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THE ICE BATH; DOING SOMETHING THAT SCARES YOU

Ripon common sense contributor Dan Oliver recently wrote an article; “Why every artist should be creating their own content” at the end he challenged his readers to do something that scares you. 

I started to embrace the thought of the challenge he set forth, seeking something I could do that would really scare and challenge me.  

Remarkably, at the same time the love of my life, Nicole, brought to my attention that Wim Hof would be offering a FREE 10 day course and wondered if I would join her in participating. Wim has developed a 3 step method, combining breathing, cold exposure and commitment, known as the “Wim Hof Method”.  Mr. Hof is also known as the ICE MAN, so you can imagine my fear as Nicole began to unveil the agenda of this ten day challenge. I listened in great fear, as I learned that committing to this meant 10 days of breathing exercises and ice cold showers, all leading up to a 2 minute ice bath on the final day. Like, actual floating ice cubes in the bath!!

Yep!  I am afraid of the cold. Very afraid.  Growing up in Ripon, Wisconsin, you do hear the occasional story of some poor fellow who left the bar late at night, stumbled home and accidentally fell into a snowbank in 40 below, never to wake up again. So the fear is real.

Alright Dan, Nicole, and Wim.  Challenge accepted.

Day 1: Let’s get into this. We started off slow, with a good introduction to the Ice Man by video. Followed by Wims request to turn our hot morning shower…into a 1 minute cold one. This is something that I felt might be easier to do, considering we were allowed to take as long or as hot of a shower we wished prior, as long as before we finished we turned the dial to cold and stood in it for one min. Now come on, really who does this? So, after heavy deliberation and about 20 minutes under a steady stream of warm,  relaxing water, I knew that if I didn’t turn that dial soon, Nicole would gladly be turning it for me. I shouted to her GO once the dial had been all the way turned to cold. And the clock began. I stepped as far away from the water as I could, obnoxiously screaming in a high pitch, that was caused by tiny ice bullets of fear hitting my warm and relaxed body. HEY NOW … OH NOO… I was not cut out for this and we were only 10 seconds in. I somehow managed to get through the remaining torturous seconds until the timer stopped. Instantly I grabbed and cuddled my towel while Nicole was bent over laughing.  I was so glad it was over, and to be honest, I knew that I had been a bit wimpy in my first approach. But, it was over…at least for another 24 hours.

Day 2: Another video.  This time Wim explains the introduction to his breathing technique.  As he spoke, I realised that yesterday’s exercise was designed to show me just how wimpey I was. If I allowed fear to take over, my body reaction would always be the same. Wim explains, by breathing deep and following the method you literally are changing the chemistry and alkalizing your body. 1 round, 30 to 35 deep breaths and breath retention, followed by a hot shower, with a 90 second switch to cold.  I have to say, when you finally find your inner strength to turn the knob, nothing really prepares you for that moment when the cold water begins to actually hit your body. I was surprised at how quickly Wims concept proved to work, just knowing there was real preparation in that moment. The dial however was still tremendously hard to turn and you do consider chickening out. Yet, I chose to fully embrace it.  I was breathing deep through it, much more focused on the task at hand. A minute and a half went rather quickly and was somewhat enjoyable. I was feeling some small step towards accomplishment.

Day 3: Every day starts with a short video of Wim to introduce that day. These are helpful in getting to know him overall.  How and why his technique exists. He is funny and enjoyable to listen to, his occasional mispronunciation of an english word or two is endearing.  He radiates right through the camera. When he speaks, I feel that he could connect with just about anyone who gives him the time and listens. These daily videos open up deeper thinking about what these exercises are really doing and why they work.  We increased the breathing and retention, and back into a 1 min cold shower…only this time, the cold part came first. You just have to turn on the water and jump in. Much easier said than done and when you finally turn the knob to warm, a sigh of relief will escape. 

Day 4: It’s day four now and can you believe I’m actually excited and looking forward to the exercises today and hearing Wim speak! Yes, actually looking forward to a cold shower too. Wim included some push-ups and utilizing of the breathing technique to demonstrate strength and the ability to challenge yourself. This had to have been the first time I’ve done a push-up in at least 20 years and I did 10. Huge! Followed by a one and a half minute cold shower from the starting position. It’s still cold. Trust me, but I’m starting to feel comfort in the cold. 

