TLDR: Too many words, show me a 2 minute video, instead

A few years ago I heard about a Dutch fitness guru named Wim Hof who claimed to be able to give people what sounded like superpowers--consciously controlling their body temperature, their immune systems and oxygen consumption. I had just written a book and given a Tedx talk about another guru making similarly outlandish claims in the deserts of Arizona. That story ended in tragedy, with a man dying on his search for enlightenment. I thought Wim Hof was just another charlatan, so I got a commission from Playboy to set out to prove he was a fake.

Obviously, I was more than a little bit skeptical when I met Hof at his training center in Poland. However, within a few days, he completely changed my mind. I ended up meditating on the banks of a snowy river, melting the snow around me with my body heat. I learned to hold my breath for three minutes at a stretch and stand in the snow for hours at a time. At the end of the week I climbed a mountain in Poland wearing only a bathing suit while the temperature plummeted to 4 degrees.

The 2014 piece in Playboy turned out to be a hit and I spent the next four years studying the method more closely and examining scientific explanations for why it worked. I interviewed top athletes using cold exposure and high-intensity training to maximize their workouts, and military scientists who are trying to make the perfect soldier. I delved into the anthropological literature on human evolution that suggested that our ancestors survived frigid winters by cultivating a vestigial tissue known as brown fat, which uses ordinary white fat to heat the body. Then I learned how to cultivate brown fat myself.

I know that a lot of this sounds crazy. I thought so too. But as I learned more, I began to see results for myself. I learned to control my body temperature to such an extent that last January, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro without a shirt--at a pace that was three times faster than almost anyone ever attempts--making it to the rim of the volcano in just 28 hours.

There's a lot more to say, of course, and a ton of peer-reviewed science that I've barely touched on here.

All of this is in a book I just wrote called What Doesn’t Kill Us

Ask me anything.

Links: My website The book:What Doesn’t Kill Us

Video trailer


Update 2:27 ET - Well this blew up didn't it? I've been typing furiously for two hours and can't keep up with all the questions. This is absolutely humbling and amazing at the same time. I'm going to step out for a little bit I need to drive to BoulderBookstore to sign copies of my book to get them to the people who pre-ordered. But I'll come back to check in throughout the day. If you want to keep updated I've got all the normal social media outlets--I'd be thrilled if you liked myauthor page.

Update 6:24 ET Holy cow, people. How on earth am I going to get through 1537 comments? I want to thank the Reddit community for being so engaging and asking really thought-provoking questions. I especially enjoy the skeptics, because I'm a skeptic, too. I'll keep trying to get to your comments, but if you don't get a response please do either check out the book, or check out some of my past articles on the WHM that are free online. If you are so inclined you can follow me on twitter and all the other normal social media platforms. It has been an absolute blast and an honor to have held your attention today.

Comments: 2083 • Responses: 65  • Date: 

Warlizard1711 karma

If you had to launch a 90kg projectile 300 meters, which medieval siege weapon would you use?

gekogekogeko2601 karma

This has got to be a trick question. Of course I'd be using a trebuchet. I'm not sure what other medieval siege weapon would be capable of such a feat.

frehsprints1232 karma

You ever get chills doing something totally ordinary? Like maybe you're walking down the cold food aisle at the grocery store, get a chill, and then you're like "What the fuck?!"

gekogekogeko1210 karma

Hahaha. Yes! All the time. When I'm not focusing it is a lot easier to get cold.

mr_malhotra745 karma

Does Kilimanjaro in fact rise like Olympus above the Serengeti?

gekogekogeko439 karma

Now I have to go listen to this song on repeat. Thanks.

Jim105536 karma

My family complains when I turn down the heat because I am hot all the time. They claim it's because my blood pressure is a bit high.

