If you would have asked me, even as little as 3.5 years ago, are you looking forward to winter?
The answer invariably would have been, no. It would have been followed by comments of wool
sweaters, timely vacations to desert or tropical locales and perhaps a discussion of space
heaters or down blankets to purchase so that each room could be warmed sufficiently to the mid
to high 70s.
Growing up in the high desert area of Albuquerque, New Mexico, may have certainly contributed
to my tolerance being far greater for warmth and heat rather than cold, but I have learned that it
goes far beyond that. Sure, environment plays a part but it is more about what we do in that
environment that makes the difference. For me, going outside even in the slightest of cool
temperatures prompted me to throw on a jacket or sweater, if nothing else than to fend off a
potential cold. Parents and teachers, the conventional wisdom sayers would quickly scoff,
‘throw on jacket if you don’t want to get sick. Bundle up or you’ll freeze to death,’ they’d say!
And so I complied. Eyeing kids who walked around without a jacket in fall or winter as
Darwinian idiots, rightfully to be swallowed by nature’s cruelty. Didn’t they know we have risen
above nature and invented jackets, wool hats and the like to avoid that silly calamity?
So, what happened to make me want to search for cold? Wim Hof happened. A crazy
dutchman spouting about the cold and that we all have the basic machinery and are somehow
even made to benefit from it. And all we have to do is stay focused, use the cold to build back
our vascular systems weakened from a lack of environmental exposure -- oh yeah- and ‘breath
motherfucker’. He sounded positively insane... albeit a little intriguing.
As a martial artist, hearing about Wim and his cold feats rivaled some of the great legends and
stories I had heard or read about for years. Stories about martial artists sitting in cold rivers or
under waterfalls meditating; or reading about the Navy SEALs training to be able to withstand
cold for hours; or monks drying wet sheets at altitude by heating their bodies. It seemed more
folklore than anything else. Or at best an exercise reserved for highly specialized human beings
that happened to be born with some odd adaptation that allows them to withstand these
particular elements. How could someone like me-- a guy that had to wear socks to bed in
summer just to be able to sleep through the night without waking up in a chill-- be able to be in
the cold and like it?
I can happily report it actually wasn’t that much. It only took some gradual exposure to the
cold- I started with mixing cold and cursing in with my warm showers (the cursing only lasting
the first 2 weeks), stayed consistent and learned a new way to breathe. Now, my friends and
family echo back to me that I can’t shut up about winter, cold, breathing and about ‘the latest
research’... they collectively laugh when I sing in the cold shower or ask them to come with me
to see if we can find a cold lake or river. Fortunately for me (and slowly many of them too),
living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, offers boundless opportunities to freeze.
And I just can’t get enough!
Matthew Soule is a certified WHM Instructor, based out of Seattle.