Following the Ice Man – 10 Weeks with Wim Hof

I’ve been aware of Wim Hof, the crazy Ice Man, for a few years now but have become increasingly interested in his methods since I adopted my own fascination with the cold.

So far, my highlight of the year has been hacking our thermostatic shower so that it ceased to kick out any warmth. I think the teenagers in the house might call that “Breaking the Shower” but I’m happy. It means that I am now able to stand under icy torrents and disturb the household by squealing behind the locked bathroom door. It also meant I could finally sign up for the 10 week course in the Wim Hof Method, which requires a commitment to strange breathing and daily cold showers – squealing optional.

Wim Hof uses breathing techniques, really a controlled form of hyperventilation, along with cold exposure to exert control of his autonomic nervous system. Benefits cited are improved immunity levels, reduction in automimmune symptoms and improved healing. I’m happy to accept all those benefits but was particularly interested in what might be considered the side effects of the practice, such as cold adaptation, increased breath hold capacity, possible fat loss via BAT (Brown Adipose Tissue) activation and improved mental well being.

I’ve just started week 4 of the Wim Hof breathing course and thought it was time to give a brief review of my experience so far.

Week 1
Immediately you are required to adopt the daily practice starting with 3 hyperventilation and breath hold sequences to be followed by a cold shower. The cold showers start off gently, starting and ending with warm water with a 30 second cold interlude.

Despite regularly swimming in 2-8’C water, I found the showers to be a shock and the squealing did continue for a couple of weeks of the practice.

The breathing cycle is a bit odd. I don’t really like the experience of hyperventilation and associated tingling and light-headedness. I do quite like the challenge of breath holding though and by the end of week 1 I was very excited to have held my breath for just over 2 minutes. Before this point I felt I would burst after 40 seconds. If you don’t think this sounds like a long time just try it now, hold you breath and time it. I bet you won’t get anywhere near 2 mins.

In the associated video Wim also take you through some stretching exercises but I have to confess to not taking this bit very seriously.

Week 2
In week 2 we add an extra breathing cycle that ends in a breath hold (after the inhalation) where you perform as many push ups as you can before breathing again. You need to set a baseline number before you start – mine was 19 incline push ups. By the end of the week I managed to increase this to 30 without any breath. I find this quite fascinating and wonder if it will translate well to my powerlifting, perhaps if I hyperventilate before a squat, I will be able to knock out a few more reps.

Showers are now following a cold/hot/cold/hot/cold sequence with each cold exposure lasting 30 secs. I’m still squealing.

Week 3
Week 3 feels like a bit of break through. Showers are now up to 60 second stints cold/hot/cold but I feel strong enough to handle 2 mins of cold only. Focussing on calm breathing I’m able to have my first silent shower and actually feel as though I am generating my own heat.

The breathing has increased to 5 cycles with the last being the push-up routine. I drifted off during the last breath hold and forgot that I was short of breath managing 2mins 6secs in total.

I haven’t managed to stick to doing all my practice on a daily basis but I try to do it as often as I can and don’t move to the next week until I’ve completed 7 sessions. I’m sure it is more effective if you can get into a consistent routine but life happens.

Wim Hof Method and Pulse Oximetry

Having read “What Doesn’t Kill Us” I decided to play around with a pulse oximeter while doing the breathing routine. I read that Wim’s trick for ensuring that his team don’t suffer from high altitude sickness during rapid ascents of Mount Kilimanjaro is to monitor blood oxygen levels regularly and practice hyperventilation to keep the levels above 95%.

This instagram video shows me at the end of my hyperventilation and shows what my spO2 levels look like during the breath hold.

Do I have to sign up and pay for the 10 week course to practice the Wim Hof Method?

Absolutely not, although I wouldn’t discourage you if you’re tempted. I think it’s quite good value as courses go. You get a PDF copy of Wim’s first book, a course guide and workbook and permanent access to 10 hour long videos by the charismatic guy himself. 

If you don’t have the money I would recommend spending £3.99 on the app and following the mini video for each breathing cycle. I find myself using this on a daily basis anyway and just watch the video once a week as a spur to action.

