Moderation vs Rationalization

Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.” – W. Somerset Maugham

This quote helps me to rationalize my infrequent use of the Wim Hof Method, my irregular meditation practice, and even less frequent writing sessions. It, the quote that is, holds truth. In my recent foray into bartending and mixology, I have learned where repetition is good, and where it is bad.

Repetition is good for creating muscle memory. And, muscle memory is key for consistency. But, consistency is not the way to experiment with new concoctions.

ex. 1: I am tasked with making 40 pineapple daiquiris. I fill two boston shakers, each with two daiquiris and ice. I shake them at the same time and fill up four coupe glasses. I do this 10 times in a row and I have completed my task.

ex. 2: I am tasked with creating one original drink using a new ingredient. I will make something (that will most likely taste bad) based on prior knowledge. I will taste it and then make corrections and taste again. Aaaaand repeat. This will take some time. Sometimes hours, sometimes weeks.

The first example shows why muscle memory is important. If this task is done every day for just a few weeks, the time that it takes to create 40 pineapple daiquiris will decrease. In example number 2, the process can be quite different. If we just mix new cocktails and taste them back to back to back some problems will arise. The obvious problem is that we will get drunk. The second less obvious problem has to do with set and setting. What else did I eat and drink on this day? What am I in the ‘mood’ to taste? The second time I taste triggers much less of a ‘light bulb’ effect. I become numb to the subtle nuances after just a few sips. Example 1 requires repetition and example 2 requires patience.

I think I will save further explanation on how I’ve used moderation and patience to make Wim Hof methods work for me.

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Wim Hof Method – Day 1M + 14

Three days of jiu jitsu in a row, with the third day consisting of an hour and a half without the confines of the gi, put me in a weird mental state last night. The post workout (cold) showerthoughts bounced between notions of the slow reduction of one’s own testosterone and the unsatiated need for the adrenaline rush.

Tolstoy said, “Once we are thrown off of our habitual paths, we think all is lost, but it is only here that the new and the good begin”.

I found calm while rolling on the mats. Even when pinned under a former UFC fighter, I ran through my list of defenses and attempted to make my escape. At one or two points, I did get tapped out. Against others, I had really fun rolls. Win some, lose some. But the feeling that I felt when I stepped into the shower, and I got over the cold shock was that I got too comfortable. Even under the water in the locker room. I wasn’t surprised, nor did I have to stress my brain to calm my breath and relax. I knew what was coming, just as I did when I was rolling. This isn’t good.

I started to wonder if it was testosterone, or a lack of it that was calming my killer instinct on the mats. Maybe it’s maturity or the fact that I’m learning that the best way to learn jiu jitsu is to have healthy training partners. Nobody wants to roll with a guy who is constantly going 100%. But, maybe they do. I do. I like when I roll with dudes who go hard. It helps me to check myself and to really see how I react when under pressure. It tests my ability to stay calm and run through my list of defenses, and my reluctance to give up by making stupid mistakes.

So what is it? Is it all becoming too easy. Does that come with maturity? I was never one to ‘sweat the small stuff’. But now I’m feeling like I can’t find that rush from the big stuff. When a fighter has your neck, or when you land under a freezing stream of water, your body should react. Your mind should react. You should panic and have to control that panic. Am I controlling that panic automatically? Or, do I need a new level of rush in order to feel alive?

Maybe I’ll try rolling jiu jitsu out on the ice.

 

Wim Hof revisited – Day 1,000,000

Since last writing for the purpose of writing, the Wim Hof methods have been taken less seriously but still practiced in varying capacities. Just two days ago I had my first warm shower since some time in October or November I guess it was. It really helped me to understand the acute benefits of the cold showers. When I stepped out of the warm shower, I was stepping out into my cold bathroom. I couldn’t wait to throw on a robe and get warm. This was a very different feeling from the satisfaction and relief that is felt after shutting off the cold water. Opening the curtain and breathing deeply, slowly drying off while simultaneously warming up naturally feels so great. This felt bad.

For years I hated winter. At this time of the year I would be at my most miserable and depressed. I’d dread stepping outside. My gear was always correct. I’d rock layers and layers and still I’d be cold. Constantly muttering, ‘I hate winter’. This winter has been the opposite, almost. I’ve found myself going for long walks in the cold. I always have enough warm clothes, but never feel cold. I have been wearing my minimalist shoes without socks pretty much daily. As long as I stay dry, I’m pretty much warm and comfortable outside. It is crazy. I have to attribute it to the cold showers.

