This is a post written and shared on our fb page following Mark’s 5 day retreat with Wim Hof in August 2016.
Health, Happiness and Strength: 5 days with Wim Hof “The Iceman”
Wim is an extraordinary individual, you only need to take a look at his achievement list to determine whether you think he is inspiring or simply crazy!
Wim holds over 20 world records including the longest time in an ice bath for 1 hour 52 minutes. He’s managed to climb most of the way up Mount Everest, all the way up Mount Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts and sandals. Wearing only shorts, he has also ran a marathon near the arctic circle in -20 degree cold. Not limited to the cold, he also completed a marathon in the Namib Desert with no water in temperatures 40 degrees and above.
Other scientific experiments have seen Wim and a group of his students be injected with live bacteria and endotoxins which his methods have been shown to eliminate from the body in 15 minutes.
He has taught his methods to some of the biggest names in sport and entertainment in the world. A number of athletes currently competing in Rio have trained under Wim. Wim also was recently called to a venue where Beyonce was scheduled to perform in Amsterdam. She had been suffering a bad cold for a few weeks and had heard about Wim’s method. He took Beyonce, Jay Z and her whole dance team through his breathing methods and her cold disappeared shortly after.
If you care to search for and watch some of the documentaries about Wim, you will find his story is inspiring, not only for his feats, but also largely connecting to his desire to feel alive again after losing his beloved wife and left to raise 4 young boys.
How I came to know of Wim:
I first heard about Wim Hof around 2 years ago on one of my favourite health and fitness podcasts – Ben Greenfield. He was talking about the benefits of cold thermogenesis.
Controlled frequent exposure to the cold has shown to have many benefits including:
- Lowering body fat
- Reduce stress levels
- Increasing hormone levels (mood and happy hormones)
- Improving sexual performance and fertility
- Lowering blood sugar
- Cutting food cravings
- Improving adrenal function
- Fixing thyroid issues
- Enhancing immune function
- Improving deep sleep quality
- Increasing pain tolerance
- Reducing inflammation
At the time I had started to take control of my health but was frankly ashamed to take off my top and expose my beer belly. Every year I was also prone to getting nasty winter coughs and colds – a repeating pattern for as long as I can remember. I thought to myself, I need to give something else a go, because nothing I’d tried prior was successful or sustainable long term for me.
I started out taking quick cold showers at night – literally in and out. Whilst the initial shock was like opening the door direct to the Antarctic, after a few days my body started reconditioning itself and I was able to spend longer under the shower in full cold water. One of the first benefits I noticed was better sleep.
Cold showers and plunges into cold water in nature are frequent for me. I start my morning shower hot and finish it cold – a great way to start the day alert and fresh. I also take the opportunity wherever I can to spontaneously jump in the beach, river or creek if it’s nice and cold. I can hand on heart say I am a beneficiary of all of the above listed benefits as a result of getting over the need to be warm and cosy. It has also helped my resilience to the cold during winter. The cold paired with other strategies has seen me thrive through nearly 3 winters without getting sick with a cold, cough or flu.
Apart from holding an incredible mindset to achieve world record feats of all things to do with the cold, Wim is extremely well known for his unique breathing techniques he has acquired as a result of testing himself to the limits.
His breathing techniques balance the body from an acidic to alkaline state. This was proven during our first round of breathing exercises at the retreat. People were given urine tester strips to measure rises in acidity to alkalinity – every person tested went from acidic to alkaline. Wim has spent countless hours donating his time to scientific research with his methods being published in some of the most prestigious scientific medical journals.
The Wim Hof Method takes Cold Therapy, Breathing and Mindset all combined to tap deep into the nervous system and immune system. His mantra is that everyone deserves to be:
“Happy, Healthy and Strong”
All of the above were big catalysts in me choosing to attend his retreat.
Who was there:
I arrived at the airport and all we had been told to simply meet at the International Terminal. It was amazing how a bunch of strangers just magnetically attracted each other and grouped together. We all waited in anticipation until finally the event organiser and Wim appeared. Wim gave us all a brief rev up about how we were going to tap into strength, health and happiness and then hit the airport floor into one of his signature 1 handed horizontal planks.
We arrived at the holiday camp nearing the great ocean road for a late dinner. After Wim gave a quick talk we were left to all get to know one another. It would become evident early that there were some great people there. Over the course of the 5 days I met some truly inspiring people, all climbing their own Mount Everest in some way, shape or form. There were people taking on serious disease diagnoses such as cancer, leukaemia and auto immune conditions. People who were insane athletes, movers and big wave surfers. People who were performers mastering their nerves. Others were kicking past instances with depression and anxiety in the butt. People who had overcome addiction and times in the dark. People who had been shot at protecting the safety of our community and many who were simply there to give two big middle fingers to get over their fear and say F@#$k the cold!
