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Book Review: The Wim Hof Method

Today, I’m handing over the book blog to DT to provide a comprehensive book review of The Wim Hof Method. Wim shares his simple three-pillar approach that anyone can use to improve health and performance.


Book Cover Notes

My hope is to inspire you to retake control of your body and life by unleashing the immense power of the mind.

The ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof shares his remarkable life story and powerful method for supercharging your strength, health and happiness.

Wim Hof is widely celebrated for his astounding achievements, breaking world records withstanding extreme temperatures and running barefoot marathons over deserts and ice fields. Most of all, he’s shown us that these feats are not superhuman – but that all of us have the ability to be stronger, healthier and happier than we’ve ever imagined.

In The Wim Hof Method, this trailblazer of human potential shares his simple three-pillar approach that anyone can use to improve health and performance – and see real results within just a few days. Refined over forty years and championed by scientists across the globe, you’ll learn how to harness three key elements of ColdBreathing and Mindset to master mind over matter and achieve the impossible.

DTs Thoughts

 The Wim Hof Method – Wim Hof

Win Hof, is also known as “The Iceman” on account of the 26 records he holds for things such as immersion in ice water, swimming in ice, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro and the Death Zone on Everest, both in just boots and shorts.  Search for Wim Hot on YouTube or on Podcast platforms and you’ll find hundreds of links for content on Wim, from celebs and doctors interviewing him, from YouTube influencers, to ‘ordinary’ people passing on their experiences. There are lots of videos of folks getting into icebaths or frozen lakes, it makes good content.  To someone who hates the cold, it’s not very appealing, yet as I would like to benefit from the physiological and psychological benefits of the method,  I bought the book.

The book is a combination of: Wim’s Life story,  the techniques which are very simple and the science behind it. 

It kicks off with a Forward by Prof. Elissa Epel Phd, who was inspired by Wim after seeing him at a conference and realising that his techniques had proven what she was researching. This chance encounter was the catalyst for many more scientific experiments that have validated Wim’s self taught methods.

The Wim Hof Method

Woven within his life story are the three tenants of the Wim Hot Method:

  • Cold exposure
  • Breath work
  • Control of your mind (and body) 

They promise to offer improvements to your:  

  • immune system
  • cardiovascular response
  • endocrine system (hormone responses)
  • Mental fitness

Leading to:

  • Reduced stress 
  • Improved mood, reduction in depression
  • Improvements to the immune system – potentially benefitting; crohns, lupus, arthritis, cancer, asthma, etc
  • Improvements for sufferers of inflammatory diseases incl. arthritis
  • Increased physical performance

A cold shower a day keeps the doctor away.

Wim  explains that as we now live in centrally heated houses and go outdoors in quality warm clothing, we avoid the exposure to the cold that our ancestors had.  As a consequence our biggest organ, the skin, is no longer exercised like it once was.  We feel the cold more because our body’s have lost the ability to adapt.  Like any muscle, our body needs to be exercised to perform well.  Wim explains that cold exposure induces a controlled stress or Hermetic shock response on the body, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, causing all those billions of blood vessels in our cardio vascular system to open and close, to react and adapt. Of course historically we were always working in the cold and our bodies were accustomed and able to react to changing temperatures.  Today, the cold is a shock and uncomfortable, but your body can be taught to expect that shock, control it and adapt.

The book explains that the simplest way to achieve this acclimatisation is via a cold shower.  Start slowly, after your warm shower switch to 15 seconds in the cold. Then gradually build up the cold by a further 15 seconds per week, building to 3-4 minutes. By breathing steadily through the cold, you will overcome the shock response and the water won’t feel as cold.   Cold shock increases the body’s production of Norepinephrine by 200-300% – this is a drug that is precribed to improve mood, focus, anxiety, mental health!  This is why people report feeling exhilarated after cold exposure. It also increases the production of Mitochondria which produces heat energy in the cells. The energy comes from burning fat. Studies has also shown improved muscle endurance and recovery. 

As our body adapts the shock is less pronounced and you will come to enjoy the process. 

Breathwork

There’s a lot about Breathwork in books and online now. The more I read the more I realise that this is something we all need to understand more of. The way you breathe affects your autonomic nervous system which triggers all sorts of hormones.  In small doses these are good e.g. The fight and flight response, but if you spend all day in that state, perhaps through stress,  that adrenaline and cortisol will cause inflammation in the body, leading to possible health problems from the gut to your skin.  Thus by understanding the effects of our breath; fast rapid = stress, slow controlled = calm and recovery, we can train our body and control how we react to situations,  control our body chemistry and improve our long term health.

The Wim Hof Method basic breathing consists of 3-4 rounds of 30 deep breaths followed by an extended exhaled breath hold, then inhale and hold. Repeated 3-4 times.  The process takes 20-25 minutes.  Part of the studies on Wim’s method revealed that he was able to change the body chemistry through the breath.  It turns the blood alkaline as a consequence of the deep rapid breathing flooding the blood with alkaline oxygen and exhaling the acidic CO2. Then with long breath holds, the brain’s adrenal axis is alerted by the falling oxygen levels and becomes trained to withstand it and overcome stress.  

Wim has a cool press up exercise to demonstrate the effect that breath work can have on the body.   Following a round of basic breathing, with now alkaline blood,  you can do many more press-ups than before. It works, I do it every day!

Wim has several breath protocols for different applications; keeping warm, pre exercise, mood regulation, pain suppression, meditation, pre ice bath, altitude sickness, stress, even hangovers!  They consist of a varying number of deep breaths and holds either on the inhale or exhale, differing from the basic breathing in that none of the holds are for 5-20secs rather than minutes.  These tools are very helpful and work, you can read about it in my Wim Hof 90 day experience review coming up in a future post.


