Following on from the book review of The Wim Hof Method, in today’s post MrTT shares his 90 Days Experience of The Wim Hof Method from the book (and mobile app).
First it’s worth saying that I hate the cold. I will typically walk around a swimming pool a couple of times before I pluck up courage to get in. I’ve also suffered since I was a kid with Reynauds – where your fingers and/or toes will go white and numb in the cold. It’s extremely painful when the blood comes back. So, I’m buying into the cold theory but the practice is not appealing. At all.
If you are getting into the Wim Hof Method (WHM), I would recommend the app. It’s excellent to get you started, lots of instructional videos and 20 day challenges that guide you through the gradual increases in cold shower immersion, breathing and other exercises. There’s a short free period, then you need to pay (approx. $37 USD) for the year. The app is updated regularly.
During my 90 days experience of the Wim Hof Method, I have used the app at least 3 times a day since I started. Not only is the content useful but the guidance helps you through breath work without the need to keep counting. There’s also a records area that shows what you did on each day and charts that track your progress. I found that the charts have kept me motivated as I don’t like to miss a session and the stats show your progression. It’s worth the investment if you are committed to doing it. If you are not sure, use the free trial.
If you are new to this, I would recommend that you watch the video in the cold shower exercise, then embark on the 20 day cold shower challenge. It starts you with a 15sec shower and works up over 4 weeks to 1 minute in week 4. Each week is oddly 5 days(?!). I don’t understand why and just did it every day, so I whizzed through a challenge in 3 weeks instead of 4. You then progress to intermediate level, which takes you to 2m15s, then Hoffer level, which takes you to 3m10s. Finally there’s a Custom level, in which you can set your times.
There’s a timer that counts you down the seconds whilst you’re in the cold shower. You can set it at 10sec, 180secs or 300 secs, random timings?! I would have preferred say 1 minute, 2 minutes. This would enable you to start the clock, hop in a warm shower and after the allotted countdown switch to cold. A chime signals the end of the cold. Don’t try to be a hero and go long early, as it takes your body some time to adapt and warm up after – this is part of the adaptation so don’t warm shower again. I did go through a period where I could not get warm at my desk all morning and resorted to a hot water bottle on my belly. That’s all passed now though and I warm up naturally quite quickly after.
When you first turn that knob to cold it’s a shock. The first day I did yelp and jump about a bit like a landed cod – exactly what you are not supposed to do! Day 2 I knew what was coming and was able to set my intention, control my emotions and the reaction through steady breathing. Don’t mess about with a gradual turn of the dial, turn fully to cold, it’s a few seconds transitioning anyway, as the pipes are warm. Don’t forget that it’s the shock that trains your cardio vascular system and brain to respond, this is good! It’s noticeable what the temperature is outside, as that affects how cold your water tank is.
As your time in the cold goes up, you may find you want to reduce the time in the warm, otherwise the shower takes ages. After 3 months I have held the cold at 4 minutes, as I think that’s enough for the beneficial effects. I have reduced the warm bit to 35 secs. The shower challenge part of the app doesn’t really work for you when you have completed the levels. So what I now do is use the Timer App on the iPhone, set it for 4m35s and jump in.
I genuinely do enjoy the benefits of a cold shower now. The initial shock is still there, but much less, I know what to expect, so I’m ready. I breathe steadily through the shock phase till my body has acclimatised. I tend to let the cold hit my head first to help wake me up then the chest and arms before turning and playing it on my back. I’ll rotate in that a while and after about 45 sec’s I’m acclimatised and the cold is no longer bothering me.
At this point I remove the shower head and concentrate on my lower body – you’ll realise that area has been a bit protected by the rest of you! I slowly move back up and repeat that pattern. 4 minutes is plenty of time to reap the benefits, I’m bored by then and I think more than this is a waste of water.
There is a sense of achievement, which is where the mind control comes in. You are forcing yourself to do something uncomfortable in the short term for longer term benefit. The app really helped me with the discipline and to progress through the levels. I’ve not missed a day since I started – says the man who hates the cold!! I’ve not attempted an ice bath yet. The main reason is logistically its a bit of a pain. I need to buy some bags of ice and there’s no room to store them in the freezer. Then fill a bath just to sit in it for a few minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there is health value in it, it’s just not economic. If I was close to the sea or a lake I would make use of that. Studies have shown that the physical benefits from an ice bath last 6 days so it’s doable as a weekly practice. Some folks have bought water tanks or barrels for the garden.
I use the App to talk me through the breathing routine. It saves having to count breaths and record your hold times. Within this section you can change the settings; breath speed, Wim’s guidance, background music, pings at the end of sections. I tend to leave everything on and have migrated from Normal to Fast breathing just to see if anything changes. I think my retentions might be a wee bit longer from Fast. The App records as many rounds as you want to do, you just hit Finish when you are done. I did 3 rounds for 3 months but have now progressed to 4 as Wim recommends. As you do each round the retentions get longer as there is more oxygen in your system.
Things I’ve learned during my 90 Days Experience of the Wim Hof Method – Basic Breathing:
- Morning practice is easier than night – not only do you get it done, but your heart rate is lower from the nights sleep so retentions are longer. I now do 4 rounds and then the press-up exercise, incl the breathing after.
- Food and drink reduce your times – Wim does recommend it on an empty stomach. When I have done breathing late at night (2-3hrs after food) I’ve generally found the retentions to be a bit less.
- Being a competitive person I wanted to continually set new PB’s. However, I found I was not enjoying the experience of straining to hang on a few more seconds. I now do it until I really feel the need to breathe and not try to go beyond. As Wim says its not about your ego.
