Cold water therapy is gaining popularity at a rate of knots at the moment, but are ice baths they really all they’re cracked up to be? Sadie Reid investigates
I have long-time been a fan of The Hof – and not the David Hasselhoff variety – I met him once and that guy was a first-rate idiot – but that is another story for another publication… No, I mean Wim Hof, who created The Wim Hof Method and is just about one of the most inspiring and interesting guys out there. Also known as the Ice Man, Hof is the main reason that cold water therapy is quickly taking the wellness world by storm. The method is based on three pillars; breathing/breath technique; cold water; and commitment, and I was lucky enough to be invited to try out a Wim Hof workshop taught by one of Wim Hof’s very own trainees, and at the beautifully placed and decadently decorated Beaverbrook Spa in Surrey. It felt like I had struck gold, being able to try something as challenging as cold water therapy but with all the home comforts and more straight after!
Beaverbrook’s spa has put a great deal of care and thought into not only the incredible surroundings (and whilst I was there they were adding a beautiful outdoor eating terrace) but the food itself is delicious yet suitably healthy. After a quick, nutritious bite I headed into the studio where I was introduced to our instructor and guide, there were about five of us altogether and although most of us had heard of Wim Hof and knew of his method it was apparent that we still had a lot to learn.
First was the breathing technique – a key part of Wim’s method – where we were instructed to breathe into the belly, then to the chest and then the head. We did rounds and rounds of breathing at first slow but quickly gaining pace. At some points, I felt like I had been breathing for hours and then suddenly it all went very quickly – almost like when you drive on a route you know so well and can switch into autopilot and before you know it you’ve arrived at your destination without really remembering the journey at all. This specialised way of breathing is said to have a multitude of benefits such as more energy, reduced stress levels, and an augmented immune response that swiftly deals with pathogens. We breathed for 45 minutes in total. Some of the other participants experienced extreme tingling in their hands and feet, some had deafness for periods of time, nearly all of us felt incredibly energised and pumped afterwards and once all bodily functions returned to normality, we were offered a delicious warming tea and a bit of chocolate too.
Then it was time for the ice bath. As with everything at Beaverbrook, even the ice bath moment was totally instagram worthy – a beautiful chrome bath sat in a courtyard against an orange wall surrounded by perfectly placed plants. In the bathtub was a slightly less cosy scene as it was filled to the brim with ice cubes. We had all been told to take cold showers for the week preceding this workshop and it was at this point that I really wished I’d done as they suggested – my body was in for a shock. We were shown how to enter the bath but more importantly, we were also told that we were not to rush into a warm room straight after, or even towel dry ourselves but we had to endure the cold somewhat longer (it was a cold January day) and stay in our cold swimsuits practising the Wim Hof breathing technique.
Before it was my turn to get in I had a chat with myself that I was going to do this properly (I am quite good at freaking out and talking myself out of things!) so I knew I had to do it and just endure whatever the cold water threw at me. As soon as I put one foot in though I felt a new sense of “I can do this” and sat down amongst the ice. The instructor stayed with us all, helping us breathe slower and stay calm. And to my surprise, the cold wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I stayed in for just over two minutes but I know I could do longer. When I got out I felt great and very proud of myself. I can see how you can get addicted to it – as when I got home I immediately bought a paddling pool to put in the garden to continue practising at home. Sadly the paddling pool burst as soon as the frost came, so for now it’s cold showers but I am already looking forward to the next time I can submerge myself in cold water again.
To book visit www.beaverbrook.co.uk
Upcoming workshops dates include: 11th / 18th / 25th March / 1st April
This workshop is suitable for everyone but does require a basic level of health. Out of precaution, we advise against participation during pregnancy, or if you are epileptic. People with cardiovascular issues or any other serious health conditions should always consult a medical professional before starting the Wim Hof Method.