Wim Hof is better known by his nickname ‘The Iceman’, given to him because of his incredibly ability to withstand extreme cold. He claims that his superhero abilities are actually a combination of his history of exposure to the cold, meditation and breathing techniques. Wim Hof is the holder of a whopping 26 world records for various activities, including the record for longest ice bath, which is a record that Wim has broken several times now. Wim Hof is on a mission to spread his knowledge of the potential health benefits of his breathing techniques. He is now working closely with scientists around the world to prove his techniques are fact and not fiction. For example, through what he terms as ‘consciously hyperventilating’, Wim Hof is able to increase his heart rate, adrenaline levels and blood alkalinity. Reading through a list of the incredible feats achieved by Wim can be awe-inspiring. In 2007, Wim climbed to 22,000 ft of Mount Everest in just shoes and shorts. He followed that in 2009 by reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in just two days; also just in his shorts. I suppose it’s fair to say that he isn’t know for wearing a lot of clothes. His latest feat was to run a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water. Amazing. Needless to say, I was intrigued as to whether Wim was a big reader, and if so – what is he reading? Please enjoy my interview with the quite remarkable Wim Hof.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
They call me ‘The Iceman’ because I am very cool. Haha. I would say I make a living by undertaking challenges, breathing, loving nature, science – it’s a very strange nine to five job.
At this moment I am traveling a lot but the last book I read was What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney. I wanted to read it as it is written by somebody I became to know deeply, plus the content is well studied and investigated, besides of course well written. The theme of the book is very contemporary and I think what people need to know. I enjoyed it wholeheartedly as it is mostly about a mission I have had for a long time.
Can you tell us about your new book, and what readers can hope to learn from it?
My new book, The Way of the Iceman brings a life story from nature to absolute non-speculative science together with practical exercises.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
In primary school, maybe when I was around 8 years old. I remember reading about Ronald Amundsen who discovered the North Pole.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
I would encourage young people to read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse or Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach. Both are books that can inspire you to go and challenge yourself beyond your fears. Be uninhibited and you will find great worlds.
When did you first experience your ability to withstand the extreme cold?
After practising yoga and karate I found the icewater at the age of 17.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Working as a truck driver delivering parcels for 1 and a half years. I changed into working as a treeclimber with groups of children.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
I travel and perform so much lately, which really limits “my time”, though I read a lot of scientific works as I do a lot of research.
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path?
Whatever enlivens the reader. Something that is able to mesmerize your attention or brings you deeper.
Scriptures and Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. Scriptures have many verses with great meanings, some books just draw your attention again and again.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda. Carlos Castaneda opened the curiosity of many through the stories of other realms. They exist and can give a indication of a different, deeper consciousness.
What two pieces of advice would you give to someone who is venturing down a similar career path to you?
Follow your heart and maintain discipline.
What’s the most exciting research you’re working on currently?
Currently am I doing studies on the brainstem in relationship with the conscious brain. The brainstem (the reptilian brain) and the neocortex (insula/orbitofrontal cortex) are being studied whilst exposed to cold to see what happens with my conscious intervention by activating the above mentioned brain areas. Soon we will have the results from the Michigan Waine State University department of neuroscience. Another study I’m a part of is looking at emotional reactivation, carried out by the university of Hannover, and there is another one on anxiety together with the Stanford department of neurobiology.
I expect new breakthroughs soon. Cold is my teacher to learn about breathing and mind control. I now hope to show everybody is able to do that as a way to learn to control the mind better. We have some truly great studies that will be published this year.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Books are like formulas, secrets, stories. Without books we would miss that.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Lately I read a lot on science and when I come across a good book, it becomes my world. That is not specifically with one author.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
Books can be pieces of art. They will always be a part of us.
What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?
A no-nonsense book on a true journey to the heart.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. They leave little room for speculation, and that is what I love about them. They are 1300 years old and yet still up to date. I go by science and that will probably last quite long aswell, evidence based data is like a building material that will last.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
Anything by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, he is a great storyteller.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I plan to read even more on neuroscience.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
The Heart, Living Life to the Fullest.