There are enough blog reviews that explain week by week what the schedule is. Basically 3-4 breathing cycles and a final one for breath hold press-ups. Daily cold showers of increasing length with the occasional challenge thrown in such as 10 minute cold showers or ice bath.

The videos also include a series of yoga type exercises but I have to admit that I rarely do this element of the course.

Where can I find out more about Wim Hof?

Video about Wim Hof
This video from Vice provides an excellent introduction to the mad cap ways of the Hof.

ICEMAN – VICE

Wim Hof has used meditation to stay submerged in ice for hours, run a marathon in the desert with no water and scientifically proved that he can influence his immune system at will. In this new film, he taught us how all of this is possible.

Podcasts about Wim Hof
Wim Hof is popping up on all sorts of podcasts nowadays but these are some of my favourites:
Ben Greenfield – Conquer the Cold
Tim Ferriss – The Iceman Interview 2015

Books about Wim Hof
Wim Hof has a couple of books out himself, the most recent one, The Way of the Iceman, being the most readable.
I really enjoyed What Doesn’t Kill Us, by author Simon Carney. Simon set off with the intention of exposing Wim Hof as a false guru but ended up absorbing his method and hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro in his swimming trunks.

Blogs about the Wim Hof Method
Twenty weeks with Wim Hof – Rose works her way through two 10 week cycles of the Wim Hof Method, the first was conducted as a DIY course using materials and advice freely available and the second following along to the online video course.
I’ve really enjoyed Alan Reiner‘s discussions on the nature of the Wim Hof method and his experience with the course, particularly because he has also hooked himself up to a pulse oximeter. I’m rather jealous that his always you to record data to a csv file.

Building a Canoe from Scratch

Last week we built our own Canadian canoe. How cool is that?

We went on a 4 day course in the lake district run by Orca Adventures and came away with an astoundingly good-looking vessel that we were able to drop onto the water the very next day.

It was a tough few days, with the first full day of sawing being particularly shocking for the normally deskbound amongst us. We started with thin sheets of cedar ply wood and gradually pulled these together with thread and the occasional zip tie, into an ever more ship-shape canoe.

  • After Day 1 we had a fairly floppy shell of a canoe.
  • By Day 2 we had applied some rigidity by adding the gunwales and firmed everything with fibre glass tape along all the seams.
  • For Day 3 we waterproofed the lot with a coating of epoxy resin and started on the woodworking – handles, jigs and seats.
  • On the final Day we cursed a lot while we fitted the stubborn seats and then set too with liberal applications of paint. In the afternoon we watched it dry, for hours.

When we finally drove away, I don’t think either of us could believe what we’d achieved. We had no idea what to expect and certainly did not think we’d be able to turn our hands to such craftmanship. Neither did ‘we’ think it would be quite so flipping big! Finding room for a 15 foot canoe, in a terraced house without a garage is going to prove interesting, and may get me into trouble again for having bright ideas.

Sailing a Handbuilt Canadian Canoe

With a newly built canoe sitting atop our car, it proved hard to resist the lure of the water. We were in the Lake District after all so it felt rude not to.

My parents joined us for the momentous occasion as we dipped its (soon to be named Bob’s) toes into the River Eamont by Pooley Bridge. We took it in turns to be whipped round by the current until we fought rather limply to stay bobbing in more or less one spot, a sort of treadmill action for canoes.

We have some paddling skills to develop before I fancy going into deeper river water. I took much security from the knowledge that I could easily step overboard and push us back to shore in this ankle-deep torrent.

Our next trip out was to Derwent water, a much deeper yet more tranquil site to practice our skills. I could get used to this way of life, especially if we remember to pack a drybag next time, stocked with fizz and picnic delights. With those preparations I could quite happily pull in the paddles and see where the lake took us.

Janathon and the Weightlifting Cat

Unbelievably it appears to be Janathan time again, it seems to come round quicker than Christmas.

My current fitness levels mean that I am a long way off being able to string together another running streak. Fortunately I stumbled upon a book that came just in time to give me a new challenge for January.

There is a popular squat a day challenge on Facebook that sees you aiming for about 3000 bodyweight squats by the 31st Jan. I will be ignoring this challenge in favour of one with a powerlifting slant.