I’ve attended a lot of retreats and workshops over the past few years, but this crew was seriously a bunch of awesome people that filled each day with love, laughs, tears, hugs, high fives, snoring in dorms, in depth conversations and friendly banter. Nightly dinners in the mess hall had everyone buzzing and felt like a busy pub atmosphere.
The energy of the group, resilience and willingness of all to participate and brothers and sisters supporting and cheering on their fellow tribe was so great to be apart of.
What I learnt:
On day one we were guided by Wim firstly through a few of his breathing techniques. He outlined the science about each method and how to put it into practise. We then followed up with our first journey into the ice baths. A plunge for 2 minutes in a 1 degree ice filled kiddy pool. Given my previous exposure to the cold, I handled this pretty well. We would later engage in what Wim calls his “horse pose” a deep, wide squat position. Holding this pose we would do a 15 minute active meditation. All of this was finished off with some fun circle games.
Each day we would increase the intensity in the breathing, length of the ice baths and length of the horse pose meditation.
Come day 5 many people had some very profound experiences through breathing, we danced in the horse position for 45 minutes and smashed out 10 minutes in the ice bath.
Some of my favourite things included:
- Wims guitar playing and freestyle vocals while doing breath work – in particular the line “get funkyyyyyyy, funky like a monkeyyyyyy, start a revolution babyyyyy”
- Wim getting very deep and spiritual then switching to a joke or comment that was a little “taboo”
- How humble and accessible such a great teacher was
- No guru status – Wim believes everyone can achieve what he has if they stick to the methods and he wants everyone in the world to be happy, healthy and strong.
My personal experience:
Entering the retreat my main intention was to go deep into my body with the breathing exercises. I have been working through different breathing techniques for a while now. Through my research I found Wim is someone at the top of the tree when it comes to learning deep breathing.
I certainly had some different experiences and sensations than I’d had doing any other breath work, but at the time none of the new methods really sparked huge excitement that I was chasing, it was frustrating me. This would probably be the reason I didn’t experience what I was looking for, I just needed to step back and allow it. The experience I was chasing all 5 days came to me unexpectedly on the night I got home when I had a big breakthrough.
I was challenged – physically, emotionally and mentally…
…There were days where I certainly nearly didn’t get in the ice bath, but the energy of the group dragged me through and smashing out the 10 minutes was exhilarating!
…Bunking in dorms naturally made for lighter sleep than usual, especially considering we had the self introduced “freight train” in our room.
…Sometimes I just didn’t want to take another deep breath, my monkey mind just couldn’t be bothered, but I continued to breath.
…I missed being away from my family, especially being away from my daughter for the first time, but nightly calls and the love and support from home got me through.
…Sometimes I regretted not taking action to change my life sooner, sitting in awe of some of the amazing athletic feats some people were achieving, knowing I once had that energy and athleticism.
I am returning to this place of energy and vitality, I’m not too old and have many years of moving my body to come.
Breaking through all of the above was part of the experience and the reason I was there. Wim’s intention was for us to break through our own self imposed conditioning, get over our fears and limitations and access a state where we can go deep within ourselves to find that place that holds the keys to our happiness, health and strength.
The 5 days turned out to be memorable ones, an experience I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to partake in.
The highlights for me were:
- Being in the presence of such a humble teacher, an inspiring man who literally fears not death, but to not live fully
- Breaking through my conditioning – I am not too old, it’s not too cold, I have strength, I have vitality
- 61 amazing brothers and sisters connecting
- Peoples willingness to be authentic, open and vulnerable in sharing their journey
- Feeling comfortable walking around shirtless again
- Inspiring tales of courage from Wim and participants
- Smashing 10 minutes submerged in freezing ice
- Learning to do a headstand
- Doing 55 pushups with no air in my lungs
- Finding new energy – a motivation to move
- Inspiration to continue on my path of health and vitality
- Spending time in nature in a beautiful location
- The love, laughs, tears and general banter and the friendships formed to go with.
Thank you Wim Hof for your generosity, humour, compassion, empathy, inspiration, humbleness and love. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be in your presence and learn from you.
Thank you to my retreat brothers and sisters for being a crazy, inspiring wonderful tribe of people to hang with for 5 days.
Thank you to Dalice for supporting me in going on such an adventure.
“Health, Happiness and Strength” – a pretty good set of values to strive for in my book.
If you’d like to learn some breathing techniques, maybe how to meditate, some strategies to help reduce stress or just cultivate some extra energy in your life please drop me a line, I’d love to work with you.
You can reach me by emailing email@example.com or calling 0490 490 364.
Raise the Bar Higher, Inspire and Be Inspired!