I have been wanting to try this for a while now. I hesitated with the online program but when I saw a conference was taking place nearby i figured « why the hell not? » 😃
I did not know what to expect from the Wim Hof Method
THE EXPERIENCE :
I got there around 11am, just on time and scared to death bout being late and missing something. When 35 minutes went by and the intructors were telling us « ok we are still waiting for two people, if they are not here in 5 minutes we will start »…. I do not like being late or late people…
The whole thing took place in CrossfitGavroche in Paris. Great place with some of the best coffee I’ve had in a while.
The room we were in was not heated up. It must have been around 14 degrees celsius in there so we were in for a taste of the whole concept on the go.
1) Introduction :
After that 40 minute wait we all sat around in a great big circle and told everyone who we were, what we were here for, and how we came to know about the whole thing. It was more interesting than I thought to understand where, how and why everyone came in for this novel experience.
2) Yoga :
After that, YOGA for about 30 minutes : just to loosen up and open up the breathing muscles. I enjoyed that very much. I love yoga and the fact you work on entire chains of muscles and not just one single element of the whole thing. very relaxing on the go.
I am. Ot particularly advanced in yoga, so I learned a few ´ew postures I’ll be happy to use from here on.
Had the room been a bit warmer it might have helped a bit….
3) Breathing :
DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING :
We then got around to learning how to breathe diaphragmatically. It may seem obvious to some, but there were quite a few people who had never breathed with their diaphragm! I thoroughly enjoyed the different exercises were given. I sometimes have issues getting my clients to understand how to breathe while stretching, and the tools we were given will be of tremendous help.
They were logically progressed, and helped me breathe deeper than I thought I could.
We would breathe on the stomach, on the back, then sitting down, in that sequence to engage those breathing muscles before the actual practise. Being on the actual stomach let us feel our bellies press against it. On our backs, one hand on the stomach, the other on the chest were there to help us feely breathe with out diaphram without expanding our ribcage. Finally seqted where more control is needed.
Then came the actual « Wim Hof breathing ».
WIM HOF BREATHING :
I am going to explain it briefly, but the description here will probably not do it justice. I believe you need to see, hear, feel, and have someone correct you to get it right, but here goes :
One cycle of breathing : 30 FULL inhales by the nose and small (just letting go) exhales by the mouth. On that last exhale, just hold your breath for as long as possible. When you start gagging for air, and your stomach involuntarily contracts, then you take one long and deep breath by the nose that you hold for 10 seconds, and let go. That is one cycle.
On this first set of breathing we did 5 breathing cycles. That is a looooooot of hyperventilation. It was cold, my body was shivering,but we were told our bodies were meant to deal with it. Shiver if you need to shiver, shake if you need to shake. Get in tune with your body.
At first I started to feel a slight light headedness. Then after the second or third cycle, my hands were tingling, then my arms, and I could hardly feel them at the end.
The strangest thing was that on the fourth cycle…my head started banging, and my ears starting ringing, and then the sound of the room was dampening down…. And on the last cycle, I could start seeing bright lights and colours, like a small hallucination. I loved it because I found a state that I had only achieved through floating. I thought it was quite impressive for something as simple as breathing!
It must have taken me about 20 minutes to come back to a normal state. Kind of floaty and dizzy… a bit like after you get off q long run on a treadmill
I could tell I had charged myself, or changed myself. Something was going on inside. I could sense I was exploring something new.
We then had a nibble and a quick chat before going back into a second session of breathing, this time shorter, to get ready for the ICE BATH. Which is probably why we were all there in the first place.
This time around it wasn’t feel as intense. Maybe the first round prepares, or cleanses you for the second, maybe only doing three cycles doesn’t get you as deep into it.
