After reading Aubrey Marcus’s Own the Day, Own Your Life, I became very interested in the science behind a few of his suggestions. In order to own the day, a few of his suggestions were to start the day with a breathing exercise now commonly referred to as the Wim Hof breathing method, and to end each of your regular showers with at least 30 seconds of a cold blast, working your way up to 3 minutes.
Intrigued, I picked up a book by Scott Carney called What Doesn’t Kill Us. Scott set out to debunk Wim Hof and his methods, only to find himself climbing Mount Snezka on the border of Poland and the Czech Republic shirtless with boots and shorts only.
Instead of debunking Wim Hof, Carney found some very interesting things to begin researching. Specifically, how we can hack our bodies and rejuvenate strengths we have lost through our endless technological quest of being more comfortable. This body hack involves building up lost stores of brown adipose tissue, which we had an abundance of when we were infants.
The Quest to be More Comfortable
All of the technological advances that humans have made to be more comfortable have in fact made us weaker. Our early ancestors did not have the luxury of central heat and air, temperature regulated vehicles, and Under Armour cold and heat gear. Yet they still survived brutal winters and summers and cleared mountain passes.
The mere thought of stepping out into subzero temperatures or turning your shower on an ice cold setting is revolting to some.
When author Scott Carney stepped into snow barefoot for the first time, he was able to last an excruciating 5 minutes before going inside. After only a few days of this type of training on the body, he was able to last 45 minutes or more barefoot in the snow, and it was nowhere near as excruciating as the first.
Brown Adipose Tissue
We all have seen the difference in 50-60 degree Spring weather versus Fall weather. At the end of a cold winter, you’ll begin to see people wearing shorts and short-sleeve t-shirts. Conversely, at the end of a summer, people are bundling up.
This was brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, at work. Over the long, cold winter, many people slowly build up those brown fat stores and are able to be dressed down to shorts and a T-shirt on those 50 degree days. Those stores are then depleted and lost over the summer, and the 50 degree day becomes a shock.
It is possible to keep those BAT levels high year round. Why would you want to do this? The health benefits are great. Your body uses BAT to burn white fat to stay warm in colder conditions. This leads to weight loss or easy maintenance of a healthy weight. These techniques can also reverse symptoms of onset diabetes among other diseases.
Over the last several weeks I’ve been practicing the Wim Hof breathing method as well as exposing myself to as many harsh conditions as I can (cold showers being the easiest at this time). I’m very satisfied with the results. Obviously, a cold shock shower in the morning has no problem waking me up and kick starting my day. Perhaps surprising, a cold shock shower in the evening has the amazing ability for my body to go into a deep and restful sleep! (Especially post jiu jitsu class).
I am committing to at least 6 months of using these methods. These methods can be very easy to insert into your daily routine. If you’re interested, check out the Wim Hof Method online or pick up a copy of What Doesn’t Kill Us, by Scott Carney.