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A habit, some scales & a bag of hammers.

wim hof method instructor horse stance in snow in poland

3 ways to free-flow with the Wim Hof Method

Last week I waved goodbye to nearly 200 participants, 23 instructors and Wim, after teaching two weeks of the Wim Hof Method Winter Travel in southern Poland.

Over five days participants experience the Wim Hof Method the best way possible - in the icy waterfalls and streams in and around the Karkonosze National Park. It is a thoroughly immersive experience, providing the opportunity for those who attend to journey inward and transform deeply.

On the final day there is a Q&A.

Much like at a workshop, similar questions come up; How many rounds of breathing should I do? Should I breathe with my mouth or nose? Do I need to have an ice bath to get the benefits? What does my routine look like?

All totally valid questions.

All answered in the same way.

It depends.

What I love about the Wim Hof Method is that it is completely non-dogmatic. There’s a basic protocol and some strict safety guidelines, but outside of that, it allows for a very individual, free-flowing practice.

And that’s a really good thing for three reasons:

  1. Integrating your practice with an existing routine is easier

  2. You can mix up your practice to force your body to continually adapt

  3. There’s more scope to select the right tool for the job

Below are several ways you can learn to free-flow with the Wim Hof Method.

Stack the habit

It’s no surprise that a consistent Wim Hof Method practice yields improved results. But, consistency with a busy lifestyle or an already packed routine can be difficult.

However, ‘habit stacking’ is all about building a routine around existing low-effort habits which the flexibility of the Wim Hof Method lends itself nicely to.

The obvious stack is switching your shower to cold (or part of it - up to you). It’s a simple way to get a daily dose of cold exposure while doing something you normally do. For slightly higher effort options, take advantage of your gym’s cold plunge pool post workout (bear in mind this will decrease hypertrophy) or try switching to an outdoor pool for your regular swim. Check out my article for a breakdown on cold exposure.

The breathing technique also lends itself to ‘stacking’. If you normally journal in the morning, experiment adding the breathing technique before or after. If you workout, try a breathing session after you’ve put your gym clothes on, before you head out the door. Personally I like to get up, stretch, brush my teeth then do my breathing exercises (for that fresh mouth feeling!).

Find ways to chain together small wins and use the momentum to build a new habit.

Tip the scales in your favour

Biologically we’re wired for homeostasis, a balance within our system and our bodies have incredible processes to restore this balance if things get out of whack. Which is a good and bad thing. If we never do anything to tip the scales, the body will keep humming along, but in the same way an unused muscle will atrophy, systems in the body that don’t get fully utilised will get weaker.

The Wim Hof Method tips the scales to both the left and right. It’s a reset for our body - including the dilation and constriction of blood vessels in our cardiovascular system, secretion of adrenaline and other chemicals via our hormone system, the change from high to low concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide and the shift from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s a full body workout. On the inside.

At the gym, if you do the same exercises your progress will plateau. Your body learns to adapt to the stress and strain you put on it.

The same applies when practicing the Wim Hof Method. If you always breathe the same way, for exactly 30 breaths, do three rounds and finish with five minutes of meditation your body will adapt to this routine.

Mix up your routine once in a while. Take more breaths or do more rounds (or less!). Switch from mouth to nose-only. Try sitting up (somewhere safe). Throw in some music (or press pause). Explore. Get playful with it.

Challenge your body (and your mind) again and again and it will thank you for it.

More than a bag of hammers

If you’ve been practicing for some time, or you’ve been experimenting a lot you’ll understand that different techniques can give you different results. View these different techniques as tools and therefore remember, not every job requires the same tool.

Only breathing through your nose will make your breathing session more relaxed (as you’re activating the parasympathetic nervous system). This could be exactly what you need if you want to relax. However, if you’re looking for an energy boost, experiment by switching to mouth-only and increasing the speed you breathe at.

For cold exposure, two minutes in an ice bath is all you really need to get the benefits. Beyond two minutes you start to train the mind more. If you’re short on time, stick to two minutes. Job done. But if mental training is something you’d like to work on, explore increasing your cold exposure time (remember to build up gradually).

Change your technique to suit what you need at that moment. Some days I’ll have the desire (or the time) for an epic 50 minute breathing marathon, other days (most days in fact), I’ll complete three rounds and start my day. And my cold exposure is the same. In Poland, for example, I took a quick two minute dip for myself but also included a longer session to work through something that was bothering me.

As Abraham Maslov said "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". The power of the Wim Hof Method is that you have more than a bag full of hammers to help you day-to-day. You have a full toolkit at your disposal.

Start at the beginning

Before you run you gotta learn to crawl. Before you shred a guitar solo you have to learn the basic notes. The same applies here.

Learn the basics of the breathing technique and start slow with your cold exposure. Pay particular attention to tips 3 and 4 of my ‘5 tips to get started with the Wim Hof Method’.

Before you know it you’ll be flying your free-flowing flag!


Interested in learning the basics? Why not come along to one of my workshops? View my list of current activities

Like me to teach at your gym, studio, workplace or backyard? Contact me

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