Insight

Ice-cold composure

Wim Hof is renowned for his theories on the benefits of exposure to freezing temperatures. But could his advice help a football player in the heat of the moment?

WORDS Sheridan Bird

As our chat with Wim Hof begins, there is a grain of doubt. Does he actually like the beautiful game? The uncertainty doesn’t linger. “We don’t like football – we love football!” booms the 63-year-old known as the Ice Man. He is also an extreme sportsman and growing cultural phenomenon thanks to his irrepressible personality and passionate mantra; his Wim Hof Method has won followers around the world. 

The pillars of the Dutchman’s system are breathing exercises, meditation and, most famously, cold exposure. He holds records for swimming under ice, running half-marathons above the Arctic Circle, sitting in a box full of ice cubes for almost two hours and climbing mountains in freezing conditions wearing only a pair of shorts and boots. But could his teachings benefit the stars of the Champions League? 

“In general we don’t train the millions of primitive muscles in the vascular system, which is 125,000km long,” he says. “They only contract when you go into the cold or do exercise. Not developing these muscles can cause fatigue and soreness, even cardiac arrest. When you go into deep cold, the millions of tiny muscles are triggered, helping blood flow through the capillaries, arteries and veins. This feeds your cells and your heart rate goes down – and that includes when you are under pressure, performing.”

This is where footballers could gain an edge, because “your judgement becomes a lot better. A player who has to score can train his cardiovascular system to remain calm and execute his will in those crucial moments. Neurologically your body listens better.” The best example of when someone could gain from this calm state is the taking of a potentially match-changing penalty. Obviously a Champions League player can’t usher a member of the coaching staff onto the pitch with a bucket of ice, but he can deploy another pillar of the Hof method: breathing.

As our chat with Wim Hof begins, there is a grain of doubt. Does he actually like the beautiful game? The uncertainty doesn’t linger. “We don’t like football – we love football!” booms the 63-year-old known as the Ice Man. He is also an extreme sportsman and growing cultural phenomenon thanks to his irrepressible personality and passionate mantra; his Wim Hof Method has won followers around the world. 

The pillars of the Dutchman’s system are breathing exercises, meditation and, most famously, cold exposure. He holds records for swimming under ice, running half-marathons above the Arctic Circle, sitting in a box full of ice cubes for almost two hours and climbing mountains in freezing conditions wearing only a pair of shorts and boots. But could his teachings benefit the stars of the Champions League? 

“In general we don’t train the millions of primitive muscles in the vascular system, which is 125,000km long,” he says. “They only contract when you go into the cold or do exercise. Not developing these muscles can cause fatigue and soreness, even cardiac arrest. When you go into deep cold, the millions of tiny muscles are triggered, helping blood flow through the capillaries, arteries and veins. This feeds your cells and your heart rate goes down – and that includes when you are under pressure, performing.”

This is where footballers could gain an edge, because “your judgement becomes a lot better. A player who has to score can train his cardiovascular system to remain calm and execute his will in those crucial moments. Neurologically your body listens better.” The best example of when someone could gain from this calm state is the taking of a potentially match-changing penalty. Obviously a Champions League player can’t usher a member of the coaching staff onto the pitch with a bucket of ice, but he can deploy another pillar of the Hof method: breathing.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Deliberate breathing patterns “cleanse you of chemical morbidity”, according to Hof. “With a couple of breaths you alkalise the body and make your neurology flow. You go deep into your physiology and anxiety goes away.” When asked for a simple tip for Champions Journal readers, Hof recommends daily cold showers, starting with 30 seconds and moving up to two minutes. 

Some clubs have already embraced Hof’s approach: he has conducted sessions with PSV Eindhoven and Burnley. Mark Howard, head of sport science at the Championship club, said that everyone was “buzzing and you could feel the energy in the room”. Hof believes his meeting with PSV inspired them to a 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League a few days later.

Hof recently hit UK television screens with his BBC series Freeze the Fear. He worked with a group of celebrities, including 2008 Champions League winner Patrice Evra. The former Manchester United left-back confessed that being sprayed with cold water was a punishment when he was a child, so his participation required a lot of mental strength. He ultimately conquered and then embraced the freezing conditions, even spending more than 15 minutes up to his neck in icy water. 

With a Hollywood biopic starring Joseph Fiennes in the lead role in the works, Hof admits he doesn’t have much time to watch football – but that wasn’t always the case. “I remember sitting on the back of my father’s bike while he listened to the great Ajax team of the 1970s on the radio: Johan Cruyff, Piet Keizer and Sjaak Swart. I loved that team. I really felt my father’s passion. I loved everything about Cruyff – I mean, what wouldn’t you love about him? I think he was born from a football, not his mother!”

