After my last post written for people just learning the Wim Hof Method, someone responded on Reddit pointing out that I didn’t explain what benefits I get from the WHM. That last post was really targeted for people who already decided to do WHM, but it’s a fair point I should also include some information for those that are thinking about WHM (or doing cold showers in general). While collecting the list of personal benefits for my response it surprised me just how much has changed about me in the last five months. It is worth dedicating a post just to this!
I wouldn’t call myself a lazy person, but I’m certainly not an active person. I have struggled for years to work out consistently, and usually only succeed in short bursts of 2-12 weeks at a time. Then I don’t work out for months. It’s always been a chore, and an exercise in willpower to actually put in the effort. I also have chronic lower back problems that I believe is partly due to lack of physical flexibility. My efforts to keep up a stretching routine have been equally inconsistent to my workout routine.
Most importantly, I feel healthier. Sure, my lifestyle is healthier, and the individual things that I do should lead to being healthier. But being healthier has not always led to a quality-of-life improvement. Perhaps that’s one reason that I haven’t been consistent with working out, etc. The redditor who inspired this post pointed out that many of the benefits I listed (below) may have come from simply being a more active person, not necessarily cold showers or WHM. In my mind, if it was the training that led me to being more active, I’m not sure the distinction is relevant. It improved my life!
- I have cut my caffeine consumption to 1/3 because the cold showers have replaced the need for it. The 1/3 remaining is because I love lattes and didn’t want to give them up completely.
- I have chronic lower back problems, for which I get regular steroid (anti-inflammatory) injections. Since starting WHM, my pain levels and frequency have dropped significantly. This is likely due to the daily burst of natural anti-inflammatory hormones from the cold showers. I’m not cured by any means, but it’s very noticeably improved.
- The higher energy levels have led me to work out more often. I find myself wanting to workout, rather than it being a chore. I still don’t workout a lot: 2-3 times per week… but better than the 0-2 before.
- Additionally, I rarely get sore from working out any more. Despite doing harder workouts, I generally feel only a hint of soreness the next day or two (you generally should take a cold shower or bath more than one hour after your workout for this benefit)
- One leading cause of my back problems is tight muscles. Through the program I have been stretching consistently, almost every day of the week. Part of it is the routine, part of it is the increased energy levels.
- My workouts have definitely gotten more intense as I’ve improved oxygen throughput through WHM-like breathing while working out. See my post about working out with WHM breathing.
- My hands and feet barely get cold anymore in the house. Like my back pain, it’s not cured, but it’s far less frequent and less intense.
- Although I was always pretty tolerant of cold weather, I am now energized by it. I dug out our walkway and cars after the last snowstorm in a T-shirt and without gloves. Not only did I feel warm, I felt great the rest of the day (I guess much like taking a cold shower…but more productive).
- Through some combination of all the above, I’ve been losing about 1-1.5 lbs per month. It’s not a lot, but it’s consistent. It’s also surprising because I’m fairly certain my appetite has increased.
- Immune system: I did have a 36-hour battle with norovirus that hit everyone in my family and workplaces. Otherwise, I seemed to have avoided most of what went around, and what I did “catch” was mild enough that I’m not sure if I ever got sick or if I just had allergies. Not sure if it’s a stronger immune system or I just got lucky.
- I do have year-round, inconsistent allergies. Those have not improved.
- Generally improved mood, probably related to the increased energy. It’s difficult to describe, but I’m more patient now, especially relevant with a 10-month old kid that likes destroying things.
Something else that isn’t necessarily a QoL thing, but still relevant: WHM has taught me an interesting exercise technique which I have only started to unlock. In week seven, you do a 10-minute horse stance, using your breathing and focus to “wash away” the muscle fatigue (lactic acid buildup). I’m not wonderful at it yet, but I have been able to apply to my pushups and planks. Most people learn the 30-WHM-breaths-then-exhale-hold pushup technique early in the course (it’s basically a party trick, but still educational). I have now been able to extend my pushup counts even further by focusing on the muscles being stressed and pushing out the fatigue. I have been able to do this with planks as well — last time I did it I almost made it 4 minutes! I believe this is the mechanism Wim Hof uses to run marathons in extreme conditions with no training whatsoever.
There’s a lot to digest there, but all of it is true. Many of the effects are subtle (such as mood & energy levels), but when all taken together lead to a noticeably healthier lifestyle. I think everyone will find something different from it — for instance I’m not a spiritual person but I read about a lot of people who find spirituality through this method. YMMV, but I believe there’s a lot to like for everyone who tries it!