We are all fascinated by the idea that humans may be able to surpass our expected physical bounds and exhibit superhuman abilities. From Spiderman to the Avengers, people happily shell out millions by the masses to quench their thirst for fantasy.

It isn’t often that someone actually possesses superhuman abilities, yet we generally give it little attention. Who has heard of Stephen Wiltshire and his extraordinary ability to recreate detailed, panoramic, city landscapes after a split-second glance? Or how about Ben Underwood, a child blinded by retinal cancer who utilized echolocation in lieu of vision?

The point is that incredible talents exist, and though it’s fun to see Hugh Jackman rip apart villains with Adamantium-reinforced claws, we don’t have to turn to fiction to witness superhuman performances. The extraordinary can be found in reality.

Who Is Wim Hof?

One superhuman that has caught my attention is Wim “Iceman” Hof. Wim has garnered global fame for his ability to embrace freezing temperatures that routinely send victims into hypothermia. He has run bareback marathons in subzero temperatures, climbed the highest mountains on the planet shirtless, and proven to science that he can control his autonomic nervous system with his mind.

Interested yet? We are just getting started.

9 Facts About Wim Hof

  1. He climbed Mt. Everest in shorts. Though he never experienced a hint of hypothermia or altitude sickness, Wim surpassed 22,000 feet before a lingering foot injury halted his ascension.
  2. He submerged himself in ice for almost two hours without his core body temperature lowering a degree and broke a world record. Who holds the record for the second- and third-longest attempts? Wim himself.
  3. He completed a marathon in the Namib Desert without water. Temperatures surpassing 104 degrees Fahrenheit and losing over fourteen pounds of water water didn’t discourage him from finishing this amazing feat. Apparently he does alright in the heat too!
  4. Dressed in nothing by shorts, he completed a full marathon north of the arctic circle in less than six hours.
  5. He reached the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro (5895 meters) in less than 32 hours. And yes, he did it in shorts. Who has time for altitude acclimation anyway?
  6. He eats just once a day, past 6 pm, and has done so for 38 years. Wim claims that this alleviates stress on his body by not having to process excess food. He’ll only cheat and have breakfast on days when he breaks a record.
  7. He swam over 80 meters below an ice shelf north of the arctic circle with one breath. Yes, that’s right — over 250 feet in -30 degree water in one breath. No big deal.
  8. He can take control of his autonomous nervous system. This startling discovery was found by researchers after they attempted to refute his claims by inviting him into into the labs. He was injected with an endotoxin that causes people to get severely sick within minutes. But that was not the case with Wim. Researchers found that the endotoxin didn’t affect him in the slightest, and credited this to his unique ability to harness control over his autonomous nervous system.
  9. He claims that anyone can be like him. Wim teaches thousands of others to harness the strength of the breath, the importance of cold showers, and the practice of meditation. He offers a ten-week course encompassing his meditation practices, as well as numerous retreats and trips that he leads.

Anyone Can Do It

Perhaps the craziest of the facts about Wim Hof is it that he swears that anyone can experience life as he does — if they have the determination to learn.

Wim first realized his tremendous tolerance to extreme temperatures when he was 17. According to him, he was “attracted” to jump into a freezing cold pond where he experienced an awakening. Since then, Wim has taught himself how to harness physiological control over his body in order to coexist in hostile environments.

For years, he accomplished incredible feats in frigid climates, and for years science eschewed him as another crackpot who liked to boast. It wasn’t until researchers brought him into the lab that his claims were scientifically confirmed.

When Wim isn’t breaking records, he dedicates his energy towards teaching anyone who’s willing to listen how they can eschew their learnt conceptions of the cold and experience an awakening through the breath. And at 56, it doesn’t seem like he is slowing down anytime soon.

“I want to set up orphanages to help children, and I’m sure I’ll be climbing more mountains. Let the world challenge me — I’ll be there.”

He offers retreats in various mountain ranges across Western Europe and shares his experiences online for those unable to travel.

I have been practicing his techniques and the results have been literally breathtaking (no pun intended). By just practicing his guided meditation technique (known as the Wim Hof Method) twice a day, I have noticed an intense transformation in my perception. Cold showers have become a vital event to my daily life.

So what is Wim’s advice for all that are eager to learn?

“Believe in yourself, take cold showers, and practice deeper breathing.”

Seems simple enough.

Featured photo credit: Iceman Wim Hof via icemanwimhof.com

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