What is your blood pressure at?

gekogekogeko520 karma

You know what, I haven't checked my blood pressure for years, so it's hard for me to answer your question specifically. However, the cold definitely impacts blood pressure, first by raising it due to vasoconstriction as the blood vessels in the extremities contract and shunting blood to the core, and then by lowering it by building up stress tolerance. Cold plunges are a lot like lifting weights for your cardiovascular system.

eaglessoar743 karma

I haven't checked my blood pressure for years

You seriously never checked your blood pressure once throughout this entire experiment?

gekogekogeko464 karma

Yes. I guess I was focusing on other things. I probably should have though.

Zan_H258 karma

What are your thoughts on oatmeal cookies?

gekogekogeko291 karma

Love them.

Imapseudonorm239 karma

Care to give a tl;dr: on how this all works?

gekogekogeko820 karma

Get cold. Suppress your shiver response. Force your body to come up with a different solution to how to heat itself. Feel the endorphin rush. Be happy.

badgerX3mushroom235 karma

Do you think these are the methods that David Blaine uses?

gekogekogeko394 karma

No. Funny thing, he actually gets a mention in my book in a chapter where Laird Hamilton talks about how Blaine said he could sit in a special ice-water contraption at Laird's place. Blaine said he could hang out in the tub of ice for 30 minutes. He lasted 5. Or so I was told.

Dmcnama3148 karma

How does David Blaine hold his breathe for 17 minutes without using this method?

gekogekogeko451 karma

17 minutes is a very long time. Though there is precedent among the freediving community (which uses a different method). I think the record is something like 22 minutes underwater. But that feat relies in part on the mammalian dive response which suppresses all sorts of bodily functions when in contact with cold water.

Then again, something like 320 free divers have died in the last few years. So there's that.

BauBir153 karma

Don't you fear a serious cold which could end in your death when you decide not to wear a shirt while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro? Can you control your body climate only through your exercise? When I do so, I begin to sweat and soon after I begin to get cold/freeze. How do you mange it?

gekogekogeko183 karma

I didn't get sick going up Kili, and I think part of the beauty of environmental conditioning is that it builds up an internal resistance not only to the elements, but also ramps up the immune system. While it doesn't make someone impervious to the elements (you can certainly push too far) it adds resistance. I exercise outdoors all the time and am usually sweating in the snow, not shivering.

BauBir84 karma

I come from the swimming sport - and I was trained wrong. I was pushed and pushed and pushed and I failed in getting faster, because my pulse was beating to hard and I've got always a red head. Now is it when I swim I'm sweating in the water and later on I need about 30 mins to get dressed again, due to that sweating.

gekogekogeko73 karma


frmmtl136 karma

What was the reaction of your guides on Kili when you told them you were climbing shirtless? They probably thought you were some crazy muzungu trying to kill himself.

gekogekogeko160 karma

Yes. I open up the book with one such interaction with a guide telling me to put a shirt on. I didn't.

rickmuscles132 karma

What tips do you have for dealing w/ failure?

What books do you recommend?

How do you set your goals?

gekogekogeko171 karma

So glad that you asked this. I talk about this concept a lot. I never start anything without first understanding that there is a chance that I'm going to fail. Indeed, I prepare for it. It is much healthier to understand that not everything works out and to expect it, so that in the end if things go well you can be pleasantly surprised.

A friend of mine wrote a book called The Gift of Failure which I'd certainly recommend. I barely made it out of highschool and basically failed my way through middle school. I turned out ok in the end though.

Other books, well, there are just too many to write here. My favorite of all time is "Old Man and the Sea". I love Krakauer's "Into the Wild". And think I wrote a few good books along the way as well.

acey131 karma

What scares you? I hear Philippe Petite is afraid of spiders and snakes.

gekogekogeko484 karma

I spent about six years living in India and at the time I owned a small Hyundai "santro" which I drove just about everywhere in the country. Driving in India is really different than in America -- you basically play chicken with oncoming traffic if you want to get anywhere. But the speeds are much slower than in the USA. Anyway, when I finally moved back after 6 years in the country, going on American highways terrified me because the speeds were just so much faster. I was always worried that American drivers would play chicken in the same way they do in India and that I would die along with all my passengers. The thought still terrifies me.

mant_grooney90 karma

Hey Scott, I can't wait to order and read your book. I've been really fascinated with Wim Hof for the past year since I first saw his VICE documentary, and have been doing his method the past few weeks because it's freezing where I live right now. And the breathing and cold showers have been doing a pretty good job of making it more bearable.