The Weightlifting CatI’ve been doing the stronglifts routine for about year but me and my training partner – the cat, are characteristically haphazard with the frequency. It’s supposed to be a 3 day a week program but we’ve slipped to once or twice a week. That’s where the discipline of the squat a day program should kick my butt. By removing the optional nature of the routine I should progress more rapidly.

While its called Squat Every Day, I’ll actually be alternating some of the other big moves everyday as well, including the deadlift (almost illustrated below), shoulder press, bent over row and bench press.

More from the weightlifting cat.

A video posted by ? @warriorwoman (@warriorwoman) on

I’ve signed up for Cory Gregory’s specific program on BodyBuilding.com to ensure some variety and will be aiming for a squat PB every week. At the moment I am only up to 65 kg for the back squat so it will be interesting to see where I get to by the end of Janathan. I will spare you from daily updates of me squatting on the blog, although I will be all over Instagram like a rash.

Running will of course be thrown in for the occasional warm up – it is Janathon after all.

Achieve the Impossible

I’m a quitter and a failure.

At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last year or so.

It came to me over a lovely paleo meal.

We were onto the second course, a delicious ox heart carpaccio and a good way into a bottle of Chardonnay when Lynn asked me what had happened to my fitness plans as she’d noticed that the training calendar was blank and I had been emotionally flat for a while.

I tried to talk but in the end it just seemed easier to sob into my Chardonnay.

I was choking up trying to explain how my last three 100km attempts had ended in failure and I now felt that I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t risk adding yet another failure to my list by aiming for an ultra but at the same time, I couldn’t think of anything, more realistic, that had the power to excite me.

Following our emotional dinner, I came home and promptly ordered Achieve the Impossible (ATI) by Greg Whyte.

It proved to be a fantastically inspiring book. Within a few pages it was clear that my challenge needed to be “audacious” and needed to have an emotional hold over me. Despite hating long distance walking it’s hard to find another challenge that could tick both of those boxes and I’m afraid my big challenge has to be to train and complete a 100 km event.

I wasn’t going to mention it on my blog, hoping to save face if it turned into failure number 4, but another thing I learnt from ATI was that I have to put the challenge out there and be accountable.

So here goes, in 2016 I will train for and complete a 2 stage ultradistance event. Ideally it will be Race to the Stones in July 2016.

 Back to the book.

Achieve the Impossible is written by Greg Whyte who is the driving force behind a number of high profile mega challenges such as Eddie Izzard and his 43 marathons and David Walliams with his 140 mile swim down the Thames. These and many other challenges are used to illustrate the concepts and are fascinating and inspiring in their own right.

The book is ultimately about conception and planning: “Success isn’t an accident; you plan for it”

It has opened my eyes to the level of detail required to ensure success rather than just hope for it. It’s clear in the past that I have designed a training plan focused on only one element required for success – usually running distance. I’ve then gone out there and loosely followed the plan but not checked my progress or considered strategies for the tough times ahead. That means that I arrive at the start of an event someway short of optimally prepared and then have to wing it with no clear idea how to deal with curve balls that appear throughout the course. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it’s always hit and miss.

In management speak I refer to myself as a Starter Leaver and consider it the perfect complement to the Belbin team role of Completer Finisher. It means that I’m creative and have oodles of energy at the start of a project but I’m very quick to move on to the next big idea. It can work well in a diverse team but when you’re into the grotty half of an ultradistance event it exposes extremely unhelpful personality traits and makes it easy to be a quitter. My emotional response to hard times needs to planned for as much as my body’s reluctance to churn out the distance.

Preparing properly is quite a technical job in itself. The book provides a framework with loads of planning concepts, images and examples to help you along the way but I still found it a little tricky to see how I could put it into action, there were lots of different examples but ideally I wanted the illustration to show: overweight, middle-aged woman plans to run 2-stage ultra event in precisely 1 years time, so I could nick the Measures of Success and the meso and macro planning cycles, but I suppose that is expecting a bit too much.

I am planning an accompanying blog post that will layout my very personal example and I’ll share the Achieve the Impossible spreadsheet that I’ve developed to track and display my progression towards my training goals.

