Oct 9, 2021
Hi John, welcome to saunatimes. I thought I’d start by having you share how and when you first got started with the WHM and cold water exposure.
Most of my life I’ve had a terrible relationship to the cold. I hated cold water and if it dropped below 60F I would bundle up like I was preparing for an Arctic adventure. In 2013, when a friend let me know about a Wim Hof workshop that was being held in Austin, all I saw was a picture of Wim sitting in a barrel of ice and though “No way!! Why would I pay money to go sit in ice water?!” My resistance was strong enough, however, that it made me curious, and I signed up. Those first two ice baths with Wim that weekend were miserable, but life-changing.
The big issue with living in central Texas – a sub-tropical climate – is that cold water is not readily available. It wasn’t until 3 years later after experiencing two years of brutal insomnia that I found the amazing benefits of a regular cold water practice. After spending thousands of dollars on various insomnia treatments from many different kinds of approaches and modalities – none of which provided any lasting benefit – a friend who is a Wim Hof Method instructor suggested that I try cold water immersion before bed.
I bought a hundred pound of ice, filled up my bathtub, and got the best night’s sleep I’d had in two years. I did that three more times before realizing that hauling ice was going to get expensive and take a lot of time. That’s what motivated me to look into other ways to get cold water.
My cold plunge has been through a number of evolutions through the years. The very first thing I did after ice baths was buy a Whirlpool 15 cubic foot chest freezer and fill it with water. That was great until three days later I opened it up and discovered a few rivers of rust pouring out of the seams.
People love DIY for a few different reasons. For many who don’t have the budget to buy a commercially made cold plunge, the DIY route is financially motivated. A basic setup with a used chest freezer can be created for less than a few hundred dollars. Even a very well equipped high-end chest freezer setup can cost less – in some cases *way* less, than half of the commercially made models.
After having a number of problems and issues with my chest freezer cold plunge experiments and finally getting it dialed in, I wanted to start a group where we could talk about various issues and brainstorm ideas. It only took a month or two before I noticed many people asking the same basic questions. So I wrote a FAQ. That expanded pretty quickly to 13 pages, and I still felt like it wasn’t detailed enough, so I decided to write a book. Editor’s note: Link to John’s book is here.
When I started learning about converting a chest freezer into a cold plunge, there were maybe 30,000 people in the Wim Hof Method Facebook group, but only a few posts about chest freezers. And most of those posts were “Hey I did this!” but lacking “How I did this.” The posts were also hard to keep track of and follow with all of the other content being posted.
I had a sense that a separate group to discuss making a cold plunge from a chest freezer would be helpful. I asked one of the Wim Hof group admins if he would be OK with me starting a separate group. He said yes, and let me post a couple of messages about it. It grew from there.
I don’t have one where I live now, but have experienced contrast therapy at a few resorts, spas, and natural springs that I have been to over the years. One of my goals is to add a sauna at home. I’ve read some of the research and know that the benefits are awesome. Contrast therapy provides a huge metabolic workout. I suspect that it is not a matter of either hot or cold, rather one of both hot and cold. I know cold by itself has tremendous benefits. Adding a sauna to that practice seems to have an exponential benefit. After reading Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s papers on heat shock and cold shock, I’m a believer in the value of both.
Editor’s note: further reading: with cold plunge and sauna, 1+1=3.