Colder Waters: Braving the Chill with the Wim Hof Method

May 28, 2023 Words
Leah Scott Photos
Mandy Lamont

Are you ready to take the plunge and embrace the chill? If you’re like many others online, you’ve likely seen the surge in popularity of ice bathing, river plunging, and other cold immersion therapies. As a Wim Hof Method instructor and frequent cold exposure contributor for Lamont Magazine, I can attest that it’s more than a passing fad.

Ancient Practices

For the longest time humans have been trying to run away from the cold faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100m. Unless of course, you were a Greek god, Roman emperor, or Egyptian pharaoh. And as it turns out, those ancient folks were onto something long before it became a trendy hashtag on social media. Cold water plunging in particular, has been used for its health benefits and therapeutic purposes for centuries. The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, an Egyptian medical text from 3500 BC even mentions its therapeutic benefits. So maybe it’s time to ditch the warm blankets and cozy fireplaces and join the icy elite?

Today we are harnessing the power of this holistic approach to amplify physical recovery, aid in weight loss, sharpen concentration, build resilience against stress, alleviate chronic disease symptoms, and uplift our mental wellbeing. Cold exposure offers a myriad of advantages for both mind and body. And with winter in full swing, there’s no better time to dive in and discover the transformative power of the cold.

Are you ready to join the ranks of those who embrace the chill and reap the rewards of cold exposure?

If so, let’s get back to basics to help you tap into your full potential. With the right tools and guidance, you can become a master of your own physiology, and harness the power of the cold to live a healthier, happier, and more fulfilled life.

What temperature should I be plunging in?

It depends on how brave you are feeling. The recommended water temperature for a standard daily practice can range from 1-5 degrees Celsius, but if you have access to a beautiful river like the Thredbo, you can embrace all the seasons. Research has shown that temperatures of 16 degrees Celsius and below have proven benefits. So the ‘warmer’ the bath, the longer you can stay in to ensure you receive a nice dose of noradrenaline.

At our workshops, I like to teach people how to become cold water connoisseurs by using their intuition and listening to their bodies.

After all, we’re unique individuals with different needs and tolerances. If you’re new to this practice and not quite ready to attend one of our retreats, start with a temperature where you feel a bit uncomfortable but can still stay in the water.

How long should I stay in the water?

Thanks to research, we know staying in icy water around 1 degree Celsius for two minutes is safe and provides most benefits. However, it’s important to start slowly and gradually increase your exposure time. Start with a cold shower or take a friend to the river with you.

What should I focus on while in the cold?

Stay relaxed and focused on your breath. You are a zen master. Concentrate on taking slow, deliberate exhales to help regulate your body’s response to the cold.

Isn't cold exposure considered a form of stress?

Indeed! Cold exposure is like a PT, psychologist and reiki master for your mind and body.[1]  It is a form of hormetic stress – ‘good stress’ that pushes the body beyond its comfort level and causes physical and cognitive adaptations. A healthy challenge that helps build strength and resilience.

While chronic and/or excessive stress can be harmful, positive stress can actually be beneficial and help protect us against long-term chronic stress, environmental stress, and stress generated by the mind and body.

How can I overcome my fear of the cold?

If you are feeling intimidated by the cold, you are not alone. The key is to start small and build up your tolerance gradually. Start by turning the water in your shower to cold for 15 seconds and work your way up to 2 minutes or sign up for a Wim Hof Method workshop and let a certified cold expert guide you through safely. If you are swimming in natural waters, remember everything is more fun with friends and enjoy your cold party together!

Are there risks associated with cold plunging?

Although cold plunging can have many benefits, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks. Pregnant women should avoid cold plunging, and if you have a history of heart problems, it’s best to consult with your doctor before starting. Other risks include headaches, dizziness, hypothermia, frostbite,, short-term memory loss and even the resurfacing of past trauma. As a beginner, attending a Wim Hof Method workshop with a qualified and experienced instructor is highly recommended to ensure your safety and success in the practice. We’ve got your back (and your plunge!).


Leah Scott is an expert Wim Hof Method instructor who facilitates public and private retreats in the Snowy Mountains, and once the snow melts Leah shares her knowledge and teachings around Australia and the world.

IG @leahscottie
FB /wimhofmethodtechniques

You might be interested in some of Leah’s other articles
10 simple and natural ways to balance your immune system here
Breath and Cold here
and, Taking Wim Hof around the world here

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