The way that I tried to explain it to someone last night (who happened to be a philosophy student) was to compare it to the stoic practice of negative visualization. They would subject themselves, sometimes metaphorically or just in thought, to difficulties in order to allow them to appreciate what they have. For example, they would practice going outside on a cold day/night without a coat. This was done to inform the mind that one should be happy to have the ability to stay warm. I think one of the basic tenets of stoic philosophy is to want-what-you-have. We all ‘want’. And, wanting what we can’t have will lead to suffering. In order to avoid suffering, it is important to learn how to want and appreciate what we already have.

There are certainly some similarities between this practice and negative visualization. I hadn’t recognized it at first, but I do think that stepping into a cold shower is negative visualization in practice.

The part of the Wim Hof method that I struggle to find consistency with, is the breathing. It wasn’t long before I felt like holding my breath was a waste of time. While I am not convinced of this, I did feel like the hold was more or less a test. It feels like when a runner takes his pulse. The pulse will let them know how their body is reacting to the workout. I guess maybe I didn’t find much benefit in the hold because I had failed to see consistent times. That said, the running, and in my case, the breathing, is the practice/work. I have found benefit to my jiu jitsu, yoga, and meditation in practicing the breathwork.

The thing I need to focus on in the coming days, weeks, and months is making time to write. Writing will help to focus my practices, intentions, and will ultimately help me to improve all the above.

Wim Hof Method – Day 31

I’ve been missing a few days of writing here and there, but that comes with a new work schedule I guess. I am still trying to adjust, find my timing, and also fit in a few days at the gym. Following the holidays, it is easier to get a rhythm. No worries.

Speaking of the holidays, something I have been playing around with recently is this thought on seasons. The last leaves were just being raked up when our first big snowfall hit. The smell outside today as things warmed up was created by hydrocarbons being released from the frozen ground. It smelled more like dog shit than spring. But the last few days were like a quick glimpse of the seasons. The unseasonably warm days, even as leaves are dying and falling from the trees. The snow, the ice on the steps, and today water dripping from the gutters and muddying up the driveway. It felt a bit like spring.

The thought I’d been having, regarding the seasons, is directly related to the Wim Hof method. The inhale and exhale cycle is much like the seasons. The dead air (CO2) is expelled from the lungs on the exhale to make room for more O2. Granted, we know that not much of the 19% of O2 in the air is really absorbed and converted. This, just as only the leaves of the trees fall and die each year. The leaves fall, rot, and release nitrogen and other chemicals into the soils as they feed microbial life. This soil gives way to spring where new plants pop up. After a long cold winter, we step out into the sunshine and take a big inhale. The warm season is much like the inhale. It helps to sustain us through the winter. Fully utilizing the warm season is like breathing deeply and harvesting as much O2 as possible.

And this Wim Hof breathing method almost reminds me of storing up food after a harvest. The hyperventilating in order to preserve more O2 feels a bit like cheating. The thing is, the body will always go back to equilibrium. The cycle of in and out, yin and yang may be stretched slightly in one direction, but never permanently. What I mean is, nobody lives forever. How many vegetables would you really want to can?

I wasn’t able to express that thought as simply as it seems to flow through my mind at times. I don’t know that I will ever really be able to make the analogy between breathing and the seasons. But, to get back to the actual practice, I did try and picture this cycle as I went through repetitions of circular breathing (trying to equalize the inhale and exhale). Counting in my head the seconds, feeling the sensation of breathing, and keeping the vision of a circular image helped improve the practice both yesterday and today.

I am heading to the gym now and will finish writing shortly after I get back. I always have a clearer head after rolling . . . À tantôt. That just means see you real soon.

Okay, back and finished rolling. Cold shower after the gym was great. Really refreshing. I’m finding that I can control my breathing while I’m showering by focusing on exhaling fully. This becomes very important during difficult stages of jiu jitsu when a training partner is pinning you on your back by placing all of their weight onto your sternum with their knee. Inhales are not as easy as exhales at that point. So I can control myself and not panic by pushing air out. By emptying my lungs, unless my chest has collapsed, I will easily be able to get in enough fresh air.

I don’t have much in terms of observations. My schedule seems bearable and my body feels good when I take time to work on mobility and breathing. And, my mind feels good when I take time to sit. I put it all together when I take time to write. So, I’m glad I made time for it today. The rest of the week may be more difficult. But I am looking forward to the challenge.

