A couple things happened at the same time that inspired my re-entry into WHM. The first was that some people from my job posted about a team polar plunge. I had been meaning to get back into WHM at some point, and this seemed like good motivation, like my wife signing up for running races primarily as a motivation to train regularly. When I got online to check out what’s new in Wim’s world, I found a new “book” co-written by him, published a few days ago. It $10 on Amazon: The Way of the Iceman. It’s a pretty short read for $10, but probably worth it for most people.
The Way of the Iceman (short book)
I wanted to share some insight from the book which I found inspiring. The book is less about how to do WHM, and more like a survey of the latest research and understanding of both WHM and cold exposure in general. It turns out there’s a lot of compelling evidence showing that cold exposure produces very positive effects on your body, even when completely unrelated to WHM. Apparently there’s a compensatory effect from the cold that is similar in nature to the benefits of fasting: it is something our ancestors experienced as a matter of survival, and our genes developed in a way to leverage this stress to improve itself. In the case of fasting, it provides an opportunity for the body to use up fat reserves and flush out old, weak immune cells, making room for healthier ones to develop.
In the case of cold exposure, the most interesting effect seems to be the development and activation of “brown fat” (brown adipose tissue). It is a type of fat that burns fuel in the body directly to produce heat to stay warm (as opposed to producing energy for bodily functions). This is something that newborns have until about 9 months, but decays over time because we use clothing to keep ourselves warm, replacing the need for the natural biological process. However, we can rebuild brown fat [slowly] through exposure to the cold. This not only helps keep you warm when it’s cold, but helps burn calories in general which can help maintain good weight. Apparently, people with high quantities of brown fat tend not to gain weight as they age which improves multiple other markers of health.
Even without WHM, people told to take daily cold showers showed significantly improved blood pressure, cholesterol and other indicators of health.
Another thing I found interesting is discussion about blood vessels. Since getting back into WHM I’ve noticed a considerable decrease in the amount that my hands and feet feel cold in the house this winter. This has to do with the fact that blood vessels behave somewhat like muscles, and repeated hot-cold cycles cause the vessels to open and close repeated as a kind of exercise and/or stretching. Once they have strengthened/loosened up, the body has an easier time keeping them open to maintain sufficient circulation to the extremities.
There’s also quite a few case studies of people putting serious health conditions behind them through the use of the method. The book is very responsible about tempering expectations: WHM doesn’t cure anything, it just gives your body tools to operate with a wider range of options to various conditions. For instance, Crohn’s disease is essentially the body’s own immune system attacking itself. WHM helps you obtain conscious control of your immune system, allowing you to mitigate its intensity in attacking yourself.
The last thing I’ll mention is somewhat of a non-sequitur. It’s about the “fast-5 diet” which is the pattern of eating that Wim Hof does naturally (not because he tries to diet). It’s basically a diet where you only eat within a five-hour window every day, but you can eat whatever satiates you during that time. Wim’s diet has been like this for decades because that’s how he is. But apparently there is evidence that it can be extremely healthy, and without too much stress once the body adapts to it. This means your digestive system is at rest most of the day, which I guess is good for it …?
Back into WHM Training
I just finished my fourth day of getting back into WHM and it’s a little bit like riding a bike. The breathing/meditation was familiar, natural, and euphoric. And today was my fourth cold shower and I was able to do 2 minutes before the hot shower, and coasted into a state of relaxation for the cold shower afterwards, allowing me to comfortably stay there as long as my core temperature would allow me. It was 3-4 minutes, and probably could’ve gone longer.
I gotta say though: The water is “only” 45-50 deg F, and it feels like death. No matter how many times I do this, and no matter how comfortable I eventually get, I continue to be surprised by just how brutal the initial shock is. Nonetheless, I think it’s achievable to be able to swim around comfortably in the 30 deg water by the time of the polar plunge in a month.
WHM Training/Instructor Courses
Just found an “advanced” WHM course in LA in May. I think I’m going to sign up and use it as motivation to continue practicing after the plunge.
After signing up, I realized it is part of the “instructor” track. If you complete this module and the “Master” module, you get a certificate to become a WHM instructor. Amusingly, just before I made the mistake of signing up for this, I read someone else’s review claiming they accidentally signed up for the instructor course and that it was awesome, anyway. I think the premise is that WHM is so simple and with such measurable results, that if you can do it and you are good at communicating, you can also teach it.