You may remember a while back that I read a book called What Doesn’t Kill Us. Inspired by the stories Scott Carney shared in this book, I set about practising the Wim Hof Method, using a specific breathing technique and taking daily cold showers. (If you’re interested, I talk about how I fit this practice into my daily routine here 🙂 ).
Having mentioned the book and my new practice to fellow athletes and coaches at my CrossFit box, one of the coaches talked about the possibility of organising a local workshop run by a certified WHM instructor. Obviously, I couldn’t resist the opportunity for such an adventure!
On Sunday 23 June, Scott Riley of Causeway Living ran a ‘split venue’ workshop for a small group of local folk. We spent the morning at CrossFit Causeway learning the fundamentals of the Wim Hof Method, focusing specifically on our goals and on the breathing technique. In the afternoon we went to Coach Paul’s house in the countryside and took a wee dip in an ice bath 😉 .
Even though I had been taking daily cold showers for 6 weeks, I didn’t feel very confident about getting into a bath full of ice. I knew my body was really good at getting rid of heat (I sweat profusely when I’m training, particularly when I’m running) and I’d say that I tend to feel the cold (I’m the one who’ll be wearing a couple of fleeces and a hat inside the house, even in summer!). The showers didn’t seem to be getting any easier for me, so I thought I was heading for a major wimp moment for certain …
Scott taught us how to down-regulate the fight-or-flight response by slowing our breathing right down. As we all stood around the pool, Scott banged out a rhythm on a drum and we built up energy with our breathing. When the drum beat slowed, it was time for someone to get into the icy water.
Somehow I think the faster drumming triggered memories and well-practised useful skills for the context. I remembered breaking boards with my bare hands on countless occasions (through my NLP training work). I remembered how many times I’d walked across burning embers and done arrow-breaks at Tir na Nog . And then my body did something of its own accord: it took me into a trance – before I even got into the pool!
As soon as I felt the familiar pins-and-needles of trance starting to happen, I knew I’d be okay in the ice. When the drumming slowed for a second time, I stepped forward and lowered myself slowly into the water. I slowed my breathing right down, I let myself sink deeper into trance, and I actually enjoyed the experience 🙂 .
Here’s a wee bit of footage of me in the pool:
(You can watch more ice bath footage here.) Since doing Scott’s workshop I’ve become far more confident about exposing myself to the cold. The slow-breathing technique really works and I have no bother showering on the coldest setting: I actually enjoy it and the feeling of cold soon wears off! Afterwards I feel really relaxed and invigorated.
I also like the idea that it’s possible to generalise out this response to stress. That is, we can down-regulate our fight-or-flight response just by the simple act of breathing. And I really like how cold-showering or ice-bathing can help overcome procrastination. For me, there’s no point standing in the shower and waiting to be ready to turn the temperature right down. While it’s toasty warm, you’ll never be ‘ready’, so just turn it down and enjoy it!
You can find out more about Scott Riley and his Wim Hof Method workshops here. He’s a super facilitator and walks his talk.
Right. I’m off for a cold shower, then I’m going outside and may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)