Finland gets cold. Its territory runs far above the arctic circle and its not uncommon for temperatures to be in the -20s or lower. Could there be a better territory for a man who has been dubbed “The Iceman” for his uncanny feats in the cold extremes?
In January of 2007, the temperature in Finland was -35 degrees. Wim Hof, barefoot and in shorts, would run the world's fastest half marathon barefoot and in snow, clocking in at just over 2 hours—and this is just one of many instances where Hof pushes his body to the limits.
Wim holds 26 Guinness World Records in all. He has topped Mount Kilimanjaro and climbed much of Everest in just shoes and shorts. In 2011 he would also run a marathon in the Namib Desert without water. Wim has completed feats that are simply unexplainable. They defy science, yet they have happened under the watchful eye of scientists.
Perhaps the most incredible feat that was monitored by scientists took place in the Netherlands where Wim submerged himself in a cylinder of ice water for nearly two hours. He was able to sustain a core temperature for the whole time and was under the watchful eye of a UMC scientist professor Maria Hopeman.
The only thing that may be more astounding than his feats is the fact that he believes anyone can do these things!
The Wim Hof Method
Wim has since created and documented a method, The Wim Hof Method, that he uses to achieve these radical feats. His school of thought has slowly been gaining traction in the body hacking community, as people find how to manipulate their bodies to perform miraculous feats. The method is largely based on these three pillars:
1. Cold Therapy
This pillar is explained as proper exposure to cold and it is said to have an incredible amount of health benefits.
Proper exposure to the cold starts a cascade of health benefits, including the buildup of brown adipose tissue and resultant fat loss, reduced inflammation that facilitates a fortified immune system, balanced hormone levels, improved sleep quality, and the production of endorphins
The Wim Hof breathing method is used to saturate the body with oxygen. It involves a steady influx of deep breaths and will make you feel lightheaded. This rush of oxygen to the body also has tremendous health benefits
The final and most important pillar of all is the commitment. It’s the commitment to the cold and the to the breathing. If you can commit to this Wim believes that you can achieve the feats and health benefits that he has as well.
Why it works: Manipulation of Sp02 and HRV
So, what does science have to say about this real life cryomancer? It would seem he is impervious to cold, disease and discomfort in general. Wim has been characterized as an autodidact who has the ability to control his bodies circulation
The isolation of two key biometrics allows the WHM or Wim Hof Method to be measured not just in the man himself but in anyone who attempts his method. These markers are called SP02 and HRV.
“is a measure of how much oxygen the blood is carrying and can be measured using a pulse oximeter without using a needle. This is a percentage of how much oxygen is in your blood compared to the maximum it is capable of carrying.”
How it applies to the WHM:
In relation to Wim’s success he uses a method that will oversaturate the blood with oxygen. In this way he is able to get blood to the parts of his body that need it. This would explain things like being able to run a full marathon, in the freezing cold without much training.
Understanding your heart rate variability will help you understand your overall health and how your body is operating. There are two distinct types of heart rate variability and they are very different. While most people assume the heart beats like a metronome it's not true. In fact, your body is constantly changing process and taking on new duties. These require more or less blood; thus, the heart rate will vary.
Finding out how your heart beats daily routine will give you a hint to what improvements can be made in your own lifestyle.
HIGH HRV Generally speaking, higher heart rate variability is indicative of the control of the parasympathetic system, one of the two sides of the autonomic nervous system. This system is responsible for regulating the body's unconscious actions including sexual arousal, salivation, and digestion––often called the “rest and digest” system.
LOW HRV Low variance in between heart beats, or a consistent heartbeat, indicates a dominance of the sympathetic system. This system's primary process is to stimulate the body's fight-or-flight response but, when experienced without a threat, is signaling stress, overtraining, and inflammation.
How it applies to the WHM:
Based on studies the very best method for developing high heart rate variability is through cold therapy. This cold therapy has been measured and studied by many people and the results are resoundingly similar.
Consider this from Todd Becker of gettingstronger.org
“The activity that has delivered the single biggest improvement to HRV for me has been…cold showers! This has also been the most consistent and most immediate of all the measures I’ve tried.”
“cold showers appear to have improved my stress tolerance, by buffering emotional reactions. What I mean by this is that bad news, surprises, arguments, or events that would have previously caused a brief surge in adrenaline or an emotional flush, no longer have that effect, or at most have a very attenuated effect.”
Measuring the Effects SP02 and HRV in Real Time
There is only one way to see how your body is truly functioning. You can do all the breathing exercises and cold therapy you want but without the ability to measure your blood oxygen levels and heart rate variability you could merely be suffering from the placebo effect.
When you get sick and head into an urgent care facility, or your primary care physician, you will get a small clip placed on your finger and that is called a pulse oximeter. It checks for a percentage of oxyhemoglobin in the blood stream. This machine will sound if the levels are dangerously low.
Using this tool coupled with some monitoring script, you have the ability to not only measure these levels in your blood but also document them for later analysis.
A complete setup was put together by Alan Reiner of www.alanreiner.com he also documented his results. While the setup was a bit crude and rigged together it open the doors to understanding and measuring the effects of the WHM.
Observe his trial and his setup of the hardware and the script HERE
The Practicality of the Wim Hof Method
While you may not be looking to become the next Sub Zero there are some serious health benefits that have been attributed to this method. The missing link between all of this was having a way to monitor the effects on the body. Biometric tech is lagging behind the tidal wave of science that is hitting the average person. This won’t be the case for very long.
Measuring your body's performance and understanding how you can affect it with these simple therapies is just one example. If the Wim Hof Method can afford its creator the ability to swing 66 meters under the ice of a frozen lake there are many ways it can help you with your own life goals.
Stress relief and limiting inflammation are two massive health benefits that we can also affect with diet and exercise. How about boosting natural immunity?
While studies and research in this field can stir up tons of questions. I think one stands out more than any other. With robotics and tech advancements stealing the headlines, what is the human body truly capable of?