Making friends with the cold

The first time I ever heard anything about the Wim Hof Method (WHM) was back in February 2020. One of my closest friends at the time was going to do a WHM workshop in North Carolina. Having never heard about this, I looked it up to find out what it was all about – mainly so I could engage in conversation with him about it and at least sound like I knew some of what I was talking about.

Fast forward to the summer of 2021 and by this point he’d done a second session and suggested I should do one myself. I heard that a session was being held close to where I live and duly signed up for it without really thinking about what I was doing. In part I was curious about the practice. In part I wanted to impress him. Trying to impress a boy isn’t the right reason to do anything. I know that now. But I did the session and the ice bath (I wrote about it at the time). It was challenging – mentally and physically. In the euphoria of coming out I said I’d do it again … not that day … but one day. 

This past weekend that time came. The session starts with us gathered as a group to introduce ourselves to one another and to say why you’re there. For me it was about healing – physically and emotionally. Let me explain. 

The last photo taken of me before we hit a big wave and my back went

The physical healing is as a result of a boat taxi ride when I was in Costa Rica back in March of this year. I was sitting at the front of the boat, not facing the direction we were traveling in and on a seat with a cushion that wasn’t secured properly. We were told it would be a smooth crossing and my arse, quite literally, was it smooth. There were several fun bumps and then one big one that left pain shooting up my back. It later transpired that I compressed two of my vertebrae, locking them tight together and the muscles around them contracted to protect them. Since returning to the UK I’ve spent much of my time with ice packs against it to ease it so figured sitting in a tub of ice may help.

The emotional healing relates to him – the person who I called my best friend who walked out of my life at the beginning of the year. I got burnt – badly. I could be wrong but it felt like it was almost an act of self preservation on his part. He’d been burnt badly by others in the past and kept telling me in the lead up that he was determined not to get burnt again, and not by me – so he burnt me before I or anyone else could do it to him. It was never on my radar to burn him. Whilst I know that there is an element of what happened that I must take the blame for – I know it wasn’t all me. Communication though was lacking or misinterpreted when it did happen and the result was a broken friendship and a broken me. Because he was the person who introduced me to the WHM, I feel a connection between him and the practice. The last time I did it, in part, for him. This time I was different. This time, stepping into that tub of ice was healing part of that wound he left me with. This time I was doing it for me. To rewrite my story with the practice and make it mine.

I don’t know if you watched Freeze The Fear that was recently on BBC1? It was finally a reality TV show I could get behind. A group of 8 celebrities put through their paces by the main man, Wim himself in the Italian Alps. Through breathwork sessions emotional trauma was brought to the surface. It was powerful, raw, honest. As an Alfie Boe fan anyway it was heart-breaking to see him fall apart and open up about the darker times in his life. I went along to the session this weekend with some trepidation about whether the trauma I felt from what happened at the start of the year would come out in me. I think it did – but not quite as I expected it to.

It’s interesting to see how my relationship with ice has changed since I did my first ice bath last October. Then there was fear and trepidation about stepping into it. Nerves were running high and it took a lot mentally to do it. The camaraderie from the group and the voice of him in my head pushed me to do it. Then the two minutes in the ice felt like 10 minutes or longer. I couldn’t talk – it was all I could do to breathe. My body went into shock and it took some time to calm my breathing and take back control. I needed to be focused on what I was doing. I felt challenged, I rose to it and felt invincible as a result.

Spot the difference in my face between my first ice bath in October 2021 and my second one in May 2022.

On Saturday, whilst the camaraderie was still there – there was no voice in my ear. This was for me. Only me. Inhale – step into the bath. Exhale – sit down. There was no challenge this time – I knew that I could do it. I’d done it before. There was that moment of shock from my body – but that’s all it was. A moment. I quickly took control back of my breath and could talk – laugh in fact. And laugh I did. I was loving life – living my best life.

The emotions run high in extreme circumstances. Whilst I was expecting tears or sadness – instead I felt nothing but pure elation. Something had shifted, something released. It was as though a weight had been lifted and I suddenly felt lighter. It was evidently noticeable in me by others – a friend commented the day after on how it was as though I was high (without having taken any substance to induce it). I was high on my own supply of oxygen. I felt on top of the world – and several days later I still do. And my back felt great too – which was a bonus.

Whilst he may have broken me – I have so much to thank him for. I’m grateful he brought the WHM to my life. When I first heard about the WHM I never thought it would be something that I’d do or enjoy. But I love it. I believe in it. I want to do more of it. It’s become part of me and even if you’re just the slightest bit curious about it, I’d recommend you give it a try (with a certified WHM Instructor). Become friends with the cold and get high on your own supply. You’re stronger than you think you are.

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