When I attended an advanced Wim Hof Workshop. I knew it would include breathwork, mindset, commitment and an ice bath, but I didn’t know that it would include FOUR ice baths! Brrrr.
While I do the Wim Hof breathwork daily, I’m definitely a novice when it comes to the ice baths. The last time I did a cold plunge was in a pool in Bansko several months ago – in summer. I
I don’t have a bathtub, so I’ve tried cold showers, but admittedly most of my showers aren’t actually cold, but rather cool only lasting 30 seconds vs the recommended 30 minutes.
While, I probably should have been in the Wim Hof Fundamentals Workshop, it was sold out, so I signed up for the one-day Advanced Workshop being held in Sofia. Then two days later pleaded to be moved into the Fundamentals Workshop but to no avail. It was still sold out.
My Motivation for Enrolling in the Advanced Wim Hof Workshop
I was nervous about it but motivated since I’m suffering from long-term covid for the second time (almost 11 months later), which has resulted in exercise-induced high blood pressure.
Meaning that after exercising or hiking up a mountain for just a few minutes, my heart rate gets excessively high. I visited a cardiologist about it during my first bout of Covid, who stopped the stress test for fear that I’d have a heart attack since my heart rate reached dangerous levels after just 4 minutes on an exercise bike.
He’s the one who diagnosed me with exercise-induced high blood pressure. While he could see the problem, he couldn’t offer any real solutions since my resting blood pressure is on the low side. As a result, he didn’t prescribe taking medication to lower my blood pressure because it’s fine until I start exercising.
That’s resulted in a frustrating couple of years of hiking. While I usually enjoy multi-peak days of hiking, that’s not possible at the moment. I can still hike and do hike regularly, but I’m slow, far below my usual moderate pace.
That means I’ve had to do easier hikes than I’d normally do, or if I do attempt something harder, my hiking buddies are having to wait for me. Something I find extremely frustrating, not to mention embarrassing.
That’s why I was motivated to sign up for the Wim Hof Workshop. I believe breathwork and ice baths could be part of the solution when it feels like I’ve tried everything else. While it’s too soon to tell if the Wim Hof Method will have me back to my usual hiking self, I did get some takeaways right away from the workshop that I want to share, as I think they’ll be helpful to you too.
Disclaimer: I’m in no way affiliated with Wim Hof and am not being paid or compensated for this post. This is written purely from my perspective.
Here are my 6 takeaways from the Icebaths and BreathworkAdvanced Wim Hof Workshop and how it applies to real life:
1. We often condition ourselves to think we need to do xx first before we can do yy. But is that really true?
Almost immediately after the workshop started, we had to do our first ice bath without doing the breathwork that you usually do first. This caught me by surprise, and my initial thought; how F*%$, how am I going to do this without doing the breathwork first?
That was the whole point of this exercise. We’ve conditioned ourselves to think we need to do the breathwork to prepare for an ice bath or that we need to do xx first before we can do yy. But is that really true?
Despite my initial panic, it turns out that I can do a 3-minute ice bath without doing the breathwork. It left me pondering, what else can I do without thinking I have to do something else first? I brainstormed a few ideas that I’m not ready to share but found it empowering to acknowledge, then challenge my beliefs around this.
For example, maybe you want to start hiking, but you’re thinking you need to start exercising first. Is that really true? While, of course, exercise would be beneficial if you want to start hiking, isn’t it also true that you could start hiking first without getting in great shape? 100%
I.e. You could start by choosing a short easy hike with minimal elevation gain. Your hike could be part of your exercise plan, and then as you become stronger, you can gradually build up to longer hikes.
2. The Best Way to Do Something Hard Is Just Do It
No one likes getting into an ice bath. The first few seconds are brutal as the ice water hits your skin, and you start shivering. Yes, doing breathwork first can make it easier, but it’s still going to be tough. You know what makes it even more challenging? Thinking about doing it. The anticipation of it makes it much harder. So just do it.
A couple of years ago, I had to let a contractor go. I liked her as a person but wasn’t happy with the quality of her work. I should have done it long before I did, but it was hard, especially as I knew that she needed the work, so I kept postponing. My frustration grew each week increasingly with no signs of improvement. Months later, I finally let her go.
It was unpleasant for both of us but would have been easier had I done it months earlier. I challenge you to ask yourself, What hard thing do you need to do but keep postponing? Then do it.
3. You’re Capable of More Than You Think You Are
At the Wim Hof Advanced Workshop, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be lucky enough to just get one icebath. I expected another one that would be longer than the first 3-minute ice bath, so maybe one for 4 minutes? That sounded reasonable.
I was wrong. We were to do not, not one, not two, but three more ice baths with only a 6-minute break in between. Panic immediately set in. I felt my heart start to beat rapidly, even though I was sitting down. There was no way I could do all three ice baths, especially since, let’s be honest, I was far from advanced in my ice bath practice.
But somehow, I did. Was it hard? YES. Was it pleasant? There were moments it was bearable, but there were also moments it was pure hell. Am I happy that I did 4 ice baths? Hell ya!
If I could do 4 ice baths in one day, which I thought was an impossible feat at the beginning of the day, what else could I do? I made a list, and while I won’t share everything, I will share that I’ve decided I want to try ski touring this season.
