hands in ice bucket

What to do against cold feet

Whether you practice the Wim Hof Method or not, you might struggle with cold hands and feet. If that’s the case, read on. I’ll show you how to improve that.

I (still) get cold feet

Many practitioners of the method, fresh and seasoned alike, struggle with cold hands or feet.
Many non-practitioners, too. Actually many practitioners started to improve that hand/foot situation.

Your feet could be cold after cold exposure, or just throughout the day.
This is not unbeknownst to myself. When I was half-way through my instructor class I was still struggling with cold extremities after every ice bath.

As an avid practitioner of the method I did what I thought would cure it: do more cold showers, do more cold dips in icy water outside. At one point the extremities must get used to the cold, right?

But nothing changed.
Sometimesone of my toes would stay white for hours, even though the rest of my body was perfectly warm.

So I took some courage and asked Douwe. At the time, Douwe taught the instructor master class. And I’m glad I did. Because what he said was a bit surprising for me.

Ice baths don’t help against cold feet

Well, they do a little bit, but ice bath’s are not quite the best tool to free yourself from what feels like icicles at the end of your arms and legs.

When you step into an ice bath, your whole body goes into survival mode. Homeostasis, trying to keep the body core temperature at 37 degrees. Your body does all it can to keep the core with all your vital organs warm. Your heart, your lungs, your kidneys, your liver.
One of its most effective tricks to keep your organs warm is to keep most of the blood in the core.

Which means that it pulls all the veins in your arms and legs tight. They are supposed to get cold in the cold. I mean, in terms of survival, what does it matter if you loose a toe or a finger? (please don’t stay in the cold long enough to put it to a test)

So in a full-body immersion, you teach your blood vessels in the extremities to constrict and get cold. Your body is too busy surviving to care about your extremities.

And even when you warm up, the hands and feet come last.

So while ice baths do train your whole body, including the extremities, it’s a lot if your main trouble zones are hands and feet.

What does help against cold feet

Let’s approach this from another angle. When you body is warm, but your feet are cold, a well functioning body will send nice, warm blood to the feet if it is safe. So in your winter boots or when you come home into the warmth there is no physical reason for cold feet.

For various reasons, for many of us that’s not how it works. Yet.
Even when you’ve warmed up after an ice bath, your feet and hands may stay cold.
Even when you’re snuggled up with a hot-water bottle under blanket, your feet are cold.

So for some reason, your body does not know how to open up you hands and feet.

The training plan for cold hands and feet

You can use cold to counter cold feet.

We want to train the blood vessels in our extremities to constrict when it’s cold, but also to open up again when it’s safe to do so.
Basically train our body’s natural response to temperature changes.

And temperature changes is what you can use for the training.

You need:

  • a bucket with ice water
  • a bucket with luke warm water

It’s important that the second bucket is just luke warm. Body temperature. Not hot.

And our training process looks like this:

  1. put your hands (or feet) into the ice water. A minute or two is a good starting point.
  2. move them into the bucket with warm water until they feel “warm” again.
  3. Repeat.

I’d suggest to put all your focus into this exercise and use your will power to warm up your hands in step 2, and induce vasoconstriction in step 1.

Use your breath in step 1 to relax your body. Long exhales through the mouth, and try to relax your shoulders, arms and back.

You can repeat for as long as you can keep your focus.

If you do this a few times per week you will quickly experience improvements.

And never get cold feet again.

Much love
~Marius

drops splashing

Of adrenaline and and the immune system

It’s this time of the year again… winter has officially started. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s nippy, it’s time for flu and common cold. The days are short, and if you work in an office you may leave home before the sun is up and come back when the sun is down.

And maybe you feel some effects… a little less energy, a little head cold, a little low mood. I certainly feel it. I even got a proper flu this week for the first time in years.

So what can we do if we want to feel better, prevent getting sick or make for a quick recovery?

It’s simple: we need a strong immune system.

Our immune system’s base are the white blood cells.

Those little buggers love ADRENALINE. When the body is full of adrenaline, they come out, flood the blood stream and eat everything and everyone who does not belong there. Including evil bacteria and viruses.

Second, we need to reduce inflammation. And guess what… INFLAMMATION HATES ADRENALINE. Actually, adrenaline activates the so called Cori cycle, which increases our metabolism, gives our cells more energy and releases lactate into our blood stream. Which indicates to the body to produce anti-inflammatory messenger proteins such as IL-10.