Day 5: Through all this build-up of the past few days you seem to forget about what you’re building up to and in this moment you realize that 5 days from now you will be climbing into an ice bath with actual ice cubes and submerging yourself for 2 minutes.  You try to remain strong, but yet the inevitable fear of what’s to come begins to occupy inner thoughts during the exercise and you really start to focus on what your body needs to achieve in order to get yourself through the upcoming ice bath. After 4 rounds of breathing you set off for your two minute cold shower. Here are my halfway results 5 days in.

Day 6: As you can tell, I’ve been quite proud of myself throughout these last few days. That’s not to take anything away from my life partner, who has also been going through the same experiences right by my side. Nicole however has been following and practicing the “Wim Hof method” for months, yet she was also beginning to show some concern for the upcoming ice cube bath.  This gave us time to talk through our emotions, share our fears and concerns with each other and began to treat it as something we are looking forward to. No matter what, we were determined to do it together.

Day 7: Take it easy day. Yay!! 4 simple rounds of breathing and an easy 2 minute cold shower. No problem. Kind of. Still cold. 

Day 8: Out to nature. We have to admit that failure entered into the schedule here. On this day Wim gave the simple task of taking out to nature for a walk.  This is the part of the program we have yet to complete. It just didn’t fit into our schedule since the Green Bay Packers were playing!! We compensated by doing the breathing outside, in our backyard, followed by another cold shower. By the way, when I say cold showers, I mean ice cold. 

Day 9: Wim instructs you clearly on what is going to happen tomorrow with the ice cube bath.  He introduces you to something called the horse stance; the technique you will have to use after the ice bath to keep your body core temperature regulated and to warm back up. You begin to realize what’s about to take place and the importance of doing it right.

Day 10: The day has arrived. To wimp out now is not an option.  We will be fully submerging ourselves in an Ice Water Bath for 2 minutes, putting the techniques into play we had learned over these past days. This started by filling the bathtub and dumping bags of ice into it.  We are now ready, set, go. Nicole chose to go first. She really is a champ. As I watched her preparing through her horse stance and breathing, I realized she is really going to do it …and…that I would then have to follow.  The timer began. She slipped down into the tub, and began breathing through her 2 min challenge. She was focused and maintained her composure through the entire experience. As the timer reached its mark, she slowly emerged and went back into her horse stance, slowly breathing to work through her body’s temperature adjustment. I was holding my breath. Suddenly she started to giggle. This broke the intensity and gave me courage to move forward and into my preparation for my own submergence.  I did a few deep breaths and prepared myself the best I could, stepped into the tub, and began working myself down into the water. As the cold begins to take hold and consume you, there is this moment where a voice inside your head screams “What are you doing? GET OUT NOW”. I am a big guy and the tub is small. It was a bit of a challenge just to find comfort in a submerged position, but nothing like the challenge of finding comfort in the actual water temperature itself. That may be an acquired taste, which I have not yet acquired.  I never came even close to that point during the 2 minutes to use the word “enjoyable” to describe it. Nope, it is really cold, and your only choice of dealing with it is to focus on your breathing. One thing for certain, extreme cold will cause time to slow down. It seemed like forever. Wims sayings, I had been hearing for 10 days, obsessively being repeated in my mind. Breathe..you breathe deep, ahhh haaa…you feel great.. High on your own supply. The real joy came when the 2 minutes were over and I knew I had done it. A great sense of accomplishment.  I was slowly standing up, and that is when you really understand how cold your body has become. I headed right into the horse stance, working towards getting back to where I was right before I jumped in. We had done it. Amazing! 

#icecold

During these ten days I learned a lot about my own body, and how all of our bodies work the same.  Wim’s methods have scientifically been proven to work. He has mastered something of a lost technique and recreated practices of what I imagine had to have been utilized thousands of years ago by aboriginal people, as a way to deal with the climate conditions surrounding them in daily life, while harnessing survival to allow man to continue to develop on through to today. I would encourage any reader to give Wim a chance and explore these techniques further.  And if not this, anything that would challenge you. Like Dan Oliver says “to do something that scares you”.

**Additional information about Wim and his practices can be found on his website at https://www.wimhofmethod.com/

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