Aside: Related Breath reading: I’d highly recommend “Breathe” by James Nestor or “The Oxygen Advantage” by Patrick McKeown


Mind Control

Through his practices and independent scientific experiments, Wim was able to control his body temperature without the breath work, just by visualising and telling the body what to do.

It’s a state of mind, you tell your body what to do and it will respond.  It’s a form of trust”.  

Visualisation has been proven to be a valuable tool in other work and studies too e.g. with sportsman visualising skills.   Also, in medicine, the placebo effect shows that 40% of people get better purely on a placebo (sugar pill) alone as they believe they will get better.

So we know through independent study,  that there’s truth in the old saying “mind over matter”.  The trick is to believe it and do it, have trust and overcome the negative thoughts.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Your mindset and attitude plays a critical role in whether you will succeed or fail in an endeavour.  These techniques stretch back thousands of years, it’s only today through research that we have been able to measure and prove these effects scientifically. The trick says Wim, is to still the mind, focus on your intention, be that your breath, heartbeat or melting away pain – focus don’t allow other thoughts to cloud.  We all struggle with busy brains, but it’s a learned skill to ignore them.

The “beauty” of Wim’s method is that the process exercises all three elements together in a simple but very effective way.  You need to set yourself to go into the cold, and control your breathing and focus. By training our body to take control of it’s response in these simple circumstances, we are more able to control our response to other stress and pain.

“I know those first few seconds in the cold will be unpleasant…but my inner voice tells me to bloody get in the water…because it’s healthy and the right thing to do.”  

The Science

In the book and interviews, Wim does at times get a bit excited about his method and the science behind it.  He rattles out all the medical terms with abandon and can come across as a bit of a mad Dutchman.  You can tell that he’s frustrated by the scientific community, in that having proven that his methods work it isn’t being shouted from the rooftops and explored more from the scientific and medical communities. Who would not want better access to better mental and physical wellbeing? Having read the book I understand why he’s so desperate to get that message across. 

Wim’s methods have been tested many times now by different doctors and researchers across the globe.  The book goes into more depth about some of those experiments and studies, with external references should you wish to follow them up.  Some you can watch on YouTube.  It’s worth taking the time to understand what’s going on, rather than just jumping straight into showers and breathing, it’s simple, but you also need to do it right. 

Investigative journalist Scott Carney attended one of Wim’s retreats with the intention of exposing him as a charlatan.  However, instead he was convinced, accompanied Wim to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in record time, in just a pair of boots and shorts, and went on to write a best best selling book “What doesn’t kill you” about his experiences with the method.  Another good book to read!  

There are many compelling stories and testimonials in the book from Doctor’s, Athletes, Navy SEALs. Patients cured of IBS, Crohn’s, MS, Arthritis etc.  The Facebook forums are similarly full of positive stories too. Wim advises against using the method if you are pregnant or suffer from or have had the following: Epilepsy, High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, Stroke.  

Why do you not know more about these methods?  Why doesn’t your doctor recommend them?  Because medical training is focused on medicines, a pill for an ill, and drug research is funded by big pharmaceutical companies (Big Pharma) and there’s no money in breathing, a cold shower or thinking yourself better.  It’s the same story for nutrition, you have to find it out yourself – the information is out there, in books like this.

Summary & verdict

I’ve read this book twice.  The first got me started on the method and I’ve re-read it after 90 days of using the method.  I’ve learned a lot more that I’d not taken in the first time.  I think this is a very powerful book and one that everyone should read and take heed of. If we all took charge of our health rather than relying on doctors to sort symptoms later, there would be far fewer ill’s, pills and hospital visits.  It requires a certain amount of effort, discipline and discomfort, but the benefits are proven. 

Each of the  3 disciplines stand on their own but they are more powerful when combined.   Wim has been able to demonstrate that under lab conditions and train others.  

There’s a good FAQ section at the back of the book to answer questions that you may have at the start or during your journey.

There is starting to be a shift towards more holistic living, the evidence is building and social media is providing a platform for the informed to share and to educate. If you are interested in hearing Wim discuss his methods in depth, there is lots of content on YouTube (not all useful) but the stuff by Wim clearly is.  He’s also shared in-depth interviews with many high profile doctors and I’d recommend that you listen to their Podcasts and YouTube content:

My 3 take aways

I’ve documented my experiences in full here but my 3 take aways would be:

  • Take cold showers – they are medically proven to improve health and you get to enjoy them.
  • Breath work is powerful. It’s not as woo woo as I thought and the different patterns really do work
  • The mind is far more powerful than we realise. Take control of your thoughts and direct them where you want to go, move away from thoughts that don’t serve you.

Where to Buy

Amazon UK

Book Review The Wim Hof Method - Book Cover Image

About The Author

Wim Hof - Close-up photo

Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof got his nickname “The Iceman” by breaking a number of records related to cold exposure including: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot, and standing in a container while covered with ice cubes for more than 112 minutes.

Using “cold, hard nature” as his teacher, his extensive training has enabled him to learn to control his breathing, heart rate, and blood circulation and to withstand extreme temperatures.

Wim’s life story is threaded through the book and is interesting and humbling. From his troubled birth, not fitting in at school, the death of his wife through to his life’s mission in spreading the word about his potentially life enhancing method. 

Where to find Wim online:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Further Book Info:
  • Published Date: 24th Sept 2020
  • Publisher: Rider
  • Page Count: 224

Coming up in my next post is a 90 Day Experience of The Wim Hof Method. I’ll be sharing my personal experiences of following Wim’s method. Including scaring the dogs with deep breathing exercises and cold shower shrieks:-) Don’t miss it, new post will be available over the weekend…

MrTT (Dave)

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