How the Wim Hof Method enabled me to rethink my limits
December 2015: Bringing it back to the body, mind and soul
Having recently experienced a ‘burnout’, I felt the need to change. Now, the hard part about change is not making the same choice. I know most people feel uncomfortable with change and perhaps one of the reasons for this is because one cannot predict the unknown. Thus, it is easier to cling to old habits and emotions than take a chance on possibility. Whatever anyone’s individual reason, I just knew I needed to effect change. In 2016, I questioned everything and started my own journey of self-development and embraced change in my life.
December 2016: Mount Snezka – the day I changed my mind
The Poland WHM travel experience ended with a mountain climb to the summit Mount Snezka, wearing only shorts and a sports top. We did not make it to the summit that day due to terrible weather. Wim Hof often quotes “nature is merciless” and although that day I could not control the weather, especially the freezing cold winds, my walking meditation allowed me to truly surrender as I naturally, and consciously, reconnected with my physiology to endure the harsh weather. I focused on the one thing I could control: my breathing, and surrendered to everything else.
Together, my mind, body and breath were focused in each step I took. It’s a powerful state to be in when your whole body is acting as a single unit. The union gave rise to a different sensation (maybe it was the power of my mitochondria); every cell felt alive, combined with a quiet mind and a body that could cope; finally a truly peaceful moment. It was a coordinated homeostasis.
I became empowered and it was the start of my new chapter.
The Wim Hof Method explained
The WHM can influence your immune and autonomic nerve systems by breath work. This method involves training and gradual cold exposure. By bringing this all together this method, once learned, allows you to overcome extreme conditions and supercharge your immune system. The basic method involves alternating between deep breathing and breathe holding. A simple and yet powerful practice. With focus and commitment, you can learn to control your immune system and autonomic nervous system to improve your circulation, boost energy levels, improve concentration and focus, sleep better, put yourself in a more positive mood and take your performance to a higher level.
January 2017: The Camino – the prelude of my self-actualisation
Walking the Camino and being outdoors, communing with nature on a daily basis allowed change to occur within me. When I realised there was something missing, I became more curious to finding out what it was.
Every day of my pilgrimage, I realised that the nature I was seeing on my route was becoming more inspiring and was teaching me to break down my thought loops and to ‘let go’ of what was no longer important to me. My mantra for the Camino was to live each day: “Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow”.
Each day, I adapted the Wim Hof Method to my Camino. My cold exposures were either cold plunges in rivers, cold showers or walking in shorts. I adapted my ‘WHM breathing technique’ for the Camino and tuned my body and soul (as I did on the mountain in Poland), harvesting my inner strength. So much so, I knew the weight of my rucksack so well I could tell I if was down to my last chocolate bar of 150g.
March 2017: Life is worth living really well
Back in Cumbria, I continued my connection within nature. I felt different with more inner strength, connection and self-belief than I have ever had before; becoming comfortable in my own skin and trusting my gut feelings. The year before, I had read some books on ultra-running and somehow the seed was planted that I could do this too. I entered the Windermere Marathon and Lakeland Trails 55Km. My excitement was less about placement; it was more about self-potential.
My physical advantage was that I had cycled often around the ‘honey pot’ of the Lakes District so I was not a couch potato to ultra. The only problem was that I didn’t really enjoy running and the furthest I had run was approximately 6 miles, six months earlier. If I am honest, I was secretly happy to have it confirmed that there was very little time to train the ‘conventional way’ for an endurance run. Upon this news, I decided to be different and train a very different way.
I made my training about aligning myself with nature’s rhythms. It was about investing in myself, stepping outside the conditioned mind, cultivating self-understanding and honing a positive mind-set. Part of my investigation was to pioneer new ways of feeling relaxed and feeling abundantly connected to my body and to nature, in a way that could actually be simpler than what we have been taught in the past. As ground-breaking as all these technological innovations in tracking apps and GPS watches may be, I found it more powerful to have a more simple and primitive approach.
I knew that after my experiences in Poland and on the Camino that if you really wanted to soar, look within. Deep within. I knew I could do this.
- I realised I would never give myself a hard time with regards to not putting in the distance or work. I listened to my body each day and realised that I would have to take everything in my stride, without any pressures. I would do a natural cold exposure daily, exploring breath retention, the WHM and how I should inhale and exhale using the Buteko Method. This breathing method also happens to be effective for asthma suffers who would like to reduce using their inhalers.
- I simply connected with nature every day. I saw raw beauty in the tarns I swam in, noticing little details such as tiny glistening rain drops on the moss as I relaxed under a waterfall. The cold brings you back to the present moment. Hiking in the fells, passing shaded trees at that time, brought me a delicious smell of seasonal wild garlic. Walking barefoot, I explored movement, climbing and hanging from trees. I welcomed all weathers. I remember one occasion when the rain had ceased whilst I was swimming in a tarn but soon restarted as I set off back. I remember I had a beaming smile while cycling home as it was an extended cold exposure for me and I thought ‘it is what it is’. My adventures everyday were a balance of struggles and challenges, yet I felt alive as they rewarded me with more joy, more fulfilment and a sense of purpose as I explored and anchored.
I saw that everything was active in nature. I experienced this and I began to feel a part of this balance. Nothing can replace our raw self surviving the outdoors and feeling alive by truly challenging ourselves physically and mentally. This realisation, I believe, pulls us to discover our potential.
I now believe the stewardship of nature and our environment begins with loving ourselves in nature and feeling our connection to it.
The cold exposure enabled me to unlock this daily and grow a new level of actualisation, glowing outwardly because of the positive feelings that had been lit inside. I was no longer living disconnected to my potential. I was training with a healthy fear for the outer edge of my current capability. In nature, time passes quickly, a flow state as you tune into your breath, your thoughts and listen to your body. The soul exhales and relaxes as all your senses awaken because you become an integral part of the outdoors and allow yourself the freedom to be imperfect.
On the day
I cycled 6.2 miles to the start of the race. As I have never ran this distance before, I assumed I would be back in time for my evening waitressing job at 1800hrs. By 1600hrs it dawned on me that I will not make the start of my work shift, so at check point 4 I called my boss and said; “I am literally running as fast as I can”.
Other than that minor oversight of finishing time, my ultra-run ended up a long open track to the centre of my soul and the benefits of this different approach became an easier way to live my life.
My journey after discovering the power of the breath spurred me on to be a more conscious thinker with a greater gratitude for nature, creating a more natural movement of my body, playing with my diet and immersing myself back into a community.
Trust the process of change. I now run workshops to give you the edge on any performance. I have had participants complete their first 100mile run, first half marathon, first full marathon and ice mile. Contact me to learn more.