Anyway, Wim Hof was on Joe Rogan's podcast for the second time a few months ago, and Joe called bullshit on you being able to do 80 breathless pushups in a row. Did you see the interview? Are you ever going to make a video to refute him then send it to him?

Also, though I believe heavily in Wim's abilities, in the spirit of what he's doing, and in his abilities to teach his method to others, are there any specific parts of his methods or ideas you feel are deserving of criticism, or at least closer scrutiny?

Thanks for your time, good luck with your book sales!

gekogekogeko112 karma

Hey there. Yes indeed! The vice doc was amazing. I even get name checked in it. I think they read my Playboy piece and then sent out a reporter. And I'm glad they did. The doc was absolutely epic.

I've been waiting for Rogan to reach out to me. He DID call bullshit and I'd love to set things straight. I'll make a video at some point, though I usually don't do the breath-in breathing method that lets me hit 80 pushups. Instead I focus on doing 50-breath-out pushups in my morning routine.

The reason for this is that breath-in retention power pushups will let a person do a lot more sheer-number of exercises, but carry a lot higher chance of passing out. I know from experience that 80 is my absolute limit and have passed out a few times after I hit that number. I didn't think that would make a compelling video.

In terms of scrutiny, I absolutely think that we should remain skeptical of the claims of the WHM and focus on the science and on results. There's no reason to claim it can cure cancer if we have no evidence of that. That said, there's no reason to NOT do the method if you have an illness as long as you are still doing the correct medical protocol.

HunterAHomistek111 karma

Watching a person do 80 breathless pushups then pass out would probably make the video more compelling. I can see the clickbait headlines already...

"Man does 80 push-ups without breathing--and then!" etc. etc.

gekogekogeko60 karma

Hah. Maybe I'll do it then.

Lord-A78 karma

Opinion on thelegend27?

gekogekogeko196 karma

I bet I could beat her in Dota.

Yoda1035372 karma

Favorite Dota character?

gekogekogeko121 karma

Riki was my favorite until 7.00 when they nerfed diffusal blade. Lately I've been playing a lot of Weaver.

wut_r_u_sayin23 karma

How has your improved physical fitness affected your ability to play games? Does it help with focus and posture?

I started working out to help with some back/shoulder problems from gaming too long. I can't tell if my workouts are helping or if it's just a reduction in the time I spend gaming because I'm at the gym, but my shoulders and back feel slightly better.

gekogekogeko90 karma

I have seen no improvement in my Dota skills because of the WHM.

notacoffeesnob67 karma

This is actually about your other book, The Red Market (hope that's ok - I found it fascinating!). I recently read that self-driving cars will directly impact organ donation in the U.S., because it will reduce highway fatalities (and thus reduce the number of healthy organs donated). Do you think this might give way to a less ethical organ procurement process in the U.S. such as you saw overseas?

gekogekogeko123 karma

Very interesting. I think it probably will, however since most organ donors drive motorcycles, we probably have a little ways to go before those go self driving.

That said, after reporting on organ trafficking for 6 years or so, I am VERY hesitant to sign up to be an organ donor in America. There is simply too much profit in the American medical system for me to trust the intentions of a hospital that can make upwards of $250,000 selling my body parts. The entire system needs reform and transparency.

PhuckPhest60 karma

What has been your most difficult personal achievement to date? Physically, mentally, or both

gekogekogeko97 karma

Going up Kilimanjaro was probably the most difficult physical thing that I've ever done. It really pushed me to my limit.

Fearfulfour58 karma

How difficult was it for you to learn how to control your body temperature? If someone was interested in learning this themselves how should we go about doing that?

gekogekogeko144 karma

The trick isn't so much about controlling your body temperature--as in consciously raising and lowering it without an external stimulus--rather becoming resistant to the environment that your body encounters. Acclimation is a fairly speedy process when you are dedicated to it. When I first stood in the snow in bare feet it hurt like hell and I had to quit in 5 minute. The next day I stood there for 10 minutes before the same panic set in. On the fourth day I was there for an hour. By the end of the week I climbed up a snowy mountain in Poland in just a pair of shorts and boots.