In the meantime I would recommend this as a key read for anyone in the early stages of the next big challenge.

A smashrun for the last day of Juneathon

I’ve dabbled with the “gamification” of sports but the joy of a new badge and an animated high five rapidly slips into the arena of vaguely irritating notifications.

I was therefore quite surprised at just how quickly I become absorbed in smashrun, the latest app for accumulating, rewarding and hacking running statistics. I’ve even been encouraged to go on an afternoon run, in a heatwave, just so I can get my first badge.

Smashrun was billed as a geeky dashboard for the runner and self-quantifier. Just my cup tea, so I headed over to the homepage and lost myself in the fascinating array of charts. Within minutes I had signed up, connected my account to Garmin and then watched as it sucked 8 years of running history and 3295 km of running goodness into my dashboard.

This is my favourite chart so far, it shows that I was totally rocking in 2007, possibly asleep from 2008/2009 and could do to pick up my running shoes a little more often for the rest of 2015.

smashrun dashboard

I also found out that Sunday’s 5km pootle around Mitcham Common was the longest run in 3 months and that’s just a little bit embarrassing.

On the smashrun website they explain their reason for being with this snippet:

It’s cold. It’s raining. You drag your butt out of bed, pull on your sweats and a windbreaker. You feel like phoning it in after the first three miles, but instead you lock it down and dig deep for that last mile. You get home, shower quickly and rush to work only to show up 5 minutes late. Your boss peers over his coffee. Nice to see, you managed to make it in.

Now, it wasn’t easy to make that run happen. And at the end of the day, it can be hard to say what it accomplished. Maybe you’re in a little better shape? Maybe it’s helped you maintain your internal discipline? Maybe you feel more balanced?

What Smashrun is designed to do is to give you a context for your run. Finishing that run today meant that you’ve run 280 miles this year. That puts you in the top 20% of the runners on Smashrun. It’s more than 50 miles farther than you’d run last year at this time. And it was the 3rd fastest 4 mile run you’ve ever run. You’re running twice as many miles a week as your friend Joe, and when it comes to sheer discipline — showing up day in and day out — you have few peers.

That resonates with me, data and statistics can be mighty powerful if they are displayed in the right way and incredibly motivational. I’ve recorded just about every single run of my adult life and smashrun looks like the tool to bring those runs to life again.

Come and join me, I could do with some friends.

Guilt Trip for Juneathon

So yesterday Lynn hit me with an ultimatum. Apparently I haven’t used my bike in about year and she is fed up of moving it around the dining room. I either have to get on my bike or put it back in the shed.

Ouch!

lady not to scale

The shed is practically a mile down the bottom of the garden and if I had to factor in the time required to retrieve it on the admittedly infrequent cycle commute occasions, I’d have to set the alarm half an hour earlier.

And that ain’t happening!

So today arrives and I dutifully drag out the lycra, and my bike, and head to the big smoke via pedal power.

That’s 34km in the bag for Juneathon and my bike gets a reprieve. Result!

It was also a glorious day and I found myself caught in a rather spectacular dust cloud in Hyde Park. I am grateful to @lucyslade who was quicker off the mark than me and managed to capture the scene beautifully.

A Bone to Pick with Juneathon

I’ve been skirting around the idea of running since my new Juneathon alarm went off at 6:30 am. It’s now 11 pm. 

I postponed the morning run in favour of an evening run, before dinner, but that was pushed into touch by the far more favourable idea of doing it on a full stomach, after dinner. Of course after dinner it became a whole different ball game and I dropped the idea of running altogether. 

So hunting around for a suitable alternative I thought I’d give the Freeletics app a go. Freeletics is a new app that has been nagging me to exercise with it for the last two weeks but I’ve ignored it.

I fired it up and tried the recommended Workout of the Day (WoD) – Metis. No equipment required and just 3 exercises. How difficult can it be?

Well I’m sitting here on the floor quivering and that’s despite bailing after round 1.

I finished round 1 in quite a state after 10 burpees, 10 climbers and 10 high knee jumps. Lynn was watching on the sofa, supportively guffawing, while videoing my efforts. I moved between cursing her and cursing the phone but when the app flicked straight to round 2 with the same 3 exercises but now at 25 reps each, I’m afraid I blew a gasket and started cursing Juneathon too.