Long story short, WE NEED ADRENALINE.

We could…

  1. go bungee jumping, or
  2. try crossing a highway at rush our, or
  3. do breathwork.

Yeah that’s right. Wim Hof Breathwork produces up to 6 times more adrenaline than a bungee jump. Tells the body to produce more white blood cells, the body’s very own soldiers for fighting illness. And reduces inflammation.

So, go ahead and BREATHE, MOTHERF*CKER, as some people say. Whether you’re healthy right now, or whether you’re already fighting a cold. It’ll do you good.

Much love!

PS: it also produces cannabis, opioids and maybe even DMT right in your brain. Have a nice trip! πŸ™‚

PPS: this is about short, intense bursts of adrenaline. Like breathworks, ice baths, sports. Don’t crank into Jason Statham. Reduce chronic stress. Chronic stress brings a lot of negative ramifications.

Much love. Breathe. Enjoy, like and share.

Lessons from the mountain

3 years ago we climbed mount Sniezka as the final cornerstone of my WIm Hof Instructor course.

It was a unique experience. Intense, joyful. The last day of our retreat, and we would conquer the mountain. Some 30 freshly baked instructors. Our final walk up that path before going out and sharing this beautiful method with the world.

// But The Mountain had a lesson for us. //

Not all of us made it up the mountain. But all of us made it down. And all of us learned the most important lesson of the whole instructor training.

The first part of the hike was beautiful. Wide gently-sloped paths through snow-covered trees. Some degrees below zero, but nothing too serious. Everyone was fine stomping up that mountain in just shorts and boots.At one point the path reaches the tree line, and the wind started to hit us hard. No problem, we were in our focus, our inner fire was switched on. It started snowing. Beautiful!

The final part of the ascent leads over an exposed ridge. Half way up that ridge, the weather changed. The wind took up. The windchill decreased to -30 degrees C. And with it, the storm brought frozen rain. The rain covered everything. The stones, the rails that gave us support. The spikes under our boots started to fail. Our feet slipped on the stones, and our hands slipped on the frozen rails. And with the slipping feet our focus started to slip.

And focus is what keeps the inner fire going. When the focus goes, the cold creeps in. In our case, it didn’t creep, it was hammered into us by hale, frozen rain and wind gusts of 80 km/h. From there it was chaos. Some managed to get dressed. Others were shivering too much to even put a jacket on. Everyone was at their limit. Everyone started their descend back to the last shelter, the Yellow House at the beginning of the crest. It’s only thanks to good luck and individuals who helped some others back down to safety. I personally have half pushed, half pulled, half carried a severely hypothermic person down the crest. I was at the end of my own power when finally he was taken off me by a helper and carried the last few meters to the shelter.

So we didn’t make it up the mountain that day, and barely down. In the beginning, I was almost ashamed that I didn’t make it up. Now, 3 years later, I know that The Mountain taught us an important message that day:

// YOU NEVER CONQUER THE COLD. //

The cold is always stronger. It does not differentiate between a Wim Hof Instructor, a practitioner or any person in the world. Even Wim Hof himself had some close calls. The cold always wins.Nature always wins.

You can use the cold as a tool. It can make you stronger. But if you challenge it, it will win. Always.

Does that make the cold bad? Of course not. It’s like a weight. You wouldn’t walk around all day with a barbell with 100 pound on each side on your back. But if you build up to it, squatting it a few times in the gym will make you stronger. And after training, you need recovery and rest to give the muscles time to recover and grow.

And the cold works the same way. Use it a few times a week to train your body and mind. Respect it. Know your limits. And slowly, and steadily, build up, expand your limits.

The cold can make you happier, healthier, and stronger. Together with a healthy lifestyle, rest and recovery.

This is the lesson I have been teaching in my classes in the last 3 years to hundreds people from a dozen countries. And I hope I have made every single one a happier, stronger and healthier person.

Much love.
Marius

How long do you last?

I see many newcomers ask if x minutes breathholds are enough. How long should the cold shower be? Is one ice bath a week enough?

I have been practicing the WHM for 4 years now. So how long are my breath holds? How long are my ice baths?

Fact is… I don’t know.

And neither should you know.