 

Wim Hof Method – Day 29

Woody Allen said that “80 percent of success is showing up.” I’m fairly sure that what he meant is that showing up is one of the harder things to commit to doing. But I think the quote can be twisted around to make it seems as though the work isn’t what is keeping us from showing up. The work is what makes you successful. Working is where you make mistakes and learn from them. Showing up isn’t easy. But once you are there, the hard part is just beginning. I guess maybe his quote wouldn’t have been so memorable had he said “80 percent of success is showing up for work.” There is beauty in simplicity.

If yesterday felt like I was trying to drive in a rusty nail, today made me realize that the whole box is starting to tarnish. There is really no way to create more time to practice. There is no way to motivate someone when there is time to procrastinate. In the fall, our bodies are probably programmed to pack in some comfort food, and settle in for the long winter. But, I don’t know what that means outside of a stale attempt to try and understand why motivations change like the weather. Today was fine actually.

I started the practice much later in the day than I’d planned. I also went to the gym and rolled jiu jitsu for a few hours. And, I followed it up with a nice long cold shower (which I am really starting to enjoy).
My practice started with some mobility exercises. I rolled out my neck and shoulders all while trying to synchronize my breathing. I likened it to yoga when you breathe as you are moving between positions. I just went with what felt natural. I was just trying to stay present and practice controlling my diaphragm. It worked pretty well. I find that the mobility really does help with keeping a controlled comfortable posture. The breath holding was not very good. I don’t think I had the right rhythm with my deep inhales. That said, I’m pretty confused as to why I haven’t gotten this down by now. Maybe I need some audio cues to help me keep rhythm. I’ve used something like this in the past, but I doubt it will work for such a strange breathing practice:

Maybe I’ll try and find something tomorrow. I’ve heard a few people saying that the inhale and exhale should be fairly equal and last 2-3 seconds each. I feel like I’m going a bit faster than that. The gif is slower than that . . . I gotta find my rhythm.

______________________

Observations 

Breathing

Times : 1:30, 2:00, 1:45

Physical: I completed the mobility cycle posted a few posts back and added some breathing along with it. Very simple warm up and a good way to relax into the practice. I felt a bit full from eating before starting. That’s always a bad idea.

Mental: I was a bit unfocused and let my mind wander regarding the timing of my breathing. I’m really thinking that it should be coming easier than it is. I’m sure that with some instruction I’d be doing much better. But I kind of like the challenge of having to figure it out on the fly. Fuck it.

Notes: Stop eating until you’ve practiced, and stop procrastinating. Show up.

Shower: Pretty awesome actually.

Wim Hof Method – Day 28

Quite a few days missed. I had some more time today, and I will have more tomorrow and Monday to really spend some time practicing. These past few days have not been great in terms of practicing. And, I felt it today.

When you start to build up muscle memory from running or squatting or throwing a baseball, after a while it becomes easy. If you take some time away from an activity, depending on how soon you return, you may feel the pressure or stiffness.

While I have been continuously showering in cold water, I have not been spending as much time mentally preparing or focusing on my breathing. I would say that I’d been less present over the past few days. Today I was able to spend some time sitting and breathing and it felt good. The shower was cold as usual. I think that the cold temperatures outside are making this more difficult actually. I feel my core temperature is colder upon entering than it was a few days ago when the weather was warmer. I felt more pain when my head went under the cold water today. It didn’t take long to start shivering and feeling numbness in my hands, shortness of breath, panic breathing and ultimately closing off the flow of water before stepping back out into my chilly apartment.

So, today was slightly more productive in terms of conscious deep breathing and seated meditation. And I will continue to practice this and becoming better with getting my notes down in writing. In general I am pleased with how this practice has helped me to adjust to some lifestyle changes and has possibly helped keep me calm during the last busy week. More notes to come after tomorrow morning’s practice.

Hopefully by next week I will have a more structured schedule. But I guess it will depend on me.

Observations 

Breathing

Times : 2:00, 2:00

Physical: I completed the mobility cycle posted a few posts back. It really helps with relaxing and posture comfort. It’s a great warmup. After breathing I feel energetic and feel like moving and stretching.

Mental: I was still focused during all aspects of the practice. I found myself not focused on the goal, but the practice. That is a good focus in my opinion.

Notes: Practice takes showing up

Shower: Pretty refreshing. Pretty cold. My head was most sensitive. I feel like my shoulders and neck (which were previously most sensitive) have really become used to the cold. I think the tiny muscles around those areas are getting stronger.

I do feel like it is hard to breathe at times when the cold shock hits my head. That is when I remember that you can always exhale strongly using the diaphragm. I exhale powerfully, and the inhale will come without effort. I try and focus on this when I am in bad positions in jiu jitsu as well. It always helps to remember.

