After ending my weight loss challenge, I found myself looking for a strategy to improve my muscles and physicality. I was specifically searching for a routine that would not cause me to hurt myself. Most strategies in the past lead me to chronic lower back pain.
This method was suggested to me by my friend Ean Wood, who is encouraging breathwork and being present in the moment. The first time I did the deep breathing I enjoyed the way it made me feel and I bought into the practice. Just from deep breathing I could feel immediate improvement in my head and body.
The Wim Hoff Method is based on three pillars of practice.
- Cold Exposure
Through committed breath work and cold exposure, this program promised to be a transformative new style of health. Backed by practice and proven science, it was hard not to be excited. I embarked on another new experience that I am excited to share.
The first point of focus is deep breathing. Every day would start with 40 deep breathes followed by an exhale and breath hold. After reaching the limit of the breath hold, I would inhale deeply and hold again for 15 seconds.
The deep breathing is continuous and circular without pause. The app has a fantastic breathing counter that helps keep a steady pace.
After the 40 deep breaths, I surprised myself by passing 2 min on the breath hold! I was excited and looked forward to seeing how far I could go. Feeling great and ready for more.
The second area of focus started small at around 30 seconds. At first the freezing cold was an adrenaline rush. The water immediately triggered deep gasps in my breathing while raising my heart rate. As instructed I continued deep breathing to get through it. At the end I definitely felt refreshed and alert for the day.
The daily gradual cold exposure promotes a chemical change in the body that is scientifically proven. It increases endorphin production, which decreases stress while increasing happiness. Additionally it improves your cardiovascular system and immune system.
There were a number of challenges to choose from. I decided my area of focus was going to be a chest workout. My plan was to follow with core exercise in the second month.
In the past, I could never bring myself to do more than 20 push-ups in the morning. The program began small and increased every day. In the afternoon and evening the push-ups were double that of the morning.
- Morning 9 push-ups
- Afternoon 18 push-ups
- Evening 18 push-ups
The process was easy enough in the beginning and I was able to keep up. Before the exercise I would do 40 deep breaths and during the breath hold I would do the push-ups. When finished I would inhale.
Although the number of reps was small, I could feel the effect from doing them three times daily. My chest felt activated all day long.
In the middle weeks I surprised myself by reaching new record times for the breath hold!
On a number of occasions I went past the 3 min mark and could feel the deep feeling of relaxation over me. It was like breaking a barrier to a new level of meditation. Afterwards I would sit and enjoy the feeling for a bit.
After steadily doing cold showers I found myself wanting to go longer than suggested. Once acclimated to the temperature it felt good. I would start with my head and back until it was comfortable. Than I would rotate and get the cold on my face and under my arms. In each area after the initial shock of cold it would ease into relaxation.
I particularly noticed on mornings that I woke up groggy and tired, the cold shower was fantastic at getting me up and feeling great for the day.
The push-ups increased to a level that pushed my boundaries and began to take a steady toll. I found myself feeling moderately sore, yet after breathwork and a cold shower I felt rejuvenated. The cold was soothing and therapeutic on my muscles.
I would then follow the shower with the daily workout and reactivate my muscles. The small amount in the morning felt great to prepare for the heavier workout later in the day.
- Morning 20 push-ups
- Afternoon 40 push-ups
- Evening 40 push-ups
The breathing continued to be enjoyable throughout. I tried to get my kids to do it with me but they mostly laughed as I did it.
As the month closed out I had plenty of breath holds over 3 min. On that level I would feel a ringing in my ears and deep relaxation over my whole body. I would sit and relax until the sensation faded.
There were a few days where I felt congested like I may be getting sick. I noticed on these days that my breathing was drastically hindered, hitting only just over a minute on breath holds. The breathing practice increased my time, but nowhere near my best. I considered the possibility that the lack of oxygen could be factoring into my sickness.
I was a bit concerned that my cold shower would increase my sickness. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not the case. I continued to feel better and rejuvenated from the shower and believe it is possible that it prevented further sickness.
By the end of the challenge I was ready to increase cold exposure. I no longer had any hesitation and would just get right to it. Starting with my head and back, followed by my arms and sides, and than my face. I now tried to maximize the cold exposure by putting different parts such as my hands into the cold water as well.
What I found is that at this point there was no part of my body that didn’t respond well to the ice shower. After initial cold contact, the feeling quickly faded and became a relaxing experience. Just as described by Wim Hoff himself in the audio, it became a new meditative experience.
I was now doing drastically more push-ups than when I began. The push-ups challenge was clearly meant to push boundaries and it did.
- Morning 40 push-ups
- Afternoon 66 push-ups
- Evening 66 push-ups
I was unfortunately unable to keep up with doing all the push-ups at one time. I maxed out at around 40 and would then do an additional breathing session before finishing out the remaining push-ups.
By the end I did feel significantly sore. I made the decision that I would scale back the count and continue the daily routine while increasing gradually.
- Morning 20 push-ups
- Afternoon 40 push-ups
- Evening 40 push-ups
I committed to the month challenge and enjoyed the results. I feel active, full of energy, and healthy. At this time I am not experiencing any back pain. I am continuing the practice and moving forward with core exercises.
One of the principles I appreciated from the beginning was the idea to never force your body to do anything. I was able to let gradual commitment bring improvement, while pushing further slowly.
The bonus experience was the deep relaxation that came from the deep breathing sessions. The energy in my head and body after completing the breath holds is powerful. It is a unique experience that I am enjoying and will continue.
Continuing the practice into the next month, I have begun the ice shower challenge which will increase the time exposure even further. I may venture into some ice water as well. I am curious after an additional month how much further I can take the breath hold as well.
I will follow up my blog with the additional experience from month 2 of the Wim Hoff method. In the meantime if you have tried this method and have additional thoughts please share your experience!