Hello and welcome back to The School of Greatness!
In today’s episode, I interview Wim Hof, the Dutch daredevil commonly nicknamed “The Iceman” for his ability to withstand extreme cold. Wim describes his ability to withstand extreme cold temperatures as being able to turn his own thermostat up through breathing exercises. He’s also a coach, an author, a speaker who trains people around the world in his cold endurance methods. He holds 26 world records, including a world record for the longest ice bath. He’s even climbed to an altitude of 22,000 feet on Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts and shoes!
Wim has also reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in his shorts within two days as well as completed a full marathon above the Arctic circle in Finland with temperatures close to minus four degrees Fahrenheit. He broke the ice endurance record twice, with The Guinness World Record now set for one hour and 52 minutes and 42 seconds.
In this interview, we break down how to master breathing — how to master your breath as an extreme athlete and from any extreme mental performance point of view. If you have any stress in your life, anxiety, fears, doubts, concerns, or uncertainty — I’m telling you, this episode is for you!
Let’s jump right into today’s episode with Wim Hof, the Iceman!
Wim’s Origins with Breath
While breathing is something each of us does every day, few of us take time to understand or study the power it holds. Wim’s journey began because he had been studying every religion, tradition, culture, language, and philosophies — but none brought him the sense of connection he was searching for as he yearned for something ‘greater’ than himself — something more.
Until he found cold water.
“The cold water is merciless but righteous, it brings you directly into contact with a deeper part of your own physiology and the way nature meant it to be. Then I knew from the inside — this is it! I don’t know why, but this is it. Feeling good is being connected.” – Wim Hof
After his first experience and this deeper connection, he tried it again with the same result and decided to pursue it all winter long through freezing temperatures in the icy water. By breathing deeply in the water, Wim trained to become able to stay under the ice for seven minutes!
Wim’s deep breathing was changing his body’s chemistry, thereby becoming stronger and more alkaline, helping his body adapt to all situations — the cold, heat, Mount Everest, grief, any stressful situation.
So began his journey to break 26 world records.
Lessons from a Near Death Experience
Wim’s Guinness World Record attempts haven’t always been smooth sailing. While attempting to set a new under-ice swimming record of 50 meters, catastrophe struck.
“In the polar circle the day before the actual record, I went in, I had no goggles on and I lost my way because I lost sight. [My] cornea [froze] and I [couldn’t find the second hole]. I did 113 meters. I couldn’t find it all.” – Wim Hof
Exhausted, narrowed vision, and swimming towards unconsciousness, he felt no pain or agony — just peace. If it hadn’t been for a diver bringing him back to the 50-meter hole, he most likely would have died.
Wim had to return the next day and overcome his near-death experience and break the record. His perception of death had been transformed into a powerful understanding:
“I’m not afraid to die. I’m afraid not to live.” – Wim Hof
Wim uses this to empower others to overcome their own fears now.
Helping People Overcome Day-to-Day Fears
Wim is a man on a mission! At every turn, it feels like someone we love is dealing with the fear of some kind, potentially created from an array of mental issues like greed, emotions, PTSD, trauma, depression — all of which Wim believes can be tackled by learning to deal with fear.
“By learning that we are able to control the directory of the brain — that is, the primitive brain that makes you able [to] subconsciously act good or calm in any situation — If you can learn to control any situation, the way nature meant it to be, that is controlling the primitive part of the brain. Then fear subsides and you learn to control it.” – Wim Hof
Wim never claimed to not feel fear — he feels it like everyone else. He’s just found a way to push through with his breathing.
Dealing with Sickness
Wim’s breathing techniques don’t just help him through fear, they aid his immune system too. That’s not to say he never gets sick, but instead of being holed up in bed, he only experiences cold and flu-like symptoms. Wim has advice for those of us who can take a week to recover.
“Just do this breathing. [Breathing] was shown [to work] in a comparative study, because they created flu-like symptoms by injecting a bacteria [into my body] and within a quarter of an hour, it was all suppressed.” –Wim Hof
This is incredible! This was done in a controlled environment with doctors monitoring Wim the entire time, and instead of terrible flu symptoms including body aches, he only had a mild headache!
The power of breath is quite remarkable — I wondered what Wim’s morning routine might be to practice his own teachings.
Wim’s Morning Routine
No surprise — his answer is ‘breathing.’ However, he takes it a step further.
