After trying the cold shower method based on the free materials by Wim Hof and seeing some great results I’d decided to pull the trigger and purchase the full course from Wim’s website.
As of today I’ve done over 3 weeks of the cold shower challenge from Wim’s site and I am up to 2 minutes of standing under running cold water.
What ‘great results’ you may ask? I noticed the following few things that made me a believer
- Much reduced reluctance to turn on the tap water at any time of the day. It’s getting cold here in New York and even before that, the house I am in has well water, so it’s cold even during the summer, with well temperature never going above 50s (Fahrenheit). Before I started the cold shower I would turn on the faucet, wait till the warm water started flowing and only then brush teeth, wash my face or hands in the morning. All of that is gone. Cold water no longer scares me.
- I am noticing an improved sense of self-control that is strongly associated with me pushing my reluctant body to stand under ice-cold shower for a minute or more, every single morning. No matter how I feel, no matter what’s the weather outside, no matter if it’s weekend or not, I am jumping into that shower and turning the hot water off for 15, then 30, then 45, then 60 seconds and now full 2 minutes. This is a constant thing that I am looking forward to, every night I go to bed, and every morning I wake. It makes me believe more in my own ability to endure uncomfortable and push myself beyond my current limits.
- I noticed that my mood is greatly improved for few hours immediately after the cold shower. This is something to be expected, as per Wim’s description, as well as old Russian folk beliefs about the cold water exposure.
- My anxiety has gone done a bit about a week ago, as described it would, by Wim himself. I am expecting even better results in the coming weeks, as I add breathing and longer cold exposure but at this point I am already noticing strong effect of the daily cold showers.
- My resting heart rate has gone down over 15 bpm, compared to before I started the showering challenge. I went from the consistent and slightly alarming — for a guy of my age, health and sports activity — 80 bpms, to a very healthy and reassuring 64–67 bpms. I am expecting even lower heart rate in the weeks to come, and hoping to get to mid 50s soon.
- An invigorating and extremely noticeable boost of energy for significant time after the morning cold shower. It beats caffeine with hands tied behind it’s back. What’s even better, that the energy boost is not a nervous one, like the one provided by coffee, but rather calm, measured and sustainable mild-euphoria-like state that is super conducive to work and focusing. This is very strongly tied, I believe, to the reduction in anxiety and heart rate.
So now that I’ve listed all the great benefits of just 3 weeks of cold showers, I am going to document my experience with Day 1 of Wim Hof Method.
Aside from the altogether excellent short Vice documentary on the Iceman (I highly recommend it), I watched all the free videos in the public program as well as the first week’s videos inside the members-only section of the course. I’d also read many comments and articles on Wim’s Facebook page and various forums, so I was rather well prepared what as to what to expect from the program, in terms of the first day.
Apparently, even with that preparation I was still quite surprised.
Without going into details, the program entails special way of deep and controlled breathing to get oxygen deep into the blood and body tissues, as well as to evacuate CO2 out of the bloodstream and lungs. This has an effect of energizing the body, making the tissues more alkaline (good), and less acidic (bad), improving and rebuilding nervous system’s connection throughout the body and improving body’s own energy production process.
The first 10 deep breaths I took, while still lying in my bed upon waking up, made me slightly dizzy and anxious. Interestingly, it felt like I was running out of air, despite doing deep, controlled and oxygen rich breathing. I could feel a mild sense of panic coming on, and it was not unlike any other previous situation in my life where I felt restricted, scared, claustrophobic (I am looking at you SCUBA PADI First Open Water Dive).
I honestly wasn’t sure if I could continue this breathing any longer and there was a tinge of doubt as to my ability and desire to go along with the program. But upon concentrating more on breathing, and recalling all the instruction and how breathing is completely safe for us all — and that the worst thing that could happen is that I would pass out, only to wake up unharmed in few moments later — I overcame the anxiety and finished another 10 deep breaths.
The breaths 20-40 were still somewhat anxious, and I approached them with mild caution, but I could feel how breathing had improved, and I was no longer fighting myself. The initial headache-like symptoms were going away, replaced my lungs, hands and face tingling. The nausea quickly was replaced by pleasant lightheadedness and I was very happy to arrive at my 40th breath — safe, sound, slightly worried, mildly tingling and ready to do the full exhale and breath hold required by the program.
Since I was still a bit anxious, I was worried about either passing out while holding breath or not being able to hold it long enough. To my surprise (again, very well pre explained by Wim’s videos and in his podcast with Joe Rogan), I was able to easily hold my breath for 90 seconds, thus completing the first round of breathing technique.
Second, third, fourth and fifth rounds were similar to the first, expect that as I kept doing them, the bodily sensations changed a bit, anxiety went away completely, I started feeling energized, and — interestingly enough — a bit sleepy. I’ve also started getting mild body shakes, akin to when you feel cold, sometime during the second round. These shakes didn’t go away until the end. My chronic back pain subsided in intensity as well.
By the time I was done with round 5 I was a convert!
Completing the breathing rounds were a series of yoga-like stretches but with a breathe-and-hold twist, and then I finished it off with a 2 minute cold water shower, which didn’t feel that cold after the breathing exercises and stretches, which not only increase your body temperature, but lessen our nervous system response and skin sensitivity.
The total process took me about 40 minutes.
Oh and an unexpected benefit of Wim Hof Method (WHM) on day one is that when I went to the gym for a swim, I was able to almost easily do the whole 25-yard length under water. It may not be much for others, but it’s practically a personal record for me, especially since I haven’t been swimming or exercising in the water since my living in Thailand in Spring 2016.
I can’t wait to continue doing WHM for the next 10 weeks and expect more and more results from it!
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