Having calmed down a bit I thought I’d give Freeletics the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it was throwing a killer WoD at me because it had no idea quite how unfit I’ve allowed myself to become. So I’ve just signed up for the coaching option and taken my max rep test. I knocked out 85 full squats in 5 mins and may never walk again.

Having taken the test and filled in my body stats the app can no longer be in any doubt about the basket case standing before it. It ran through its algorithms and spat out my new program.

What do you know. The first workout it has in store for me is METIS.

I may weep.

Stuck on Sprint

Eager to get Juneathon off to a promising start, I set the alarm for 6:30 am and almost skipped my way downstairs to the treadmill. 

I selected level 9 in my Sprint 8 high intensity program and sauntered through the warm up before shocking myself with the first incline sprint of the series. 

I haven’t been very religious with my run training of late and so I was biding my time impatiently and counting down each remaining second of the interval. The treadmill finally beeped for the end of the 30 second sprint and the start of the recovery phase. I relaxed a bit and then panicked as I noticed that I was moving towards the end of the track and the treadmill was not slowing down. 

I picked up to sprint mode again and bashed frantically at the reduce speed button. I got it down 1 kph but was still very definitely sprinting. 

Either the treadmill decided that the first day of Juneathon was a good day to malfunction or I lost a lot more fitness than I’d thought. 

I had to resort to the big red panic key. Yanked it out and thankfully came to an abrupt yet ungainly stop. 

So the first run of Janathon proved to be short but quite exhausting. I may need to venture outside for the rest of the month. 

  

This Girl Can but hasn’t….much

Janathon Baton of ShameI was delighted yesterday to be awarded with the Janathon Baton of Shame for my exemplary performance in the lethargy and idleness arena.

I truly did mean well when I signed the dotted line and committed myself to daily jogging, logging and blogging, but then I got sick. I took to my bed at 22:30 on New Year’s Eve, having been struck down by what was destined to develop into a 3-week lurgy. It’s fair to say however, that people at work would describe me as having had a 5 day cold followed by a 2 week stint of sympathy coughing, aka making a great big fuss about nothing.

I tried to stay in the Janathon loop, posting reports on sporty books I had read and plans for exercises I was going to do when I recovered, but somewhere along the line I lost my jog, log, blog mojo and before I knew it, I was 21 days down.

warriorwoman running at lastIf I can offer up a further defence of my partial commitment to Janathon, I would like it to be known that I have now ventured outside and run 6 whole miles in order to redeem myself. They were cold and arduous miles and the unexpected gradient caused me to cough and splutter pitifully. It was an absolute joy to be back in the running swing of things though, squelching through icy, muddy trails and getting lost in the countryside.

I may have reclaimed my running enthusiasm and hope to end the Janathon month as a Girl That Can:

Much as like my Baton of Shame, I do need to pass it on to another slacker. This time to someone who made a very public commitment but then failed at the first hurdle. And the baton goes to……@runforthequiet

Confused Tabata

My schedule called for 6.5 mins of Japanese inspired, high-intensity, treadmill torture.

I set my phone app to beep at 20s and 10s intervals, indicating torture and relaxation intervals respectively, performed a gentle warmup and then attempted to coordinate the start button pressing on 3 devices – the iPhone app, the Garmin and the treadmill.

I was straight into 13 kph sprinting when I realised I was accompanied by a near cacophony of conflicting electronic beeps. The phone is thankfully alerting me to the near arrival of a rest interval while my watch is manically beeping at 172 bpm as I failed to amend the settings from my previous metronomic run.

This becomes entirely confusing. I’m trying valiantly to stay on the treadmill at break neck speed, while absent-mindedly concerning myself with my out of sync treadmill pounding. There follows a very brief interlude while I try to pound at 172 bpm, while sprinting at 12.5 kph and staying on the treadmill. Fortunately, as I realise I am failing, and the arse-about-tit motion commences, the iPhone sounds out a rescue chirrup, and I can leap off for a 10 s wheeze.

Tabata Intervals

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