Im always harping on the necessity of learning new things that could help your lifting and fitness. A few months ago, I read a book called The Way of the Iceman that I believe has some valuable insights that can help both regular fitness people and those of us who are in power sports.
The author is a Dutchman named Wim Hof. He has been using breath control and hyper focus for decades in his regimen called cold training. This is not simply dumping a bucket of cold water over your head after a hard workout, it is swimming in near freezing water in the winter, sitting in tubs of ice, and of course, taking very cold showers.
He works in low temperatures to condition his body. The core of his approach is to use deep breathing and laser focused concentration. Not only does he survive these extreme conditions, but his body evidently thrives on this type of environmental adversity.
Why would you be tempted to try this? My thoughts:
- Exposure to cold improves your circulation and immune system
- Exposure to cold can burn more fat
- The deep breathing protocols improve mental discipline and focus
- The overall challenges of the program make you more resilient
After reading the book, I decided to try some baby steps into the area of using cold to condition my body. When it comes to being cold, I am a total candy-ass. If the temperature drops below 75, Im looking for a sweater. However, there were some very useful nuggets in this book that I thought I would pass along.
The first is focused breathing. Take 30 deep breaths of 10 second duration. The intent is to enhance oxygen uptake, and calm your mind. It is much like meditating. It has a positive physiological impact as well. It is also the technique used to deal with the extreme low temperatures.
The cold training begins with your daily shower. Begin by taking your normal shower, and then prepare to give your body a bit more stimulation.
Rather than turn the hot water completely off, I began with baby steps, going slightly colder than my bathing temperature. Hof recommends that eventually you aim for 2 minutes in totally cold water. I suggest starting out with slightly colder water, and begin with 30-60 seconds.
The way you deal with the shock of the cold water is to do the slow deep breathing. For many reasons I wont go in to, the effect is to insulate your body from the cold.
I have been doing this for about six months, and find that using cold water at the conclusion of my daily shower is very invigorating. My recommendation is to experiment by doing gradual changes in water temperature and time spent in the cold shower. Start with minimal cold water and try it for 30 seconds. Gradually go colderand longer.
One other interesting idea that came from The Iceman was to eat once a day. For someone like me who has been a 3 meals/day type since I was in diapers, this sounded less than appealing.
However, I tried itwith the caveat that if it made me feel like dirt, I would dump it faster than week old sushi.
To my surprise, eating once a day (evening) became both comfortable and easy. Obviously, I focus on eating quality food. I have been on that program for at least four months, and it feels both easy and normal.
The actual protocol calls for all your daily eating (excluding coffee) to take place in one five-hour period. The rest of the timeno food.
As part of full disclosure, Im training hard 5 days a week, but not doing powerlifting training. However, I never get hungry, and not too surprisingly, my body fat has diminished significantly.
Is this for you? Mini-fasting is currently oh so! fashionable in the fitness industry. If you ignore the current frenzy amongst the Ken and Barbie crowd, mini-fasting might actually be a good idea.
You can only find out if it works for you by giving it a try. Combined with breath control and cold training, you may get some significant benefit.
Bottom line: The Iceman has some interesting ideas that may benefit some (or all) of you out there. Trying them out is simple since: 1) you must breathe anyway; 2) I assume all of you shower; and 3) eating has always been a weightlifters second (or third) favorite sport.
You can find the book HERE.
Lift More! Richard