Wim Hof has an unusual talent. With just mind control, he can regulate his body temperature, allowing him to run barefoot in the snow, sit in a bath of ice for a couple of hours or run a desert marathon without drinking water. But he is more than a record-breaking showman. He’s working with scientists to prove that when it comes down to extreme and outdoor sports – and life – mind control really is everything.
Wim chills out under the ice
How did you get into the cold?
It began when I was 17. I was looking to go deeper into the area of self-control. One day I was in the park and just felt attracted to the cold water. I just went in, only for a minute. I felt, this is it. This will open the way.
I changed my breathing pattern. In a couple of months I was able to draw so much oxygen inside I was able to stay for five to seven minutes under the ice without breathing. You learn to breathe differently. It's a great feeling.
Wim climbs 6,000m mountain – in shorts!
You sat in a bathtub of ice for 1h 53m. How?
I stay warm by thinking and breathing. I direct my mind to work the hormonal system. Just with the mind – no shivering or moving about – my cells produce 300% more metabolic activity. That means energy. That's the way I keep warm. It's mind control. I use my mind to directly influence the energy management of the cell.
Watch Wim as he dives under the ice
Up until now scientists have told us that your nervous system cannot be controlled by voluntary will. My techniques have been shown – in scientific studies – that it can.
In one comparative, scientific study 12 of my people were able to produce more adrenaline lying in bed than someone in fear, taking a bungee jump for the first time. They also injected the 12 with a bacteria that normally makes you sick for five to eight hours. The group suppressed their reactions all within one quarter of an hour. That's deep control!
Good news for adventure athletes?
All thrill-seekers are looking for deeper control and anyone doing records is doing it naturally already. They might not know it, but they are. I have enormous respect for action sport adventurers: these are people trying to seek inner depth or spirituality through extreme activities – that’s spirituality to me.
Watch Wim barefoot running in the snow
So do you feel the cold at all?
No, not really, if you control it well. The nervous system is about nerves. If you have control over the nervous system, it will produce a whole lot of dopamine that reduces the pain reflex. The body is fully equipped to go into extremes, but you have to learn to control it.
Ever get a cold injury?
Yes, once. I was barefoot running in Lapland. It was quite cold and I had some blood circulation problems at 18km. From the knee down my leg felt like wood. I couldn't feel anything.
The doctor told me that irreparable damage was done. He told me to come back in four months. I was given boxes of pills and medicines. I had to keep it dry. I did the opposite. I began to heal myself. I used no pills, only a type of grease you put on cows' udders. I used that for a month and I was healed. That was the only time I have received a cold injury.
How did you cope in the desert?
So I thought, I've done cold, what about heat? If you are able to handle cold then it follows you should be able to handle heat as well. So I went down to Namibia and ran a marathon with no prior training, and did not drink. The physiologist said what was remarkable was my core temperature remained 37 degrees.
Yes, 5.2 litres dehydrated. Afterwards I drank some water and a couple of beers and I was fine.
In mid-January a group of 20 people aim to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 36-hours wearing just shorts and boots. It's a way to show that everyone can do it.
I want to be able to run naked in the snow. What should I do?
The best tip is to take a cold shower after a hot one. You will see and feel change if you do this on a regular basis. Another one: breathe more than you feel is needed.
If you really want to see what the cold can do for you, download the Wim Hof method via his website.