Naturally Hof adored the Netherlands 1974 World Cup side too, and without an ounce of irony declares: “With me as manager they would have won the final against West Germany!” It hasn’t escaped his attention that the Oranje generally struggle to get over the last hurdle. “Something has been missing in the team over the years. When you are playing a tough opponent, you realise that 11 individuals don’t work. You are only as good as the creativity you allow others to show, and you have to absorb shit from the other team before playing a defence-splitting pass. Perhaps the Dutch teams have had too much stress over the years.” 

And perhaps they should give the Hof a call.

As our chat with Wim Hof begins, there is a grain of doubt. Does he actually like the beautiful game? The uncertainty doesn’t linger. “We don’t like football – we love football!” booms the 63-year-old known as the Ice Man. He is also an extreme sportsman and growing cultural phenomenon thanks to his irrepressible personality and passionate mantra; his Wim Hof Method has won followers around the world. 

The pillars of the Dutchman’s system are breathing exercises, meditation and, most famously, cold exposure. He holds records for swimming under ice, running half-marathons above the Arctic Circle, sitting in a box full of ice cubes for almost two hours and climbing mountains in freezing conditions wearing only a pair of shorts and boots. But could his teachings benefit the stars of the Champions League? 

“In general we don’t train the millions of primitive muscles in the vascular system, which is 125,000km long,” he says. “They only contract when you go into the cold or do exercise. Not developing these muscles can cause fatigue and soreness, even cardiac arrest. When you go into deep cold, the millions of tiny muscles are triggered, helping blood flow through the capillaries, arteries and veins. This feeds your cells and your heart rate goes down – and that includes when you are under pressure, performing.”

This is where footballers could gain an edge, because “your judgement becomes a lot better. A player who has to score can train his cardiovascular system to remain calm and execute his will in those crucial moments. Neurologically your body listens better.” The best example of when someone could gain from this calm state is the taking of a potentially match-changing penalty. Obviously a Champions League player can’t usher a member of the coaching staff onto the pitch with a bucket of ice, but he can deploy another pillar of the Hof method: breathing.

Ice-cold composure
Insight

Ice-cold composure

Wim Hof is renowned for his theories on the benefits of exposure to freezing temperatures. But could his advice help a football player in the heat of the moment?

WORDS Sheridan Bird

As our chat with Wim Hof begins, there is a grain of doubt. Does he actually like the beautiful game? The uncertainty doesn’t linger. “We don’t like football – we love football!” booms the 63-year-old known as the Ice Man. He is also an extreme sportsman and growing cultural phenomenon thanks to his irrepressible personality and passionate mantra; his Wim Hof Method has won followers around the world. 

The pillars of the Dutchman’s system are breathing exercises, meditation and, most famously, cold exposure. He holds records for swimming under ice, running half-marathons above the Arctic Circle, sitting in a box full of ice cubes for almost two hours and climbing mountains in freezing conditions wearing only a pair of shorts and boots. But could his teachings benefit the stars of the Champions League? 

“In general we don’t train the millions of primitive muscles in the vascular system, which is 125,000km long,” he says. “They only contract when you go into the cold or do exercise. Not developing these muscles can cause fatigue and soreness, even cardiac arrest. When you go into deep cold, the millions of tiny muscles are triggered, helping blood flow through the capillaries, arteries and veins. This feeds your cells and your heart rate goes down – and that includes when you are under pressure, performing.”

This is where footballers could gain an edge, because “your judgement becomes a lot better. A player who has to score can train his cardiovascular system to remain calm and execute his will in those crucial moments. Neurologically your body listens better.” The best example of when someone could gain from this calm state is the taking of a potentially match-changing penalty. Obviously a Champions League player can’t usher a member of the coaching staff onto the pitch with a bucket of ice, but he can deploy another pillar of the Hof method: breathing.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

As our chat with Wim Hof begins, there is a grain of doubt. Does he actually like the beautiful game? The uncertainty doesn’t linger. “We don’t like football – we love football!” booms the 63-year-old known as the Ice Man. He is also an extreme sportsman and growing cultural phenomenon thanks to his irrepressible personality and passionate mantra; his Wim Hof Method has won followers around the world. 

The pillars of the Dutchman’s system are breathing exercises, meditation and, most famously, cold exposure. He holds records for swimming under ice, running half-marathons above the Arctic Circle, sitting in a box full of ice cubes for almost two hours and climbing mountains in freezing conditions wearing only a pair of shorts and boots. But could his teachings benefit the stars of the Champions League? 

