Cold trainers hear this question all the time! For me it has gotten very annoying, so I tend to avoid high traffic areas when I do my personal cold training. I took a chapter out of Wim Hof’s book and started training at night a few years ago because, as he put it so well, “I don’t like people looking at me!”
But for many novice cold trainers, this question is more than just a passing comment. It is a real question, and it’s something that I have been asked many times by beginners.
Is there a point when a Wim Hof Method practitioner will cease to feel the cold?
It certainly appears that way! How do the seasoned cold trainers and WHM practitioners jump into ice water without gasping and clamoring to get out? How do they walk for miles in the cold in nothing but their shorts? They are smiling and laughing and seem completely unphased by the cold. Is it possible that they simply are immune to it? Have they become so adept at the practice that they no longer feel cold? Or maybe they have simply lost the ability to sense the cold?
The truth about cold adaptation and your future as a cold trainer…
The short answer is, yes. When I step out into the cold, I still feel the cold. My senses have not been dulled over time. A practiced cold trainer feels the cold just like anyone else. It is never as comfortable as room temperature. The cold is still there, but after repeated controlled exposures, the body adapts and becomes resilient to it. This is the miracle.
Anyone who has ever begun an exercise routine knows that the first few weeks are generally the worst. You can’t lift as much as the gym veterans who are slapping on plates and repping out sets; you can’t run as fast or as far as those who have been running for years either. On top of that, after your entry-level workouts, you feel sore and fatigued after exercising. Now jump ahead a year or two into your progress, and you’re the vet in the gym repping out sets! You’re the person running faster and longer than the newbies! Why is this? It’s because you have adapted. You have been patient enough to work out at a safe pace, and your body has rewarded you by becoming stronger and faster. However, not only are you better at exercising, your body has become healthier overall as a result of the adaptation.
It is the same with cold training. In the beginning, you will struggle to do a cold exposure that “future you” will one day not even consider as counting as a cold exposure at all! It is a beautiful power that you have, and cold trainers/WHM practitioners get to witness this miracle in their own bodies! And just like with exercises, you will not only be more adapted to the cold, you’ll be a healthier happier person too!
But, wait -are you saying that even after all those years, you still feel cold when you get into an ice bath?
Yes. I still feel cold. Or I should say, I feel the cold. My body has adapted to be able to manage the cold force that I am engaging, and I am able to “comfortably” sit in a tub of ice water or walk in the snow.
You have this same power.
The human capacity for adaptation is one of the greatest untapped gold mines in human history. And it is right there! It is within you! All you have to do is be patient in your diligence. This is the third pillar of the Wim Hof Method; mental focus. Everyone wants to glaze over this one because it isn’t something tangible like a cold shower or a breathing exercise, but it should be understood that this is what will allow you to do the other two pillars. You must have the mindset to persevere. With regular exposure and the right mindset, you’ll eventually be able to walk into a freezing lake, turn around with a smile and wave at your friends as you take a swim.
And what will they say? Yes, they’ll ask you: “Don’t you feel cold?”
At first, you’ll be flattered by this question. It means you’ve finally reached the level of cold training that is required to make it look effortless! However, by this time, you will have also developed such a strong mental focus, that you will continue your training for years to come. So, you’ll hear it a lot! And let me tell you, after a few years, it just gets annoying! 😊
What about the Wim Hof Method breathing technique? Does that make you adapt to the cold faster?
This is something that I have a hard time answering for two reasons.
- I never tried adapting to the cold outside of practicing the Wim Hof Method.
- I don’t want the internet armchair critics to jump all over me for how I answer.
Let me say this; I began the Wim Hof Method during the fall of 2014. At the time, there were very few resources about Wim Hof Method, so all I had to go on was the original 10 week course, which I think is still a very good value.
When I did the breathing exercise and the stretches, I felt amazing! I heard Wim talk about getting into the cold and experiencing my inner power, and I remember saying out loud, “yes! Let’s do this!”
I got up from my breathing session and walked directly to my shower. I got in the shower, and I said, “Wim Hof!” and I turned on the shower straight to cold.
The best way I can describe my reaction to the cold water was that I felt like a cartoon; like when the character’s body somehow stretches away from its skeleton. I couldn’t tolerate even a second or two of cold water.
In fact, I decided right then and there that I would just practice the breathing technique and forget about the cold water. It just wasn’t for me, I thought.
It wasn’t until the spring of 2015 that I actually decided to seriously try another cold shower. This time, it was after I had gotten done mowing my yard. My allergies were awful, and I remembered how Wim had talked about how the method in its entirety might help with autoimmune disfunction.
At this point, my allergies were so bad that I would try anything. So I did. I took a cold shower.
But this time, I didn’t try to jump right in to the cold. I started warm and gradually decreased the temperature. I didn’t even get all the way to cold. I got as far as I could go without jumping out of the shower.
When I got out, I felt really good. And it was from this point that I began to train in the cold.
I will never forget the first time I completed a 10 minute cold shower. I felt as though I had somehow gained a superpower. It had taken weeks, but I did it. And from there, I felt that I could continue to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Today, I walk outside in the snow, sometimes barefoot. I jump into freezing lakes and ponds, I make bare-chested snow angels. But it took time. And it took the right attitude.
My advice to novice cold trainers:
Remember that the miracle is already present inside of you. You are the miracle! All you need to do is to be diligent and focused each day. Over time, you will adapt. And when you do, get ready. For the question.
“Don’t you feel cold?”
And when you get it, just smile and say, “of course I do!”
From the heart,
Certified WHM Instructor (LVL 2)