It’s something I had previously thought was impossible due to my current blood pressure issues and wanting to be a better skier first. I’m aware of my abilities and won’t start with something you’d see out of a Warren Miller extreme skiing movie, but I can start ski touring on a gentle slope or even on the ski hill in Bansko to get used to climbing up the mountain, then skiing down the slope.
I invite you to think of something you don’t think you can do, then go for it. Don’t worry, I have two more tips below to help make it easier.
4. Surround Yourself with People Who Also Believe They Can Do It (or are at least willing to try)
Had I been by myself, there’s not a chance I would have done four ice baths of 3-minutes each over the course of a few hours. Nada! No way! However, in the group setting, everyone was game for it, even if they had some self-doubt.
We would enter the ice bath holding hands in solidarity. Knowing we were all in this together. We’d cheer and congratulate each other when it was over. You’ve heard it before, but who you surround yourself with will have a HUGE impact on how successful you are – or aren’t. So choose your inner circle wisely.
I invite you to look at the people who you spend the most time with. Are they helping you become the best version of yourself in some aspect of your life? Or bringing joy to your life? (And you’re hopefully doing the same for them). If not, it may be time to spend less time with them.
If you have a big goal, whether it’s to start a business, run a marathon, or hike the Tour du Mont Blanc, then surround yourself with people who all have similar goals by joining a group or an activity focused on that goal. It will have a HUGE impact on helping you reach that goal.
5. Your Mindset Matters: Choose Your Focus with Intention
When you go into the ice bath at the Wim Hof Workshop, everyone is asked to be quiet so that the people taking the ice bath can go inwards. You’re told to close your eyes, focus on your breathing and go inwards.
Just by focusing on your breath, the cold water becomes much easier to tolerate than if you focus on how cold you are. If I had focused on how cold I was, there’s no way I could have completed all four ice baths.
Instead, during the difficult moments (of which I had plenty) when I caught myself inevitably questioning how much longer I could stay in the freezing water or how cold I was, I redirected my attention back to my breath. Deep breath in, deep breath out, and repeat.
Developing your mindset so that you can focus is a practice. I found that part fairly easy as I meditate daily, often for just 5 minutes, but it really helps. If you don’t already meditate, I invite you to try. A great way to get started is by finding a 5-minute guided meditation on YouTube or a meditation app. Experiment with different ones until you find a few that resonate with you.
You may not notice much of a difference at first, but over time the effects accumulate. It’s like exercise. You don’t get fit from exercising once, but you do get fit with regular exercise. I think daily meditation is one of the most life-changing things you can do.
6. Use Breathwork (Like Wim Hof Power Breathing)To Discover Deeper Inside Yourself
In the Advanced Wim Hof Workshop, we did power breathing. The main difference between that and the regular Wim Hof breathwork is that you hold your breath on the inhale and not the exhale, and you do it for longer.
We did it for just over an hour. Almost everyone had a psychedelic experience – just from the breathwork, no drugs. After the breathwork was done, we had time to meditate to let it all sink in. This is such an important time. It’s where you get those aha moments.
While I didn’t have a breakthrough in this session, I realized that I’m capable of so much more than I thought I was and have been holding back in many areas of my life.
Our instructor, Bart, said it’s not uncommon for people to cry as they discover hurt or emotional trauma that they’ve been holding on to. He said sometimes, one person starts crying, then another and before long, most of the group is crying. That didn’t happen in my workshop, but it can be intensely powerful.
So often, we spend so much time outside ourselves looking for answers when I believe all the answers we need are within ourselves. We just need to give ourselves the time and space to discover them without distractions. The combination of breathwork and meditation is a potent concoction to do this.
I invite you to take the time to do this. Here’s a link to Wim Hof breathwork videos in different languages. Note: the power breathing isn’t listed here, but you can find more info about it on their website or app.
I’m also a fan of Breathe with Sandy, which has videos using different breathwork techniques, some as short as five minutes!
What Is the Wim Hof Method?
The Wim Hof Method combines breathwork and cold therapy with a focus on commitment and mindfulness to “WIM HOF METHOD” is a way to keep your body and mind in its optimal natural state. Here’s the science behind the method.
Benefits of the Wim Hof Method
- more energy,
- reduced stress levels, a
- improved immune response
- fat loss
- reduced inflammation
- balanced hormone levels,
- improved sleep quality,
- more endorphins— which boost your mood
The workshop hasn’t worked miracles in making me love cold exposure – I still hate cold showers. But now I do them right after my breathwork without giving them as much thought as I used to and trying to delay them. I’ve noticed I have more energy and my skin seems brighter. My breathholds are still a long way from being “normal” but they’re improving.
So while it’s too early to know if the Wim Hof Method will help me get back to my usual level of fitness when it comes to hiking, I’m glad I attended the Advanced Workshop as I got a lot of immediate takeaways.
Want to find out more about mindfulness and how walking and hiking can improve your life in all areas? Check out:
- How Changing Your Thoughts Can Make You Happier + Technique to Try When Hiking
- How Challenging Yourself on a Mountain Can Increase Your Confidence
We’ve got exciting stuff coming in the next few months. So be sure to sign up below: