I first heard the name Wim Hof from my friend, Dave, as he guided me through Hof’s breathing exercise he had recently learned. The experience was both profound and positive and Hof’s bold claims intrigued me enough to pick up Carney’s book. In the end, there was much more in it, and the book was even better than I thought it would be.
In What Doesn’t Kill Us, investigative journalist, Scott Carney, seeks out Dutchman Wim Hof, a.k.a. The Iceman, to see just what he is all about. At first skeptical of this man who habitually pushes his body to the extreme of human limits, he eventually becomes a believer as he, too, pushes his body and mind to the edges of endurance. The breathing strategies he has learned to use in water and on land and in cold temperatures all come together in his culminating 28-hour climb to the top of Mr. Kilimanjaro wearing minimal clothing. Hof, Carney, and now others in the fitness world beg the question, “What if we could regain some of our lost evolutionary strength by simulating the environmental conditions of our forebears?”
In addition to spending time with Hof, Carney also calls on knowledge from other scientific disciplines and individuals who have managed to use environmental conditioning to accomplish truly extraordinary things. He enlists input from an Army scientist, world-famous surfer, Laird Hamilton, the founders of an obstacle course race movement, and ordinary people who have used Hof’s methods and documented how they have cured autoimmune diseases, lost weight, and reversed diabetes.
Carney’s personal account and Hof’s methods inspired me to incorporate daily breathing exercises, cold showers, and occasional trips to the local cryotherapy establishment. I have made cold showers before bed (I have noticed better sleep) a regular habit, and the breath work has improved my ability to sustain anaerobic and aerobic efforts in the gym.
Although I am not yet entirely sold on the benefits of exposure to extreme cold, I do believe there is some merit to exposing ourselves to unordinary conditions. It makes sense to me that the more conditions and various temperatures we expose our bodies to, the more capacity it has to adapt in unforeseen conditions.