic of discussion. As humans, we naturally want to extend ourselves to the fullest. It seems that over the years the topic of health has just exploded, especially within the podcast world. A name that always floats around is Wim Hof, you may know him as the Iceman as he was featured in a documentary created by Vice. Since then he has appeared on many podcasts including Joe Rogan and Under the Skin. Granted, his resumé of skills is without a doubt impressive, this guy climbed Kilimanjaro in just shorts, runs half marathons in the snow barefooted, and holds the Guinness world record for swimming under the ice.
As impressive as that is on its own, what’s even more impressive is that Wim Hof claims his method of breathing is the key behind it all and told the world his method for free. The method is based on 3 fundamentals of cold therapy, breathing, and commitment. There has been a lot of science to back up his method, Wim Hof himself allowed to be a subject in a series of tests in 2011, at the University Medical Center St. Radboud in Nijmegen, Netherlands. The conclusions of the tests showed that Wim Hof and others were able to voluntarily influence the Autonomic Nervous System. Something which up until then was thought impossible, through the Wim Hof Method.
So, what are the benefits of using this method? Taken directly from the Wim Hof website below is a chart of benefits you may gain from using this method.
The way it works is this; you take 30 deep breaths and on the 30th exhale hold your breath (without any air) and time yourself. Once you feel the need to take a breath, breathe and hold for another 15 seconds, that is one round. To gain the most from this method it is suggested to do 3-4 rounds in the morning on an empty stomach. This is supposed to turn the body alkaline which is good for the body as acidity is the cause of a lot of health problems within the body. Along with this breathing exercise it is also suggested to take cold showers.
I’m going to try this method for 30 days.
There are a lot of nut cases out there in the world but I don’t think Wim Hof is one of them, he seems genuine, a likeable guy, and he’s not trying to sell you this method as its free, however, his workshops are not (good faith doesn’t pay the bills). Why am I doing this? Curiosity has gotten the better of me. If this simple method that takes only 15 minutes a day can give me all these benefits, then shit, I want to invest. A little background to myself before I start. I exercise around 4-5 days a week which includes swimming and yoga. My health is in good check by my standards, I eat healthily apart from Saturdays. The only medication I have been given is for my sinuses as they flare up from time to time. I do get tired especially from work and from being busy all day, add the exercise and it all adds up.
I download the Wim Hof app which is free and includes instructional videos and a timer which places your times into a calendar of the days you have done the method. The first time going into this I take my deep breathes and put on the timer. My body is tingling like crazy from my feet to my head, the biggest headrush I have had in a long time. I breathe in and check the time, 2:31! I can’t even hold my breath for that long and somehow, I did it without air? The second round is shocking, I panic at 1:00. The third round was insane, my body just felt rushed like I was tripping. My mouth kept feeling like I was pouting even though I knew I wasn’t. I shocked myself when I saw the timer, 3:01! I carry on with the day and I’m not sure if it was a placebo or the method but I certainly felt a little more tuned-in with my day than what I normally would. I’m not asking for a miracle there and then, it's pretty obvious that this method requires time for its full effects.
Again, I do the breathing exercises for the next few days with similar times, I have cold showers anyway so that part of the method is not new to me. I feel less tingling by day 3, gutted as I quite enjoyed the buzz to be fair. So by day 3, I wouldn’t say there have been huge improvements, maybe a little more focused and my mind seems to be racing less. There has been one improvement for certain; my sinuses are no longer blocked and I no longer need the nasal spray, for now.
As the week continues, I am struggling with doing the method first thing when I wake up, however afterwards I feel almost euphoric, I’m actually getting excited about going to work. I still have no need for the nasal spray which has been a huge improvement for me, as I’m usually blowing my nose every 5 minutes and so far, nothing. Another improvement I have noticed is that I do not feel the afternoon slump, my energy is full speed after work which makes exercising easier. One downside I have noticed is that my sleep pattern is a little shaken towards the end of the week, I keep having weird, vivid dreams and keep waking up during the night.