“In general we don’t train the millions of primitive muscles in the vascular system, which is 125,000km long,” he says. “They only contract when you go into the cold or do exercise. Not developing these muscles can cause fatigue and soreness, even cardiac arrest. When you go into deep cold, the millions of tiny muscles are triggered, helping blood flow through the capillaries, arteries and veins. This feeds your cells and your heart rate goes down – and that includes when you are under pressure, performing.”

This is where footballers could gain an edge, because “your judgement becomes a lot better. A player who has to score can train his cardiovascular system to remain calm and execute his will in those crucial moments. Neurologically your body listens better.” The best example of when someone could gain from this calm state is the taking of a potentially match-changing penalty. Obviously a Champions League player can’t usher a member of the coaching staff onto the pitch with a bucket of ice, but he can deploy another pillar of the Hof method: breathing.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Deliberate breathing patterns “cleanse you of chemical morbidity”, according to Hof. “With a couple of breaths you alkalise the body and make your neurology flow. You go deep into your physiology and anxiety goes away.” When asked for a simple tip for Champions Journal readers, Hof recommends daily cold showers, starting with 30 seconds and moving up to two minutes. 

Some clubs have already embraced Hof’s approach: he has conducted sessions with PSV Eindhoven and Burnley. Mark Howard, head of sport science at the Championship club, said that everyone was “buzzing and you could feel the energy in the room”. Hof believes his meeting with PSV inspired them to a 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League a few days later.

Hof recently hit UK television screens with his BBC series Freeze the Fear. He worked with a group of celebrities, including 2008 Champions League winner Patrice Evra. The former Manchester United left-back confessed that being sprayed with cold water was a punishment when he was a child, so his participation required a lot of mental strength. He ultimately conquered and then embraced the freezing conditions, even spending more than 15 minutes up to his neck in icy water. 

With a Hollywood biopic starring Joseph Fiennes in the lead role in the works, Hof admits he doesn’t have much time to watch football – but that wasn’t always the case. “I remember sitting on the back of my father’s bike while he listened to the great Ajax team of the 1970s on the radio: Johan Cruyff, Piet Keizer and Sjaak Swart. I loved that team. I really felt my father’s passion. I loved everything about Cruyff – I mean, what wouldn’t you love about him? I think he was born from a football, not his mother!”

Naturally Hof adored the Netherlands 1974 World Cup side too, and without an ounce of irony declares: “With me as manager they would have won the final against West Germany!” It hasn’t escaped his attention that the Oranje generally struggle to get over the last hurdle. “Something has been missing in the team over the years. When you are playing a tough opponent, you realise that 11 individuals don’t work. You are only as good as the creativity you allow others to show, and you have to absorb shit from the other team before playing a defence-splitting pass. Perhaps the Dutch teams have had too much stress over the years.” 

And perhaps they should give the Hof a call.

As our chat with Wim Hof begins, there is a grain of doubt. Does he actually like the beautiful game? The uncertainty doesn’t linger. “We don’t like football – we love football!” booms the 63-year-old known as the Ice Man. He is also an extreme sportsman and growing cultural phenomenon thanks to his irrepressible personality and passionate mantra; his Wim Hof Method has won followers around the world. 

The pillars of the Dutchman’s system are breathing exercises, meditation and, most famously, cold exposure. He holds records for swimming under ice, running half-marathons above the Arctic Circle, sitting in a box full of ice cubes for almost two hours and climbing mountains in freezing conditions wearing only a pair of shorts and boots. But could his teachings benefit the stars of the Champions League? 

“In general we don’t train the millions of primitive muscles in the vascular system, which is 125,000km long,” he says. “They only contract when you go into the cold or do exercise. Not developing these muscles can cause fatigue and soreness, even cardiac arrest. When you go into deep cold, the millions of tiny muscles are triggered, helping blood flow through the capillaries, arteries and veins. This feeds your cells and your heart rate goes down – and that includes when you are under pressure, performing.”

This is where footballers could gain an edge, because “your judgement becomes a lot better. A player who has to score can train his cardiovascular system to remain calm and execute his will in those crucial moments. Neurologically your body listens better.” The best example of when someone could gain from this calm state is the taking of a potentially match-changing penalty. Obviously a Champions League player can’t usher a member of the coaching staff onto the pitch with a bucket of ice, but he can deploy another pillar of the Hof method: breathing.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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