2021 Book Tracking Report
On January 1, I sent out an email to my #Eyeronvision Newsletter outlining some of my Objectives and Goals for the year. One of those Goals was to read 20 new books—books that I haven’t previously read. I don’t have a specific list or order in which to read but I have quite a few titles in my Audible Library so that’s where I started.
Wim Hof Method
Technically I started reading this book in the last couple days of 2020 so I’m hesitant to count it, but I read the majority of it the past three days, so I’m counting it!
This book details the method and philosophies of Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete who is best known as the “Ice Man” for his feats in the cold. Some things he’s done include swimming under a sheet of ice, climbing on Mt. Everest in shorts, staying packed in ice without his core body temperature dropping, and much more. He’s very into the mind-body connection and strongly believes in the power of the mind to overcome most things that ail us.
I chose to read this particular book because as an athlete I’m always looking for something that could potentially help me perform better. When I saw that Apollo Ono was the voice of the audiobook I figured it was at least worth a read. I don’t think a multi-time gold medalist in speed skating and a sub 10 hour Ironman would put his name to something that he didn’t believe in and didn’t dabble in himself. So I got the book and started reading.
What I liked about this read was that the Wim Hof Method is really quite simple. It combines Yoga breathing techniques with gradual cold exposure to enhance the mind-body connection and therefore allow you to harness the power of the mind at will. I also really liked the scientific explanations behind some of the techniques. The book was endorsed and co-authored by a doctor who researches stress hormones and how humans can adapt to the environment through gradual exposure to stress.
It’s well documented and known that gradual exposure to stressors make us better able to deal with larger stressors down the road. So the theory and practice behind the Wim Hof Method is combining breathing and cold exposure through taking cold showers and ice baths to promote growth hormones and essentially toughen us up as humans. At the same time we’re deepening our mind-body connection which allows us to be present in the moment and lower unnecessary stress levels.
I’ve always known the importance of breathing when it comes to managing stress, whether that be in normal day to day life or during exercise. As an endurance athlete my heart and lungs are extremely important to say the least. Conscious breathing helps to strengthen and improve heart and lung function which in turn improves the circulatory and respiratory systems. So it was interesting reading about some of the physiological effects doing the breathing techniques and cold exposure have. Within the first couple of chapters I decided to try out the breathing. I found a 10min video on Youtube where Wim guides you through three rounds of the breathing exercise. It took a few tries to get used to but by the second or third time watching the video I got the breathing pattern and breath holds down and I’ve been doing the breathing first thing when I wake up in the morning (usually about 20min worth of conscious breathing) and right before I go to sleep (about 10min of conscious breathing).
Am I changing my body chemistry? I don’t know. The breathing certainly feels good and my last few rides on the trainer have been pretty strong. We’ll see if I can keep improving.
Wim speaks directly to athletes in some parts of the book harping on the importance of these methods for recovery as well as performance. So as I continue with the breathing exercises and a little bit of the cold showers we’ll see how my performance and recovery are affected. (Oh yeah, I’ve been doing a little bit of the cold showers and they definitely aren’t pleasant at first. However, I’ve felt remarkably refreshed afterword, so maybe there’s something to them.)
There is certainly some stuff I didn’t like about the book. I am a skeptic when anyone makes such bold claims as Wim does. Science certainly backs up some of what he lays out in the book but a ton of research and time is still needed. I also think books like this tend to prattle on way too long about how great this makes every single person has felt doing this method. On the one hand I get it because you need to promote the good and having tons of testimonials certainly does that, but there are always times I wonder if people are just trying to fill up space. Maybe that’s what you all think of my writing though… Hmm… Something to think about…
Anyway, I think the same ideas and concepts could have been discussed in the book with much less fluff.
I think the thing I liked most about the book is that Wim says that he doesn’t want this to be a dogma or for him to be seen as a guru. He doesn’t really harp on this until near the end of the book and after calling himself a missionary multiple times. No worries though. I do like many of the ideas and concepts especially as it relates to improving stress, athletic performance and mental health. Could I do without some of the waxing on and on about the spiritual aspect of it, yes.
Last year I read “The Mindful athlete” by George Mumford who became famous through his work with professional athletes, particular the 1990s Chicago Bulls and 2000s L.A. Lakers. At the end of that book I had the feeling that Mumford was just beating his chest saying look at me I did great with all these athletes, but there wasn’t much actionable things that I took away except to be more mindful and be in the moment… Thanks dude. Mindfulness has become a word thrown around in the athletic world in recent years and I’ve heard athletes claim it’s what helps them do incredible feats. I’ve sat in on some “Mindfulness” sessions previously and tried out some of the techniques that sere supposed to help me be in the moment and be more calm. One such session was led by a Sports Psychologist at the OPTC immediately prior to a hard swim workout. I proceeded to swim horribly. Ok, that was one experience. But I’d also participated in a mindfulness session led by that Psychologist two days before the Tokyo Test Event and I had a very shitty race… Maybe that particular Psychologist’s methods don’t jive with mine.
As someone who is totally blind I have to be aware of my surroundings to the extreme. So essentially being in the moment is something I’ve been working on my entire life. I’ve always struggled practicing or participating in organized religion as I feel that’s an extremely personal experience. For me, my church/temple is being outside in nature connecting through movement and challenge.
I’m a very practical person, but can throw in the occasional philosophical thought in there. I took much more actionable steps to improving my breathing and some ideas on how I can potentially deal with environmental stressors (heat/cold) when I’m training and racing. At the end of the day, if all I get out of this book is that I do some breathing exercises, that’s fine with me. The mindfulness, mind-body connection, the spiritual parts… That will all come with time and when I’m ready for that part in my athletic and life journey. I’m not one to try and force that stuff.
So, in short, if you want to pick up and read this book, go for it! You can definitely get something out of it.
Book Tracker: 1/20