On this second Breathing round, I felt a a slight light headedness and a tingling in the fingers. At the end of the third 30 breaths and last exhale, we finished by doing as many pushups as possible while holding our breath. I did 30, I had to rough out the last 2 or 3 because my arms gave out…. And not my breath… Not too proud of that one…
Then we all standed in a circle in a horse stance (feet wide apart, knees bent, sitting on air) while a recording of chants was going on in the background. We were asked to prepare ourselves mentally for the ice bath. Imagining how it would feel, and how ready we would be, and that we would be ok. We were then asked to sway from side to side while moving our hands to the rhythm of our breath. I got hot. REEAALLLY hot.
4) The Ice Bath :
The next step was the ice bath, I walked quickly towards it, wanting to go in fast and get it over with. It looked like this guy called Jerome wanted the same thing, si we just got to it, started breathing, one foot after the other, and plunged into the Ice and water. It was cold. VEEEERRRRRY cold.
We sat down until the water was mid-chest height. The cold felt like hammers hitting you. Especially the hands.
The instructor on the side, talking to you, reminds you you are in control of the whole process. He asks you to slow down your breath, to reclaim control. To observe the feeling. I could sense the cold, I could sense the pain, and I was there and not there, feeling and observing the feeling. I’m not sure how long he left us in there. Either a minute or 1:30, but the cold was real.
We both got out of there and realise we did it. My skin reacted hard, it was VERY red (as you can see on this picture below). I didn’t shiver as much as I thought I would as I got out. My feet were the biggest issue they just didn’t seem to want to get warm after that.
We were asked if we wanted to go in a second time, I bailed, I had found what I was looking for.
TWO WEEKS LATER… WHAT I LEARNED :
1) The Breathing :
The breathing technique is very intriguing. It is a form of meditation, but it also give you an incredibly steady amount of energy and calm. I sometimes get mood swings, and fatigue waves that can cripple me for one or two hours in the afternoon. I do it in the metro or on the train while going to see my clients in the morning. And the difference is already palpable in the afternoons.
I lift heavy weight for reps on a regular basis, and I realise that my recovery time between sets seems much shorter than it has been over the last few months. My soreness after training went from a 7 or 8 to a 4 to 5. Which means I can add extra workouts in between!
I took a few runs since I have been breathing daily and taking cold showers. I can run breathing through my nose at a 11 to 12km/h pace which is great considering I hadn’t run in about a year, and the last few runs i did were around 9km/h…. And no lactic acid buildup and a feeling of ease when i run. Very Very fascinating.
I am much more focused on executing my reps while I’ training, on my clients while I am working, and I follow through on what I have decided to do much better over these last two weeks. This is not quite as measurable as the rest, it is however very interesting.
I am aware that these observations could be coincidental, as I am also conducting a parallel experiment of a 30 day no alcohol challenge. But Having already done this a few months ago, I believe I can tel which is which.
2 ) The cold showers
I had already done cold showers before the Wim Hof experiment and for about two months. However I used to slowly turn the water down to cold and try for 2 minutes in the cold, and battle through them,
After the ICE BATH, I realised I was in control of how my body feels in the shower. i’m not fighting the cold really anymore. I feel it and control my reaction to it. My skin is softer, and my mood has been great for the past few days. I however started to feel my lymph nodes behind my ears starting to be tender, so I stopped for two day to let my body recover, as the instructors told us, and everything is back to normal.
One of Wim Hof’s sayings is “the cold is my teacher”. I get it now.
I did not realise what the instructors meant when they were talking about the mindset of the whole experience, but now i do. I feel as if bearing that ice cold immersion broke a sense of resistance inside of me. And pushing through VERY cold showers (it IS winter, and the cold water is COLD), I find it easier to challenge myself to more difficult tasks. May it be trying for heavier weights, adding one or two extra training sessions a week, giving my girlfriend a massage even though i’m tired because i know it’s going to be good for us, writing for longer, working more hours… I get it.
The mindset of realising that yes, you can do it if you put your mind to it.
All in all it is great experience that I am looking forward to pushing a little further.