Wim Hof, nicknamed The Iceman for his incredible ability to withstand extreme cold, has over 21 world records to his name among other impressive achievements including:
- Running a marathon above the Arctic circle in shorts
- Swimming under ice for 120 meters with one breath
- Hanging on one finger at an altitude of 2,000 meters
- Climbing the highest mountains on earth in only shorts
- Running a marathon in Namib desert without water consumption—source
And Wim insists, “What I am capable of, everybody can learn”.
Wim has been blowing up of late. Partly due appearances on the following podcasts:
- The Tim Ferriss Podcast
- The Joe Rogan Experience
- Found My Fitness with Dr. Rhonda Patrick
- Rewild Yourself Podcast
VICE produced a documentary about him too, Inside the Superhuman World of the Iceman.
What’s all the fuss about? To attempt to sum it up, Wim claims he can teach anyone to withstand extreme cold and control the autoimmune system—previously thought impossible.
Wim was injected with an endotoxin in Radboud University. What is an endotoxin and why use it?
[An endotoxin is] a component from the cell-wall of bacteria that elicits a response from the immune system. Pickkers: “By administering a dead bacterial component we are actually fooling the body. The immune system responds as if living bacteria are present in the blood stream and produces inflammatory proteins. As a result of this the subjects develop symptoms such as fever and headache. We can therefore use this approach to investigate the immune system of humans.”—Radboud University
Wim used his breathing and cold exposure techniques to influence his autonomic nervous system. The result?
He was found to produce less than half the quantity of inflammatory proteins than healthy volunteers who had not mastered his method. Furthermore, he exhibited almost no flu-like symptoms.—Radboud University
This two minute video explains it well.
My Own Wim Hof Method Experience
Wim’s abilities and claims are fascinating. I started his 10 week online course, The Wim Hof Method, two weeks ago and it’s hard to overstate the effects to far.
To date, the course has involved breathing exercises, some stretching combined with another type of breathing, and then a hot and cold shower.
Today, day 1 of week 3, I felt almost euphoric afterwards. And in the last two weeks I’ve noticed an increase in energy, motivation and productivity. Several times I’ve caught myself thinking, “man, I feel amazing…”.
I’ve been able to comfortably hold my breath for 2 minutes 20 seconds. My baseline was 45 seconds before starting the training.
It’s still early days with 2 out of 10 weeks done. But I’m excited to continue and see what happens.
Mini Wim Hof Experiment
Before the course I was already able tolerate the cold quite well and took cold showers almost ever day (it’s been everyday since starting the course). So to test out progress I tried underwater swimming at an outdoor pool.
I’m not sure what the temperature was two weeks ago, but it was cold enough that keeping my head underwater hurt after about 10 seconds.
Today I swam two lengths of the pool underwater with one breath comfortably. And then swam for another 10 minutes after still being able to submerge my head without any pain.
Apart from the improved cold endurance, it’s the first time I’ve managed two lengths of the pool underwater. I did 30 of the Wim Hof type breaths before getting in the pool. A poor quality thermometer read 12 degrees celsius. I say 13 degrees in the video, but it had fallen to 12 by the time I got out of the water.
I was under water for 36 seconds roughly. Nothing record breaking of course, but something I wasn’t capable of before.