wim hof method: one-year anniversary

The featured image (above) was taken at Silfra in Iceland. You can actually snorkel in Iceland, who knew? The water temperature is a steady 35 to 39 degrees. Organizers provide pretty hefty wetsuits, and they recommend a warm underlayer. Your face goes a bit numb, but the experience is worth it.

OK, so this is a little odd. realsmallrealestate is almost exclusively about building dollhouses, but if my WordPress statistics are accurate, a post describing my experience with Wim Hof cold water immersion is my most read. Hmmm. Well, if my readers want Wim Hof, they’ll get Wim Hof.

Coincidentally, next week marks my first anniversary with the Wim Hof Method, or at least my “version” of it (Hint: I don’t soak in ice water, so I practice WH Lite). It was a year ago I first heard of Wim Hof and learned about cold water immersion/conscious breathing when Mikhaila Peterson invited the legend himself onto her podcast.

To recap what I reported previously, I was mostly drawn to it due to the possibility of upping my white blood cell count, which tends to run low, and strengthening my immune system.

I started with cold showers, but never made it past a minute or two. Then one day it occurred to me I might be able to use my in-ground spa as a cold water “lake,” or pond, as it were. During our Southern California summers, the unheated water reaches the low 80s. But in winter, it drops to the 50s. While we’re not talking Iceman territory, that’s still therapeutically cold.

Here’s my routine: I begin the day with a light breakfast and coffee. [Aside: I used to do my soaks on an empty stomach, but read somewhere that wasn’t advisable. I couldn’t find out why. Just to be safe, I added a pre-soak snack.] After I eat, I hit the spa. At the moment, with it being fall, the water is in the low 60s.

Over the past year, I’ve acclimated to the chilly temperatures, so the process goes faster than it did at first. I step into the spa up to my waist. After a few seconds, I take in a breath, and then exhale slowly as I submerge up to my neck. For the first minute or so, I continue the relaxed and controlled breathing. My teeth used to chatter, but not anymore. I do shiver, but less. I am keenly aware of the stinging/burning of the cold water, but it’s doable. After 10 minutes, I follow up with a quick cold shower to rinse off the chlorine.

As I reported last time, I can’t say I’ve seen a strong correlation between cold water immersion and a change in my health, but this statement requires a few caveats. First, as I mentioned, I don’t soak year-round in therapeutically cold water. Second, I don’t really know how long I’m supposed to soak. Somewhere along the way, I settled on 10 minutes. It’s possible that’s not long enough. Third, I don’t know how many days/months/years it is supposed to take to see results. Fourth, I’m not a fan of the medical community, so I haven’t gotten a medical check-up or lab work in the past year. Maybe things are great. And last, I have no way of knowing what my health would be today if I hadn’t been soaking because I can’t be both the test subject and the control.

With that said, here’s the update:

  1. I developed a case of arthritis in my hands a few months ago–it’s still there and spreading.
  2. My sleep has long been a little iffy. It’s still uneven.
  3. I have a mild (self-diagnosed) case of restless leg syndrome (RLS) that manifests itself in the evening. Lately, I’ve added a second “mini soak” (waist-high water) for 10-20 minutes before bed. The cold settles the RLS as well as calms a busy brain. I’m still not a great sleeper, but I’ve seen an improvement here.
  4. Cold water soaking has a pretty decent record of stopping headaches if I catch them early enough. Also note: The colder the water gets, the fewer headaches I have.
  5. They say cold water therapy may help depression. I can’t say a lot here. I’m not a typically depress-y person, although COVID is putting me to the test. I feel positive right after my soak, but the positivity dissipates quickly as I head outside to walk the dog and come up against morning rush hour noise and chaos.
  6. One thing I hear some people hope to accomplish with cold water immersion is weight loss/control. I haven’t found this to be true. Initially, I picked up 10 pounds thinking I could eat more. I’m back to my normal weight after two months of intermittent fasting, but I found that for me, short, albeit regular, cold water immersion was not the secret to weight loss.

So, a few changes. Nothing dramatic. Why continue? It’s not easy and it’s not that fun (sorry, Wim Hof enthusiasts).

There are a few reasons, not the least of which is I do read a lot about the benefits of cold water immersion, and I think it’s probably helping more than I can see. I’m planning to keep this up until I have something solid to the contrary.

But there’s also this. It’s mine. It’s tough. And I don’t meet a lot of people who practice it. I’ve always been one to dance to songs only I can hear, so cold water immersion is a good fit.

So there you have it. I’m still not sure I believe this is my top post, but if it’s true, I hope this update is helpful.

I’ll keep all of you Wim Hof enthusiasts posted with periodic updates. In the meantime, do any of you want to hear about dollhouses?

Immersion in cold water can be a dangerous endeavor. It’s prudent to follow professional advice, proceed slowly, and never tune out warnings issued by your mind or body.

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