Book Review: Becoming the Iceman
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Be prepared for the amazing story of becoming the Iceman.
Becoming the Iceman is the autobiography of two people. Wim Hof, a man who routinely goes for swims in ice water. Completed a full marathon in the polar circle. And climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts (no shoes!). Wim also set 18 world records. The second storyline is of his student Justin Rosales. The story contains two intersecting threads. The first is about Wim as his abilities are starting to be known to the world. As he sets world record after record. The second storyline is when Justin hears of Wim’s extraordinary feats and also seeks to become an Iceman. The punchline of the story? Justin succeeded. With the prevailing ideal of . the story is that you to can do some amazing things if you attempt the impossible.
Becoming the Iceman is a great story…
…but it has some terrible prose.
The main author is not a native English speaker and prefers rambling digressions to thought out progression. The secondary author is a busy college student, and the book is self-published. I loved the book for its amazing story and message. But disliked it for its sub-par writing.
If you are seeking a motivational story of achieving the impossible, then this book is a must-read.
Highlights of Becoming the Iceman
I found three parts of Becoming the Iceman that specifically compelling.
First that Wim Hof was able to actively mobilize his immune system to fight off an injected toxin. The second highlight was that Justin was able to replicate many of Wim’s amazing feats. And finally that Wim developed a meditative system more powerful than the ancient Buddhist art of Tummo.
- Immune system boost – Scientists injected Wim with endotoxin – the dead cell-wall component of bacteria. A normal human’s immune system will treat the dead cells like a live bacterial infection, generating a massive immune response. That response, in turn, generates flu-like symptoms. Wim’s immune response was 50 percent less than the other, healthy volunteers, and he displayed hardly any flu-like symptoms. Amazing – I don’t think Wim is going to be developing an auto-immune disorder anytime soon.
- Anyone can do it – If it was just Wim that wouldn’t mean anything scientifically. In a world as large as our genetic variation is the rule, not the exception. Wim plus his student Justin is better, but still not enough. Two Chinese men temporary broke Wim’s frozen in ice time record. Four is better still. Avantouinti is the Finish sport of ice hole swimming. Wim is Finish, and took Avantouinti to the next level, by becoming an Iceman. Even if becoming an Iceman is impossible, it’s clear that swimming in ice cold water is completely possible if an entire nation can do it. I’m convinced.
- The Myth of Tummo: Most scientists following and studying Wim’s remarkable feats have ascribed it to the Buddhist art Tummo, of inner fire meditation. Wim doesn’t do much to dissuade the scientists – having casually mentioned Tummo on his website to describe his feats. However, in his autobiographical book it’s clear that before this media-storm, he had never heard of it. His disciple Justin mentions how studying Tummo for a few weeks allowed him to slightly raise his temperature after sitting still for several hours, but how studying with Wim allowed him to survive ice baths, ice swimming, and freezing temperatures in just days. What does this mean? Unfortunately; I have no idea. Wim’s training method is simple, and lacks a smoking gun:
- When exposed to very cold water, humans experience minor cold shock (hyperventilation, rapid heart rate, stress response, shivering). Consciously repress that subconscious response.
- His own form of basic Pranayama (Yogic breathing).
- Gradual exposure to greater amounts of cold while moving (ice water swims, barefoot jogs, etc…).
Becoming the Iceman is a great book – I recommend a purchase if you’re are interested in peak human performance, yoga, meditation or pushing the boundaries of what people can do.