The Wim Hof method challenge is taken on by Trinity’s own Mark McGauran

With a focus on breathing, cold exposure, and concentration, the challenge is supposed to deepen the connection between body and mind

Commonly known as the “Iceman”, Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof has come to fame by breaking cold exposure records including running a half marathon north of the Arctic Circle barefoot, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, and even standing covered with ice cubes for 112 minutes. He says his secret to success is mindfulness and undergoing special training to connect the body and mind. Wim Hof’s successes are not unachievable though, which is why he has developed a method to help people lead stronger and healthier lives. With Hof’s own guiding motto, “what I am capable of, everyone can learn”, Trinity Sport’s own Mark McGauran is undertaking the Wim Hof Method Challenge and is currently over 6 weeks through the course.

With unbelievable performances not just dealing with cold exposure like he is typically famous for, Hof has hung on a single finger 2,000 metres above ground and ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without drinking. This just goes to show how his method has allowed him to not only be a phenomenal athlete, but to withstand extreme conditions and risky situations in a calm collected way. Some benefits to the Wim Hof method which is claimed to be backed by science includes: better sleep, increased energy, reduced stress levels, increased focus, determination, willpower, and a stronger immune system. Rooted in the power of breath and cold, there are many success stories of users with chronic inflammatory diseases who have committed to the method. McGauran here in Trinity has truly committed to the method and is putting its benefits and effects to the test.

Throughout the past couple months, McGauran has taken to Trinity Sport’s Instagram page with updates on how he is feeling upon implementing the practices. McGauran said, “The first time I saw Wim Hof was in an episode of Stan Lee’s Superhumans back in 2014. He trained in hard, natural environments, particularly under condition of extreme cold.” Hof later shared the three keys to his successes: breathing, concentration, and gradual exposure to cold. These make up the basis of the challenge and the training that people around the world undertake in order to reap the rewards sworn by Hof himself. McGauran said about his decision to start the challenge back in February, “I decided to take on the Wim Hof Method to push myself outside of my comfort zone and see where it takes me!”

“The first tasks were to take a 30 second cold shower for seven consecutive days and focus on breathing techniques.”

Cold is a form of stress on the body and week one is about focusing on trying to control that stress response. The first tasks were to take a 30 second cold shower for seven consecutive days and focus on breathing techniques. Additionally, stretches are geared towards putting the body into a relaxed state. In response to the beginning cold exposure, McGauran jokes, “I would have given Jim Carey a run for his money in the face pulling department.” An extra challenge for the first week is to put both hands in ice water and keep them there for two minutes. Interestingly, McGauran said that after the first minute his body began to adapt and heat came back in. This really shows the power of the mind and breathing to overcome that initial shock response and push through even when it gets uncomfortable.

By week three, McGauran shared the benefits of cold showers. They not only save time and money, but are also great for your skin, help with depression and anxiety, wake you up, and boost immunity. It is clear how in the present times that boost in immunity could be useful! He said the theme for this week was inflammation. Inflammation is part of the immune response and the body’s defense against toxins, but too much inflammation can contribute to many chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. The benefits to controlling inflammation are immense and a key area of research. This week the showers changed from beginning with the cold shower then finishing with the warm shower, rather than the other way around. On this, McGauran said, “Psychologically, this has been relatively easy but the thought of starting with a cold shower made me realise I had probably been in a comfort zone.”

“Before trying the Wim Hof method challenge, McGauran did a push up test and got 35 repetitions and then with the breathing challenge got 42 repetitions.”

Next up was endurance. Not to get too scientific, but muscles perform best in an alkaline environment. A way to increase alkalinity is to perform deep diaphragmatic breathing, which helps to oxygenate the blood and make it more alkaline. A challenge for week four was to perform as many push ups as possible after 40 deep breaths while holding onto the inhale of the last breath. Before trying the Wim Hof method challenge, McGauran did a push up test and got 35 repetitions and then with the breathing challenge got 42 repetitions. His endurance in fact did increase and he even said: “I have gotten to the point where I’m enjoying my cold showers too! This will become a part of my lifestyle because of the way I feel afterwards.”

From Wim Hof himself, “With deep breathing and the right mindset, you can actually influence the neurotransmitters in your body. You can protect the enzyme around the cell division, which will increase your longevity.” Everything Hof has claimed so far has been backed completely by science and it is hard to dispute when looking at his accomplishments. Week five of the challenge saw the cold exposure ramped up even more in preparation for the first ice bath at week eight. With the ice bath looming near, McGauran said he was both apprehensive and excited. No doubt that will prove to be quite a challenge to both McGauran and the method itself.

The latest update from McGauran has been in his sixth week of the challenge where he has continuously learned the value the breath has in pressure and stress situations. It is not only a skill to learn to undertake cold exposure challenges, but also in life to cope with all of the ups and downs associated with each and every day. “I am up to three minutes with the cold shower times and that will change to five minutes next week, but I know I will be fine because I feel I have a certain level of control over my breath now,” McGauran remarked. It is great to see all the progress he has made and how he is already benefiting from his commitment to the method and program.

There is so much to learn from McGauran as he takes on this incredible journey to really control his body and mind. It will be awesome to see what is ahead for him as he continues through and stays committed. Definitely keep up with his updates on the Trinity Sport Instagram and maybe you will even be inspired to give it a shot yourself.

Shannon McGreevy

Shannon McGreevy is the Online Editor of Trinity News and a Senior Sophister student of Biochemistry.