By now you know my affinity for cold water therapy, so it’s no wonder I was able to use my refined primal instincts to track down and land author Scott Carney as a guest for a fascinating discussion surrounding Scott’s book, What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength.
The title says a lot, but what’s interesting about Scott’s journey is that he is an investigative journalist who specializes in exposing fraudulent gurus! His book, A Death on Diamond Mountain, uncovers the tragic consequences of an extreme meditation operation. When Scott was assigned to cover the amazing death-defying cold exposure exploits of Wim Hof, the “Iceman,” and his outrageous claims that his breathing exercises can make an ordinary Joe superhuman, he was delighted to head over to Hof’s training camp in Poland for a good old fashioned ass whuppin’ with a keyboard. At the time, Wim was not the household name (if your household is into peak performance and alternative health) he is today.
Despite a sketchy first impression, Scott immersed himself into the program and experienced extraordinary immediate results. After a week of devoted breathing and cold exposure training, he hiked to the top of a snowy mountain in Poland in the dead of winter…in his running shorts! Scott reports that he was, “boiling hot the whole time.” Yes, this is crazy stuff, and a few minutes on YouTube searching for Wim Hof will blow your mind. This dude set a Guinness World Record by remaining packed in ice for 1 hour, 45 minutes—plenty long enough to kill an average person.
Scott reports that performing simple breathing exercises can prepare your body to withstand extreme temperatures to the extent that it’s actually pleasurable and invigorating. Listen to my podcast about cold therapy as I detail the physiological benefits as the peripheral psychological benefits of nurturing increased focus and resilience through cold therapy. As Scott relates, “half of your problem is simple fear.” When you can manage that sympathetic (fight or flight) response upon cold exposure and train the parasympathetic (rest and digest) system to dominate, you can apply this technique to manage the assorted stresses of daily life much better. This is of critical importance when we realize the extent to which we abuse the fight or flight response in daily life, and how many autoimmune conditions can be managed via the practice of breath control and cold exposure.
Scott describes the technique of controlled hyperventilation, exhaling and holding your breath for as long as possible and being able to do more pushups than ever before while holding your breath! Yes, it sounds goofy, especially if you are steeped in the medical sciences, but Wim routinely submits himself to laboratory scrutiny, and has astounded researches by virtually shutting down his immune system after being injected with a bacteria!
The book is not just about the Wim Hof method, and Scott offers interesting insights about how legendary waterman Laird Hamilton uses breath exercises to hone his skills and boost his safety factor when surfing big waves. In summary, Scott delivers the important insight that we have absolutely gone soft in modern life, pursuing ever-increasing comfort at the expense of losing our edge that makes us human. “Dying comfortably is a nice goal, but it shouldn’t be the rule to live by the whole way.” Scott is working on a new book furthering theme of reawakening our primal survival attributes, so stay tuned and find him on social media, which neither of us are big fans of.
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