“Breathing is always there, conscious breathing. Right now I’m a man on a mission, and every day, I think about what I got to do with upcoming research. I’m taking care of that within myself, then conscious breathing, of course. When I need to, I do pushups or stand on one hand. In January, I [have] a new goal. I want to do Kilimanjaro, which is six kilometers barefoot in 24 hours. [I] said it, and once again, I’m programming my body to function, and it’s conditioning by itself.” – Wim Hof
This is perfect timing! I wanted to ask Wim about how he prepared for previous record attempts — but now we can hear firsthand how he prepares for the Kilimanjaro barefoot climb in less than 24 hours!
Creating a Vision to Execute
We talk extensively about the importance of setting a vision for yourself here on The School of Greatness, I’m curious to hear Wim’s thoughts on setting the vision or the goal far in advance to prepare for it as opposed to just hoping it happens.
Setting all those World Records has taught Wim the power of the mind and that whatever he thinks of, he can create.
“I’ve learned now that whatever I think will become reality. My [vision] is not materialistic gain. Of course, I need to take care of my family and that’s all done. I test [my vision] because I’m dealing with people, with the scientific establishment, and with the existing establishment of how to make money. I have to interact and learn how to reach my goals. What is my goal? To bring the fundamentals into our schooling system. We love our kids [and] caring and sharing begins with them.” – Wim Hof
That’s exactly why I created The School of Greatness! We can all agree some of the most powerful lessons are not being taught in the current school system, and when they are — there are fantastic results.
In Baltimore, where children grow up with no money, no possibilities, and are almost written off, they have begun to meditate in the schools with the kids, and it has broken through this depressive state of being.
It’s wonderful to hear that Wim is so dedicated to bringing his understanding to children around the world. After so many incredible accomplishments, I’m sure he will add this to his list one day, which will be his proudest achievement. I was curious though to see what he considers that to be now.
Wim’s Most Proud Accomplishment
Every time you do something with an extreme nature, you must go into it 100%, making the intensity of the experience massive every time. I can’t even begin to imagine being 20,000 feet high just in shorts on Mount Everest! Now imagine being alone and experiencing a whiteout as a blizzard descends on you. You don’t know the way and you can’t see the way because everything is white. What would you do in that situation? Well, Wim shares what this was like for him.
“I had to confront my mind that was all over the place, but I felt such a deep confidence and peace.” – Wim Hof
Having had five kids, Wim experienced the sudden feeling of being engulfed with, ‘I want to protect the baby’ in a very deep moment. Wim had this same deep moment on Mount Everest with an intensity that overcame him to transcend his ego and fear.
“Then it took me three hours to follow my gut and sounds [around me] and [eventually] I came down to 6,400 meters and [was] received by people in the tents that did not even look up [at a] man in shorts, [coming out of a] blizzard. They thought I was a sort of pilgrim!” – Wim Hof
That sounds like a scene out of a comedy — all these people bundled up and Wim arrives just in shorts! That being said, it makes complete sense that surviving that experience is his proudest accomplishment.
The Ultimate Goal to Accomplish
We know Wim has another record attempt coming up to ascend Kilimanjaro, so I asked him if there is something specific he wants to make sure he accomplishes before his last day.
“I want to prove and get it into the schools that greatness is the natural state of our mind every day. As long as this wonder of life is not experienced as such, we have to go and [educate] the people and bring it to science. Show that spirituality is the normal, very sane state of mind, the way nature meant it to be. I will keep on trying to make sure, at least, to take away fear, anxiety, depression, [and] a whole lot of diseases and show that the cost is actually within us and that we need to change a little bit of consciousness [to get] there. I’m just advocating happiness, strength, and health.” – Wim Hof
What a powerful mission and purpose to constantly strive for that serves everyone.
Why You Should Listen to This Wim Hof Podcast Episode Right Now…
Guys, this interview is packed with incredible stories and information about how breathing can impact the body. You can listen to the full episode for all the information, and don’t forget to share the episode with someone who needs to hear it: you could change someone’s life!
If you enjoyed this episode, let us know on Instagram! Tag Wim, @iceman_hof, and me, @lewishowes, with a screenshot of the episode and your greatest takeaways!
You should also check out his website www.wimhofmethod.com to connect with him and learn his breathing techniques.
I want to acknowledge Wim for a moment for his incredible spirit, energy, and his passion for life. I’ve never met another man like him who’s so driven, so full of life, and full of energy. He constantly pushes the human boundaries of what’s possible both physically and mentally, and emotionally is in full service to teach others. Whatever happens, Wim is in full service to the world. This is quite beautifully highlighted in Wim’s definition of greatness:
“Life. This is my definition of greatness. Life and getting to explore without fear, and then we all become Indiana Jones.” – Wim Hof
Friends, join me on Episode 398 to learn about mastering your breath, body, and mind with Wim Hof. I know you’ll get just as much out of it as I did!
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