 

 

 

 

 

Wim Hof Method – Day 24

A questioning attitude. I remember my friend telling me that having a questioning attitude was one of the best things he learned in regards to working with a team. When someone makes a mistake, or if you are about to make a mistake, the best way to communicate in order to avoid unwanted aggressive behavior is to do so with a questioning attitude. In some instances it could be seen as passive aggressive, but as a general rule, it is just a nice way to question something or someone without putting them on the defensive. The practice is as simple as turning an inquiry into a question. This even works in ideological debates. Again, it’s not the best rule for every situation and can be seen as rude (answering a question with a question), but in general, a questioning attitude promotes learning and shows humility.

I find myself questioning many things as I learn. And this Wim Hof method is particularly curious, due to my lack of information, particularly in regards to the breathing methods. I have read quite a bit about the benefits of pranayama, controlled breathing, full breathing vs shallow breathing, breathing and movement, and the benefits of enriching the body with O2. But, I don’t understand the practice of holding the breath with lungs empty, or what it benefits. What is the difference if I hold my breath with empty lungs or full lungs? It appears, based on my observations, that full lungs alone (with depleted O2 in the blood contain enough O2 to sustain the resting body for about 1 minute. Assuming there is no oxygen in the body, after holding your breath, an immediate inhale will sustain the body for about a minute. After deep breathing and charging the body with O2, the body is good for 2 minutes with empty lungs. And with a practice of breathing to enrich the lungs + holding a full breath, I can withhold from breathing for about 3 minutes.

But with understanding all that, what is the point of holding the breath with empty lungs? Is it the panic feeling that is worth overcoming? Can the body actually hold less time with empty lungs, and it is simply that the practice is building confidence/trust in the body’s ability to do more?

Really, my big question is this: What is the benefit of holding the breath? I will try and look for some studies on this. But I think maybe it is just part of being discipline and listening to the body.

________________

Observations 

Breathing

Times : 1:30, 1:40, 1:55, (2:50 with full lungs)

Physical: Fairly comfortable seated and lying down. The mobility work is certainly helpful. My neck and shoulders are feeling a bit better (stressed from jiu jitsu). After the breath hold, I do feel a jolt of energy and will often stretch quite soon after. It almost feels involuntary like my body just starts stretching and moving…

Mental: I was focused and calm. I found that noting (which comes from Vipassana) during the breath hold is very helpful. Instead of letting my mind wander, I note sensations as they come and go. This allowed me to focus not on holding my breath, but just being present.

Notes: Question everything.

Shower: Pretty refreshing. Sensitive areas are hands and neck.

Wim Hof Method – Day 22

While I am falling behind on the writing, I am keeping up. This is yesterday’s practice. More work is good, sleeping well is important, and finding time for practice and writing will always be a priority.

I continued the practice yesterday despite some pain in my throat. I attributed the pain from having practiced some wicked collar chokes and escapes at jiu jitsu. This type of drilling can often leave the throat slightly damaged. The thing about going for submissions in jiu jitsu is that the person getting submitted will almost always resist. If you take someone’s arm and extend it away from their body, they know you are trying to attack it, and will recoil. You might have to fight to keep that arm and even more to extend it to a point where they submit. But the throat is not the same. Whether you are squeezing the windpipe or the carotid artery, there is no resisting a choke. Your choices are to tap, or to nap.

Even though I always choose tap, light training still causes some damage. This damage can manifest into a ‘sore throat’ or for someone with my medical history, strep throat. There are a number of reasons why I’ve had strep throat so many times in my life. The most recent cause could be jiu jitsu. When the tissue is damaged in the throat, I believe, the body has to use energy to repair it. This energy expenditure might be too much for the body to handle if an infection is also brewing. This is what I’ve come to learn. If you damage your throat, that you are more likely to have an infection spread. I liken this to a damaged apple. An apple will rot after a few days. It will absolutely rot sooner in an area where the skin is damaged.

With all that said, the breathing has become even more difficult to focus on due to the added distraction of esophageal discomfort. But I felt that I started to gain the rhythm yesterday, and have not yet started to practice today. I am confident that, with practice, I will hold for over 2 minutes consistently in the coming weeks. The breathing is certainly not easy, which makes it an appealing challenge.

Breathing

Times : 1:30, 1:45, 1:55, 2:05

Physical: I felt relaxed seated today. I was able to improve with each by noticing the feeling of being “charged”. Much better than the previous practice.

Mental: While I was in a bit of a rush, I was able to dedicate myself to the practice. I could have been more focused.

Notes: As work, sleep, and extracurricular schedules start to mold, focus will improve.