I continue with the method; the results are similar and the times average themselves out. I missed a few days due to travelling but continue to do the method every day whilst abroad. The method itself takes about 15 minutes to complete. Some days I have the euphoria afterwards and other days I do not. I still have no need for the nasal spray and decide to leave it back home. At this stage my times are just reaching around the 2:30 mark on average.
I am certainly noticing more mental focus at this point, if I have a task to do, I can do it with little to no distraction. My sleep pattern has improved drastically at this stage, I am averaging about 9 hours of sleep a night. My energy levels have also increased, the afternoon slump has disappeared. I enjoy coffee but at this stage, I am starting to wonder if I actually need it or am I simply a creature of habit? Usually, I would have around 2-3 cups per day, at this stage, I'm slowly creeping down to 1 on some days.
As the week comes to an end, I wouldn’t say there has been a drastic improvement, sure there are a few noticeable changes here and there especially in my energy levels. I think getting more good quality sleep has also been a positive improvement as I’m usually waking up a lot during the night. I would say at this point the biggest improvement is how full of energy I am in the mornings; I am not having to drag myself out of bed or needing to lie in bed for an extended period.
By week 3 my average times for holding my breath is still around 2:30, I’m not sure if holding your breath for longer has more effect or if over time you should be able to hold your breath for longer? I am back to work at this point and struggle to do the method first thing in the morning before my coffee but I still force myself to do it.
By this stage, I notice that immediately after doing the method I feel more alert and ready to start my day, if I wake up feeling groggy and unrested and do the breathing exercises, I am suddenly alert as if I’ve just had a coffee. Still no need for the nasal spray and if anything, my nose is the clearest it has ever been. A huge difference I have noticed is when I do exercise, if I am swimming, for example, I can push myself that little further and find I don’t get as tired as I did before I started the method.
By the end of the 3rd week, I am certainly noticing more benefits from doing the method. As well as the improved sleep, I am now starting to notice an improvement in my performance during exercise. Although I am still struggling to do the method as soon as I wake up, I feel satisfaction from getting it done and setting myself up for the day.
Now, this is where the real shit starts to happen. By this point, the method is a part of my morning routine, I can’t start the day without doing it. I feel alert and refreshed more than what coffee can offer me, so much in fact, I’ve reduced my coffee to just one cup a day. My average times are also going up including hitting the 4-minute mark on one Sunday morning.
By this stage my nose is completely clear, the first time it has been like this for years, I can finally breathe. I am feeling more enthusiastic about heading to work, that Monday drag just no longer exists, I turn up feeling rested and eager to start the day. Exercise-wise, I am constantly pushing myself further especially with my workout times, I don’t feel exhausted after 30 minutes and push myself that extra mile.
My sleep is by far one of the biggest improvements since I started this, as my sleep pattern was off, I would wake up constantly throughout the night and never feel rested. I feel as though I am not only sleeping well but I am getting deep, restful sleep, something my body needs. My energy levels have certainly increased, the afternoon slump is well out of the window. I wake up at 5 am every day and generally don’t start to feel tired until around 9 pm.
In truth, when I started this method I was sceptical. There are a lot of people out there in the world that claim everything and anything, drink this when you wake up, do this before bed etc. but honestly, this method holds weight in what it is offering. Will it make you superhuman? Nope. Will you notice changes in how your mind and body will work? Absolutely. Even if it's just a slight change, you will notice it.
Overall this method doesn’t require much, I would say 15 minutes out of your day to do the breathing exercises, switch the shower to cold towards the end and you're done. Don’t expect results straight away as with anything it certainly takes time and practice. Wim Hof didn’t do the method just once and then set a Guinness world record, that took time and dedication to endure the cold.
Honestly, give this method a go. I felt more comforted knowing that Wim Hof wasn’t asking me to pay for the secret to his breathing technique. It's free and available to use right now, which makes me think that Wim is just genuinely a decent guy. What started as just a 4-week experiment is now something I’m going to practice daily, the benefits I’ve noticed are undeniable. If you're keen on giving this a go I would certainly download the Wim Hof app that is free, and also check out Wim Hof’s YouTube channel for advice and tips to getting started.