As Wim says:

Feeling is understanding

In the beginning that’s something everyone takes as a given, but many are still busy counting breaths, stopping breathholds, ponder about the right amount of ice baths.
It takes time to really understand the meaning of these three words. It took me a long while, too. And I’m still working on it.

And granted, the app encourages you to stop your time, measure your progress.

But the real progress is not in the time you can hold your breath. It’s in how you go through life. How you perceive challenges. How you interact with your environment. How your body fends off illness.

Feel and understand

Why don’t you do your next breathwork without a timer. Without a phone. Without even counting breaths. Take the “let it go” literal.

Put on some nice music, and breathe. You will feel when you are ready for the retention.

You will feel when you’re ready to breathe again.

Do your next ice bath or shower without a timer. Don’t push it. Get out when you feel “the smile” appearing on your face.
Your body knows, your mind knows. When it starts to feel nice your body has done it’s work, your mind is relaxed. That’s all that the ice wants to teach you.

That’s how you get out of your head. That’s how you feel the magic.

Do you agree?
Did you try it?
How does it feel?

It’s not about the cold

Often people ask me, hey Marius, when’s your next ice challenge? Or hey Marius, you do that batshit crazy ice bath stuff. Why on earth??

Here’s the thing. It’s not about the ice.
Breathwork is another very important element of what I am doing.
And feeling deep into your own subconscious, your body and your mind.

But it’s not about that either.

What it’s really about, is transformation.

Breathwork and ice are a tool to transform yourself into a calmer, more loving, more performant person.

Getting out of your head.
Being vulnerable.
Releasing the pressure.

And hence having the capacity, mentally and physically, to do great things.
To start that thing that you always wanted to start.
To spend say no to unimportant stuff and spend more time with your partner and family.
To have the confidence to do whatever you want to do. And cut out the bad stuff.

That’s what it is about.
That’s why I do that crazy ice stuff and the weird breathing thing.
And that’s what I teach and share in my “ice challenges”.

All the best and take care!

Marius Helf practicing the Wim Hof Method in an icy river surrounded by snow covered mountains

How I relearned to breathe – and how it…

In 2017 I was feeling exhausted.

I had just moved to a new city in a new country. I was in multitasking hell in my job, where I was juggling a plethora of technical projects in addition to managing a team of Data Scientists and helping a startup grow to maturity. In addition, I was suffering from frequent and heavy cold and flu, a condition I have been struggling with for the better part of my adult life. In 2017, my sick leave accumulated to a level that was not acceptable to neither me nor my boss.

Six months later, I am standing bare-chested on the ice of a frozen lake in winter Sweden, cutting a hole into the thick layer of ice and getting ready to jump in.

Today, I am teaching how to leverage extreme cold, a powerful breathing technique and forging a strong mindset to become a happier, healthier and stronger version of yourself – how to unleash the Happy Yeti within.

Continue reading

What happens when we breathe?

A cycle of life

Up in the sky the sun circles on its path from horizon to horizon, day by day, year by year. The sun is huge, 1,390,000 kilometers in diameter. You can fit 1,000,000 earths into the sun! And inside the sun a gigantic nuclear reaction is producing an unbelievable amount of heat and energy. A part of this energy radiates into the universe. High energetic particles and light. Eight minutes and 20 seconds after leaving the surface of the sun, after traveling 150 million kilometers through space, some of this energy arrives on our earth and gives you this warm feeling when it kisses your face on a sunny morning. But it also gives energy to virtually all live on earth, and the sun rays that stroked the skin of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago are now fueling your car or your commuter train when you go to work tomorrow morning.

Read more “What happens when we breathe?”

Marius Helf swimming in a frozen lake in Sweden

How I started to love the cold

My first encounter with the cold was in my first year at university. For some reason I decided to wear shorts — one complete year long. And in my home and study town of Dortmund, we have seasons, including a winter. Not too cold of a winter, but cold enough to make my daily 10k cycle to uni challenging. Still, all went well for about 10 months. Then, one day in December, the flu got me. I was more or less in bed for the better of 2 weeks, and I have been struggling with frequent colds ever since.

So what brought me back to the cold? What has driven me to even go on a five day expedition to Sweden to swim in ice water and hike for 2 hours through the snow covered wilderness south of Stockholm, with nothing but shoes, shorts and a woolen hat on me?

And even more, why did I feel reborn after these 5 days, instead of being in bed with a fever?

Read more “How I started to love the cold”