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Ice bathing - What's the Wim Hof hype about?

Ice bathing - What's the Wim Hof hype about?

1.What's the Wim Hof method all about?

You've seen the picture on social media of a group of highly motivated people jumping into an open body of water in the middle of a snowy landscape somewhere in the great outdoors, all breathing in and out like they're about to get into the boxing ring.

Centuries-old technique reinvented.

In recent years, there has been a real hype about the so-called Wim Hof Method (WHM) by Wim Hof, who has proven to science that he can voluntarily regulate certain processes in the body, such as the body's core temperature, which was previously considered impossible.

This technique, for example, is called "Tummo" and originates from Tibet, where it was practiced by monks in the Himalayas centuries ago, so it is by no means a new thing.


2. Wim Hof method: Can you really oxygenate your blood by hyperventilating?

Wim Hof also claims that this breathing technique (hyperventilation) can be used to deliberately oxygenate the blood, which is of course not true, as the blood in a healthy person is already 95-99% saturated with oxygen during normal breathing and more than 21% oxygen cannot be present in the air we breathe.

Hyperventilation therefore does not provide the body with any additional oxygen, as the minute volume of human breathing is mainly regulated by the CO2 concentration in the arterial blood, i.e. if we breathe too quickly, e.g. under stress, this only lowers the CO2 content in the blood and that is what we as freedivers want to avoid as far as possible.

We will come to why this technique can be life-threatening underwater


3.The power of motivation

Nevertheless, it has probably helped many people around the world to overcome their "inner bastard" and learn to expose themselves to the forces of nature.

This is certainly very laudable, but it should at least be a matter of course for every healthy person living in northern latitudes to spend a few minutes in ice water, dressed only in swimming trunks; no app, no online coaching and certainly no artificial and unnecessarily induced breathing technique is needed for this.

It is a natural instinct of all living creatures, including mammals and therefore also us humans, to connect with nature. This allows us to grow, overcome boundaries and broaden our perspective. It almost seems as if some of us have lost this inner driving force in the course of evolution.

Nevertheless, such intensive activities should never be undertaken alone because even an experienced ice swimmer or freediver can overestimate themselves, suffer a muscle cramp or encounter other problems where we need help from a "buddy".

I personally dive over 40m deep at a water temperature of 5 degrees Celsius in Speedos; this is close to the world record but still in no way a superhuman performance, because with a gradual adaptation and the right mindset, any healthy person can achieve this with a few years of constant training.

All in all, ice swimming and free diving under ice offers an incomparable experience for anyone who wants to test their limits and take on the challenge.

However, caution is also required so that the adventure does not become a health hazard.


4. WHM put to the test: what science says about Wim Hof's method

Why science blindly accepts the core message of the WHM movement is probably a mystery to many laypeople and experts alike, because if you breathe too fast and too much, the carbon dioxide content in the blood drops and there is a disturbance in the acid-base balance.

This causes the respiratory drive to be inhibited, i.e. the receptors are tricked, so to speak, and the body is tricked into believing that you don't need to breathe because, as explained above, an increased CO2 content in the blood triggers the reflex to breathe again and not, as is often assumed, a drop in the concentration of oxygen in the blood, because you are actually deliberately sabotaging a correctly functioning system.

Understanding this is of fundamental importance.
If you want to know exactly, you can read the details in this well-structured paper:

Effects of prolonged voluntary hyperventilation on blood gases, brain perfusion and consciousness:A functional magnetic resonance imaging study using arterial spin labeling technique (


5. Richtig Atmen; wie bewusst korrekt ausgeführte Atemübungen unsere Leistung im Alltag und im Wasser positiv beeinflussen können.

A correct breathing technique is essential for freediving, on the one hand to exhale as much CO2 as possible before the dive (without hyperventilation) and thus extend the dive time and on the other hand to relax the entire musculature in order to "save" oxygen.

Regular breathing training can increase lung capacity, which has a positive effect on athletic performance. Improved breathing also helps to relax the body and supply it with sufficient energy through oxygen. 

But conscious breathing can also help us to cope better with life outside the water. Deep, calm breathing is an effective way to reduce stress and find inner peace. When we are under pressure, we often tend to breathe shallowly and too quickly.

However, this only causes more stress hormones to be released and we fall into a vicious circle of tension and tension. Conscious and controlled breathing, on the other hand, can help to calm our thoughts and clear our perception.

Targeted breathing exercises can also help with mental blockages or anxiety. Circles of thought often cause us to feel blocked by situations. With a targeted breathing technique, we can interrupt our thoughts and concentrate on the here and now. This gives us the opportunity to free ourselves from inner blockages and regain our ability to act. 

However, hyperventilation has no place in the preparation for freediving, it is not only counterproductive, but so dangerous that it can lead to fainting or even death.

In summary, it can be said that correct breathing technique is not only beneficial in freediving, but can also help to improve our physical and mental health in everyday life. Through regular breathing exercises, we can relax, reduce anxiety and sharpen our focus.

At this point, let's also remember the golden rule of freediving: NEVER dive alone!

If you have never done basic training for freedivers, then talk to one of our instructors during training about the possibility of basic training or breathing training. We are safest when everyone knows the same basic protocol and behaves accordingly.

With this in mind, "safe dives!" and see you soon under water, or rather under ice.

Your Valdy

"You can't hide from yourself underwater.


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