Wim Hof, also known as ‘The Iceman’ is a Dutch man and inventor of the Wim Hof Method (WHM), who rose to fame when he began bagging seemingly impossible world firsts like;
- Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts,
- running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle whilst barefoot,
- hanging on one finger at an altitude of 2,000 meters,
- running a marathon in the Namib Desert without drinking anything,
- and standing in a container neck deep in ice cubes for more than 112 minutes.
Wim Hof holds 21 Guinness World Records, and describes himself as a ‘circus act to scientific breakthrough and global health leader
A superhuman? Not according to him! Wim Hof’s motto is ‘what I am capable of, everybody can learn’.
So what can runners learn from the Iceman and the Wim Hof Method?
In this article, we are going to take a look at:
- What the Wim Hof Method is,
- why the Wim Hof Method emphasises breathing for running endurance,
- how to use Power Breathing for running endurance,
- and we will unpick the validity and the science behind the Wim Hof Method.
What Is The Wim Hof Method?
The Wim Hof Method is based around three key pillars:
The first pillar of the Wim Hof Method in a specialised breathing technique that is meant to increase the level of oxygen in the blood.
2. Cold Therapy
Cold therapy is pillar number two.
3. Commitment (or Meditation)
The third and final pillar.
Commitment makes a strong foundation for the other two pillars.
The benefits of the wim hof method
According to Wim Hof, a consistent and committed practice of the prescribed breathing techniques and cold therapy can unlock a host of amazing benefits, including:
- Better sleep
- Increased energy
- Heightened focus & determination
- Increased willpower
- Reduced stress levels
- A stronger immune system
All of these listed benefits have the potential to massively boost your running game.
why does wim hof emphasise breathing for endurance
In his book, The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential, Wim writes about the importance of the correct type of breathing for endurance.
Here is a summary of his thoughts on the matter:
ATP is the compound that provides energy so that your body can perform a whole host of things, including muscle contractions needed in running.
During exercise, you want to be creating more ATP molecules, thus generating more energy.
This process of generating more ATP requires ‘aerobic dissimilation’. This is essentially where oxygen is used to break down the lactic acid that accumulates in the muscles during exercise.
And how do you get oxygen? Breathing.
So essentially, what Wim is saying, is that if you breathe more during exercise, you will create more ATP, and have more energy during your training.
Breathing More to have more energy
Here’s what Wim has to say:
“I advise the athletes I consult with to breathe more than they feel they need to and to think of it like a mantra.
When you breathe more than you feel you need to, you can surpass your conditioning regardless of your VO2 max…
Aerobic dissimilation creates about thirty times more ATP molecules than are created when there is no oxygen. Just breathe and feel the difference.”
the wim hof method- Power breathing for endurance
‘Power Breathing‘ is a breathing exercise promoted by Wim Hof in his book The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential.
According to Wim’s theory, Power Breathing allows you to;
The purported effects of this technique also include;
‘a release of adrenaline and glucose that your body can absorb immediately and achieve better performance‘
It is very similar to the standard Wim Hof Method breathing technique, the only difference is the increased intensity and speed.
power breathing technique for endurance- 7 step Guide
Wim’s most popular breathing exercise involves 30 deep breaths, followed by a deep exhale (emptying the lungs) and holding this state for a period of 60 seconds +.
In his book, he outlines another exercise, specifically for endurance:
The idea is that this breathing technique boosts endurance, so it should be practiced before heading out for an endurance-based activity, like a long, slow run.
Before you head out for your run, you should do three rounds of this power breathing technique:
1. Relax and breathe deeply – 60 times.
2. On your last breath, draw in a deep inhalation and hold your breath for at least 15 seconds (or for as long as feels comfortable).
3. As you hold your breath, squeeze your whole body ‘towards your head’. Do this by tensing your pelvic floor muscles and allowing the pressurised feeling to move up your spine and to the top of your head.
4. Relax, let your breath go. This marks the end of round one of three.
5. For the next two rounds, take deep, fast, and audible breaths which increase in speed and intensity as the round proceeds. It is this increase in intensity that makes it ‘Power Breathing‘.
6. After you’ve gone through the three rounds, pause for a couple of minutes to ground yourself before starting your endurance based run.
7. During your run, stay aware of your breathing. Whilst running, breathe more than you would typically, and breathe more than feels necessary.
the benefits of power breathing
The claims are that this conscious breathing technique accelerates mitochondrial processes in our body. This means that we can generate more energy.
Wim claims that we are able to rid our bodies of ‘toxins’ and other waste products which we have stored in our cells much faster and more efficiently than if we weren’t doing conscious breathing.
So, Power Breathing supposedly:
- Improves endurance performance,
- aids in restoration and recovery,
- and helps to ‘cleanse’ the body of harmful substances.
is The wim hof method legit?
You’re right to be sceptical.
Quite often, when things seem too good to be true, they are. Especially when you are being pushed towards buying something.
You also have to be mindful when you get immersed in a community which seems to place a lot of emphasis on one particular individual, or ‘guru’- in this case, Wim himself.
So is it science, or is it a bit cult-ish?
The Power breathing technique – Study
Wim, who is not actually a medical professional himself, has been known to regularly put himself and his method through scientific tests and trials through various universities and independent bodies.
In the study, scientists developed a way to measure these processes with the use of a lazer.
The study concluded that the Power Breathing Technique does actually do what Wim Hof claims.
The study found that by using the controlled breathing technique, you are able to ‘consciously influence the mitochondrial processes in our lymphatic systems’.
In other words- you are able to generate more ATP, so more energy for your endurance activities!
Wim has a whole section on his website that is dedicated to the science behind his practices.
4 ways you can practice the wim hof method
Sounds great, doesn’t it!?
Luckily, Wim Hof’s life goal is to share this technique with as many people as possible, so there are quite a few options out there for those who want to practice his methods.
This means that there are a few ways that you can practice the Wim Hof Method:
1. Via The Wim Hof App
This app is free to download and offers five free guided breathing exercises and a free 20 day cold shower challenge.
After these free trials, you should be kitted out with the skills to be able to continue with the method on your own.
But there is a premium version available, which gives you unlimited access.
This premium version costs €38.99 / 45 USD / £33 per year.
The premium version also grants you access to different challenges, including flexibility challenges, push up challenges, and ab exercise challenges.
2. Through Online Video Courses
Wim has recorded two different online video courses:
- ‘The Fundamentals‘ 10 week course: 40 lessons, €249.00 / $299.00
- ‘The Classic‘ 10 week course: 39 lessons, €179.00 / $199.00
3. With In Person Coaching
There are certified Wim Hof Method coaches all over the world.
Wim himself also leads week long winter expeditions and often hosts various talks, conferences, and in-person courses.
Or, you can watch this 11 minute YouTube video which will take you through standard version of the Wim Hof Method breathing technique.
You can then adapt this using the steps outlined above in order to make it endurance specific.
Just breath deeper and faster, and perform it before heading out for a run!