Why embracing the cold is life-changing, according to iceman Wim Hof

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Can you keep your cool when the temperatures drop? Iceman Wim Hof can – and he’s sharing all in his new book.

‘I don’t like the cold, I don’t like it at all,’ exclaims Wim Hof from his home in Amsterdam, where he grows palm trees in his backyard. ‘It looks like the Mediterranean here, I love it’.

It’s not what you expect to hear from someone whose nickname is the Iceman, a moniker he’s earned for enduring freezing temperatures, and setting 26 world records, including running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle, and climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts.

He’s no stranger to being called ‘crazy’ for these incredible feats but admits it’s been hurtful.

‘It is not nice, but I felt great doing what I was doing so I kept doing it. Now millions of people are doing it, I am no longer “crazy”, I’m very respected, but I can tell you I am the same as always,’ says Wim, 61.

Born in Sittard in the Netherlands, he was practising yoga by 12, ‘intuitively’ ventured into a freezing lake at 17 and lived as a squatter for eight years, a period ‘of true freedom,’ he recalls.

But it was the death of Olaya, the mother of his four eldest children (he has six in total), who took her own life in 1995, that had a profound effect on him.

Cold water, breathing techniques and a positive mindset helped him heal from the grief, and he decided to create The Wim Hof Method to share with others.

‘Scientists are now interested in why I’m able to do things that were thought to be impossible. I say it’s just training and originates from being very depressed and heartbroken.’

The reason he’s embarked on unbelievable challenges is to demonstrate what the human mind and body is capable of by tapping into the deepest part of the brain.

‘I became a soul searcher and in seeking something, you always go further than you need to. When you find it, you realise it is simple and it’s actually where you live,’ he says.

‘I have found ways to tap into physiology the way nature meant us to. The method is transformational, and I am determined to change not only mental health care globally, but also physical health care in general.’

People travel from all over the world to learn the method from Wim in person. ‘On the first day, people can’t go in the iced water, by the second day they’re in there for five to ten minutes and completely relaxed,’ he reveals.

He’s now published a new book, The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Potential, Transcend Your Limits, in which he explains how we can all have autonomy over our body by adopting the thee-pillar approach, and it doesn’t require an ice bath.

The cold is a real remedy, not the enemy

The key to cold water exposure is explained in a chapter titled A Cold Shower A Day Keeps the Doctor Away.

‘That is what I say as a mantra. The cold is a real remedy, not the enemy,’ says Wim who believes our pampered modern lives have a detrimental impact on our health.

Wim believes cold showers improve what he calls the ‘muscular tone of our vascular system’ and because cold is a stressor, ‘if you can control your body’s response to it, you can control stress in any form’.

‘The consequences are enormous because you are awakening the physiology at will. You are learning to consciously control the stress mechanisms in the body. You learn to control stress, goodbye depression, goodbye inflammation.’

Breathing has its part to play in the method too, as he explains in the chapter, Breathe Motherf***er.

Wim’s specific breathing exercises take about 20 minutes and involve rounds of 30 to 40 deep breaths, which should be done in a safe environment, ideally before breakfast.

‘There is a lot of anxiety and a lot of fear and confusion at the moment, which is stressful for both body and mind,’ remarks Wim.

‘These breathing exercises have a deep, soothing effect and help anyone who’s suffering from anxiety and isolation. They help you realise you are the alchemist, and you can change your biochemistry almost instantly’.

It can even help with a hangover he promises, ‘because breathing alkalises the blood, which eliminates the acidity caused by toxic substances like alcohol’.

Tapping into the power of the mind is very important to Wim, indeed the famous Henry Ford quote – ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right,’ – is one of his favourite sayings.

Wim’s method’s third pillar relates to The Power of the Mind, or commitment. ‘It’s about knowing your mind is a tool you can learn to intensify and invigorate when you need it,’ he says.

‘We have to change our lifestyle – it is cold showers, it is deeper breathing, it is becoming conscious we are born with the ability to regulate our mood, to prevent disease by simple techniques, and by using the power of our own mind. We can all do it.’

If you want to learn more about the mental and physical health benefits related to open water swimming and cold exposure, feel free to join our ICEWIM Facebook group or follow us on Instagram.

Have you personally experienced a positive impact on your life from open water swimming or cold exposure? We want to hear from you! Share your story with us by emailing an audio or video testimonial to and get a chance to be featured on the ICEWIM Instagram account.

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