- Retention times initially climbed before then dipping after a couple of weeks. – others have found this too. They come back up and it’s better to relax and not chase times.
- I prefer lying down – I find I consistently have a better experience and longer retention when laying down. When sitting cross legged, I’m thinking about posture and fidget more. It’s probably more a reflection on me, others have found sitting better. Find what works for you.
- Swallowing – I’ve found the more I swallow the shorter my retentions, it seems to bring on that gasping reflex. I still do swallow, but try to do it as late and as little as possible. Once the rapid swallowing starts its game over..
- The process does take time – about 25 mins for 4 rounds and press up exercise. Obviously, if you have short retentions it will be less.
- Dogs can freak out until they are used to it – I now close the door to avoid a surprise face wash.
- If you are interested my average is 2:27 and my best is 3:21. However, sometimes an initial retention is as short as 1:40 and the longest barely getting to my average. It just depends on your day. Don’t stress, you did the practice and the beneficial effect is the same. Long termers recommend forgetting about time and focussing internally on the experience and what you are feeling.
- Some people on social media talk of a feeling like “tripping out” when on the 4th retention (or more). I’ve not experienced anything like that.
The app records your exercises and puts little dots on the calendar when you complete an exercise. This keeps me motivated, I don’t like to see gaps.
I do the daily push up exercise. This session is guided in the app, so you can breathe along with Wim. It is quite amazing how many more you can do than if you just attempted it without breath work first. I have very poor upper body strength and can only do 20 press-ups normally. After the breathing I do on average 31 and my best is 37 before I’ve had to breathe. Wim says you can do a deep inhale, hold and carry on. I’ve tried this but only managed a further 5 as I’m at the need to pant stage!! When I started I averaged 25, so 3 months on the number hasn’t risen much. I think this is due to my lack of strength, if I worked on that it’d be better.
Other breath protocols mentioned in the book
- I’ve used “warming the body” when I’ve been standing in the bitter cold throwing balls for the dogs. Although the 5-6 deep breaths (through the nose) are very cold, I have found that the following hold and muscle tensing has helped generate body heat.
- I also used the breath control when having a long procedure (3.5hrs!) at the dentist. Although I did have numbing injections, but focussing on the breath kept me relaxed and calm.
- The 4 minute meditation and 1 minute stress control do help reset if you are getting stressed or just need a reset.
The App has a results section
Where your stats live. A calendar shows you what you did each day. You can leave notes too, so you can record why you think it was good or bad. The charts show graphically your daily achievements. There’s only a week in view though, you can scroll back by swiping, but it would be useful to see a month view and year view so you could see trends more easily. Averages, Bests and Totals are shown for each category. I’m not sure what value knowing I’ve held my breath for a total of 9hrs 37m is, but it’s definitely a talking point. Wow!
90 Days Experience of the Wim Hof Method – My Results
I think the WHM is something that will bring long term benefits to my health. I’m fortunate to be in good health, I exercise and have a good diet which I also supplement with vitamins. Thus it’s going to be harder to pin point a short term gain. But I’ve read the research and listened to enough advocates to know that this is a life change I should embrace.
My tolerance of the cold has definitely improved, now I do 4 minutes and warm up pretty quickly. I’ve also been able to run on very cold dark mornings in a running vest and shorts (& gloves) without bother. I focus on the breathing not the cold and I’m fine.
I do think the education on the breath has helped me cope with different situations from; stress, cold, pain and exercise. I also try to nose breathe when running too. That’s not a Hof thing but it’s related to being more conscious about the benefits of breathing in different ways. It’s a real eye opener for a sceptic like me. (Read “Breath” – James Nestor)
I’ll continue to do the press-ups. There’s a limit to what can be done on a single breath hold, but press-ups are a good exercise so I will keep them up and look to do more to improve my feeble upper body strength.
Mentally, the app has definitely helped with my discipline, mindset & commitment. You could argue it’s a crutch, but I like the records and the stats, whatever works eh! I still struggle with my mind wandering, during breath holds particularly. I try to slow my heart rate down and try to look to my “third eye”, but I often swerve off to think about the living room makeover. Work still to be done on my focus (and the living room)!
Reynauds Syndrome – My fingers still do go white after some of the showers. So no improvement here yet, but I haven’t done Wims hands in Ice treatment yet, so once I have done that for a period I’ll report back.
Rhumatoid Arthritis – I have moderate arthritis in my left thumb. The Method can help inflammatory illnesses allegedly, and there are reports of such on the Facebook forum. For my thumb, I’ve not seen it as yet. However, its early days to be fair and I’ve tried to limit my hand’s exposure to the cold due to the Reynauds. So that’s the next step – embrace the cold in the extremities. As above, I’ll append this with the outcome.
Were there any negatives?
No negatives as such however,
- you can get a bit of temporary Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) on the breathing. This is quite common and goes away.
- People think you are a bit mad and
- the dogs think you are dying
- Ice baths need some prep and possible outlay. Not an issue if you live by the sea/lake/river. Because it’s free, there’s a risk that you might not be as invested, as if you were paying a gym membership for example. But this is about your mental strength and the app helps here.
So at the end of my 90 days experience of the Wim Hof method, I’m enjoying the process. I’m definitely benefiting and will continue to work on the mental side of the breath work. I also want to try to incorporate more of the specific breath protocols. One of the cool things about this is that it’s free. You don’t have to pay for anything to have a cold shower, breath better and be more mindful. This is about you taking charge of your mental and physical health, to be the best version of yourself.
Wim Hof Method
Did you see our Book Review of the Wim Hof Method. Find out more about the challenges, the proven benefits, about the author and what’s included in the book.
Where to buy
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