Wim Hof Method – Day 21

Kind of bummed to say that I failed to practice the breathing part of the exercise today. I woke up a bit late and got a random call which required me to speak on the phone for the half hour or so that it would normally take me to complete the routine. I was happy that I made time to shower in the morning and after jiu jitsu this evening. Both showers were, the same as days 1-20, tap cold. While the showering has gotten quite easy and normal, stepping in is still quite daunting. But then again, I would often stand outside of the hot shower before diving in, all at once. I have found that recently my hands and neck seem to be the most sensitive to the cold showers.

Going forward, I am working on compiling my notes into a google sheet, which is essentially an excel spreadsheet. My past career has taught me plenty of lessons, including the importance of data, and being able to look back through results. Before I get too far into this, I want to be able to record what I’ve got. I will make sure to link this data sheet to the blog page on the left along with my contact info.

I also found this great video that shows a mobility warm-up. I think this will be much better than my random yoga poses.

I had a chiropractor who worked on me for a few years helping with rehabilitation. It was very insightful. We became friends. He taught me a lot about the body, but also about the business of chiropractic. I came to understand that back health is similar to that of teeth health. You take care of your teeth by brushing and flossing daily, so if and when you go to the dentist, he doesn’t need to do much work other than check up and make sure everything is okay. Your back is the same. You should stretch it and take care of it every day, which means sitting up straight, not crossing your legs, not leaning on one hip or against walls. My chiropractor even gave me a quick 10 minute stretching checklist similar to this guy’s mobility video. I never did it.

But I’m going to do this tomorrow, before I breathe…

Wim Hof Method – Day 20

Day 20 has been a weird one. I took two cold showers at the gym before and after training. I spent a fair amount of time outside in shorts and a t-shirt while the temperature went from 40 to 50 and back. I waited until later in the day to do the breathing exercises and found that to be a mistake.

It is much easier to focus early in the morning on an empty stomach.

Much of what I’ve come to observe during all this sitting and stretching and breathing is how much it affects the digestive system. Many times during breathing I feel the need to burp. All this business with breathing out, sucking in, and engaging the diaphragm really does affect the gut. I guess that is the point, according to Yogi Nora, who I found while trying to understand the Nauli breathing technique.

While I hate her explanation for why there are benefits to this practice, I do understand that strengthening the diaphragm is an integral part of being able to control breathing. That said, breathing exercises, whether they are as intense as Yogi Nori’s or otherwise can disrupt the gut. I found myself ready to vomit on one of my training partners at jiu jitsu the other night. I blame it on my overemphasis of diaphragm flexing during exhalation while rolling. While there is some benefit to the connection of breathing and movement in yoga, I wonder as to the benefits of breathing during such a dynamic sport such as jiu jitsu. Maybe… Boxers exhale on the punch, weightlifting certainly forces you to hold your diaphragm and exhale at the finish. Maybe Kron is right.

At any rate, I started late and was not able to find a very good groove while breathing. I wasn’t getting the light headed feeling, the out of body euphoria or tingling or anything. Too fast? Too slow? I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. So I decided to do an extra round and listen to Wim Hof instruct Joe Rogan.

This certainly helped. I was almost overtaken with the strong feelings tingling in my feet and hands. I had ringing in my ears and electric pulses moving down my shoulders. It was intense. I held my breath for two minutes, but felt like I could have gone longer. Wim seemed like he started Joe at a slow pace and then increases the speed toward the end. Wim is looking at his phone during this time. I assume he is running the inner fire app that I didn’t buy. I really started to think that this student needs a teacher. Maybe just a bit more practice listening to Wim and I’ll get the hang of it. 20 days is not a long time. If I am still this inconsistent at 90, I’ll start interviewing gurus.

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Observations 

Breathing

Times : 0:30, 0:45, 1:15, 2:05

Physical: The posture and timing were off completely. The full stomach was not the best surface to be pressing against my diaphragm. Overall, it was pretty shitty.

Mental: I stayed calm during the shitty breathing. On the last rep while listening to Wim Hof instruct, I felt great. I had a rush of energy and euphoria. It completely changed my mood.

Notes: Don’t eat before . . .

Shower

The showers were pretty great. I got one before stepping on the mats just to cool off and energize myself. Even after a cold bike ride over to the gym in shorts, I felt fine jumping in the cold shower for a few minutes. It really got me breathing powerfully and gave me energy to start class. The class was solid and I got another cold shower after. The post class shower was blase as I just needed to get cleaned up. I did enjoy the cold and talked to some teammates about jumping in the lake once the temperatures start to dip.