MonsieurVIVI30 karma

What are the benefits of a cold shower after sport? Is it that good for the body ?

gekogekogeko55 karma

There is a lot of contradicting research about cold showers after sport. In my experience though, it releases endorphins and feels like it speeds recovery. When I did the training with Brian Mackenzie and Laird Hamilton, they advocate cold plunges DURING exertion. And I think that has an even more powerful effect.

bogzaelektrotehniku27 karma

What do you think about while you are in extreme conditions? How important do you think the mind is in what you do?

gekogekogeko53 karma

I have a few things that I do. One is to think warm thoughts, like having a fire or a dragon in my belly. Another is simply to get in a meditation state--a sort of buzzing numbing mental place where I turn off my higher mental functions. If I try to be social, to talk, or lose focus in another way I can get cold quickly.

JuicyBra25 karma

The 2014 piece in Playboy turned out to be a hit and I spent the next four years studying the method more closely and examining scientific explanations for why it worked.


next four years

What is the secret to time travel?

gekogekogeko13 karma

It took well over a year for the piece to come out. Visited wim in 2012.

ricky201210024 karma

Will you train me?

gekogekogeko65 karma

I don't know if I'm going to run any workshops or not on the method. However, I can enthusiastically recommend checking out Kasper van der Meulen's training program "Mindlift"

Of all the WHM instructors I've met I think he is head and shoulders above the rest.

Ohthehumanityofit15 karma

Do you think that since cold preserves meat, you will live longer than me?

gekogekogeko25 karma

Hah. Maybe. But not for that reason.

badgerX3mushroom14 karma

Do you meditate regularly?

gekogekogeko24 karma

I do the breathing method almost every morning with my wife.

Remember_Safety_1st8 karma

If you could only choose one for the rest of your life, would you rather have bagels or donuts?

gekogekogeko21 karma

Bagels. Especially if they're from Rosenberg's in Denver.

murdernotmukduk13 karma

Really enjoyed "..Kilimanjaro". If you're ever in Denver again, I'll buy you a bagel!

gekogekogeko89 karma

I live in Denver. You owe me a bagel.

turbogoon7 karma

Boxer or briefs?

gekogekogeko47 karma


FabulousDavid5 karma

You're fucking gorgeous.

Will you please tell me you are gay and available?

And is there a catalog of your shirtless pics somewhere? ;)

gekogekogeko17 karma

I think I'm blushing right now. Sorry to say though that I'm not gay. Indeed, I'm happily married to the woman of my dreams. But there are certainly pics out there....

rickmuscles2 karma

What did you do to keep your feet healthy during the Killi ascent?

gekogekogeko8 karma

I was wearing boots and wool socks.

relaks10 karma

resisting urge to call you a pussy

gekogekogeko8 karma

You can if it will make you feel good. I can take it.

Sarasart2 karma

What is your take on whether or not DMT is truly released during breathing sessions?

gekogekogeko3 karma

There has been zero scientific validation that DMT gets released in the breathing exercises he teaches--there are three variations of so-called "DMT-breathing". That said, the effects of his "DMT breathing" do seem to correlate with people's experiences taking exogenous DMT, so it could be true. When I've done that method I've certainly had interesting and profound hallucinations.

But I don't cover the DMT stuff in the book. Maybe in something I write down the line. I definitely want to investigate further before I make a definitive statement.

Triicorn2 karma

How has ur quality of life changed since starting your new method of living and exploring with this other crazy rad dudes?

gekogekogeko4 karma

Life is awesome. I've met so many inspiring people and amazing athletes. I'm often humbled in their presences.

MrJesusPants32 karma

All these techniques have been known and practiced by the Yogis for millennia, is that where Hof gained his training?

gekogekogeko8 karma

Similar techniques go back millennia. Tummo, for instance, is a Tibetan practice that is remarkably similar. There is also Qi Gong in China, and some interesting Russian and Ancient greek practices. What is interesting about the WHM is that you build resistance FAST. A tummo practitioner can take 10 years or more to master the art, the WHM takes only a few weeks.

This is because Tummo starts with visualizations and mental training before extending control over the body. The WHM goes in the other direction and uses the body to train the mind.

Mac26631 karma

Have you ever considered practicing some form of martial arts?

gekogekogeko3 karma

I used to run the Kenyon College Martial Arts Club back when I was in college. I wasn't very good, but I was enthusiastic.

Track_011 karma

Do do you cultivate brown fat? And how do you know you have cultivated brown fat when the doctor you mentioned said the procedure to test for it is unethical.

gekogekogeko3 karma

I know that I've cultivated resistance to the cold, but cannot be 100% sure that the change is due to BAT. It could have been a mitochondrial change in my muscles, or a number of other processes that I talk about in my book.

AmericanHistoryXL1 karma

Do you practice the WFM (breathing) every day?

Do you also do the stretch/yoga routine? Is it the same as what Wim practices?

gekogekogeko4 karma

My intention is to do the WHM every day, but sometimes I miss one and that can put me off track for a week or so. But I always come back to it.

My routine is a truncated version of the WHM that takes about 15 minutes. I do the breathing and retentions until I reach a 3 min breath hold, then I do breath-out pushups, a head stand and downward dog. Then I take a cold shower.

Sarasart1 karma

How has WHM changed your meditation practice?

gekogekogeko4 karma

The WHM IS my meditation practice now.

badgerX3mushroom1 karma

Do you know your Myers Briggs personality type?

gekogekogeko15 karma

IT has been a long time. I don't remember, but I'm pretty sure it was just four letters.

ktv131 karma

What is the best advice you can give someone who is terrible in the cold and the heat alike to deal with temperatures better?

Even just sitting at home my feet get so cold I feel like they will freeze off and when I was vacationing in a 32 Degrees with very high humidity weather I fainted in the sun and heat. :-/ So having terrible heat regulation I'd love to get some advice on how to even become a little bit better.

gekogekogeko2 karma

A lof ot people have similar experiences to you. You want to aim to be comfortable in variable temperatures and environments. A good way to start is with cold showers. Start with the water hot, then switch to cold at the end for a minute. Suppress your shiver response. You can add other stresses to this over time.

Another great thing to do is exercise in minimal clothing outdoors. The exertion will heat you up, and you should be comfortable after a few minutes.

mettlemetal1 karma

Hi Scott, your book looks awesome and I'm about to start reading it. My question is regarding my approach to yard work. I live in an area that can reach -40 and lower during winter months, but I often shovel in my socks or bare feet with disapproval from my family. I guess I find it less cumbersome and if it gets to be too cold I step inside for a moment.

I just read how you feel it's actually good for us to experience this type of exposure? Why is that? All I ever hear is how I'm weakening my immune system and opening myself to infections.

gekogekogeko4 karma

Funnily enough, I put out a video a few weeks ago shoveling the snow in my bare feet. It felt great. However I did get slight frost-nip on my toes because the asphalt was colder than I had expected. I think that outdoor yard work is a great idea as long as you don't push yourself beyond your limits. Be aware of the signs of frost bite. But there is no reason you shouldn't go out and feel the cold a little bit on your skin. Just be safe when you do it and go inside to warm up.

imfromdfuture1 karma

What changes do you observe concerning surrogate pregnancies ever since you reported from India about a decade back?

gekogekogeko5 karma

I am so happy to report that as a result of many many stories on the horrors of the surrogacy industry in India that last year the country banned international surrogacy. Of course, I can't claim credit for the work of thousands of people, but my book The Red Market helped steer the conversation.

squirtjohnson-1 karma

Whopper or Big Mac?

gekogekogeko6 karma

Meh. Both make me feel terrible after I eat them. But if I had to choose I'd go Big Mac.