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5 things we can learn from Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof

“What if we can re-awaken the dormant physiological processes that made our ancestors so strong?” asks Wim Hof

In a brand-new BBC series, Freeze the Fear, eight brave celebrities leave their comfortable homes to venture into the freezing cold with 62-year-old “Iceman” Wim Hof. 

Among the white-capped mountains and blue waterfalls of the Italian Alps, the stars endure cold challenges that put their minds and bodies to the test.

Celebrities include weather presenter Owain Wyn Evans, singer-songwriter Chelcee Grimes, sports presenter Gabby Logan, Strictly Come Dancing star Dianne Buswell, former footballer Patrice Evra, tenor Alfie Boe, rapper Professor Green and actor Tamzin Outhwaite. The show will be presented by Holly Willoughby and comedian Lee Mack.

A Dutch extreme athlete, Wim Hof became a pandemic sensation with his YouTube channel, encouraging viewers to get on board with his “exposure therapy”, taking cold showers and learning the true limitations of their body.

Hof got his nickname as “The Iceman” by breaking several records related to cold exposure including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts in 2016 in 2007, running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot, and standing in a container while covered with ice cubes for more than nearly two hours in 2013.

Hof has learned the three ‘pillars’: breathing, cold therapy, and commitment.

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“What if we can re-awaken the dormant physiological processes that made our ancestors so strong?” he asks.

Here are five things we can learn from Freeze the Fear. 

Wim Hof AKA “The Iceman”. Image: BBC

1. The body is more resilient than we think

“As humanity has evolved and developed ways to make our lives more and more comfortable, we have lost our ability not only to survive but to thrive in extreme environments,” says Hof.  

The cold activates an “augmented immune response, reduces inflammation, fortifies the immune system and balances hormone levels,” he claims, describing it as “deep regeneration” that “brings healing to the body.”

Hof is a professional who has been throwing himself into cold water for decades so he may know a thing or two. And ice baths are used frequently by athletes for recovery so there is likely to be some truth to his claims. But the show had professional supervision for safety reasons, so don’t go throwing yourself into frozen lakes unless you know what you’re doing.

2. And your body may well thank you for the cold later

As they shiver in their cosy dressings gowns and stare into the icy water, you would not bet the celebrities were about to immerse themselves into frosty water. 

After the participants got out of the water, they were beaming with achievement. Cold therapy has been proven to improve sleep quality and naturally make people happier. 

At the screening, Hof told the room that “you are the alchemist of your own body.” 

“Initially people have difficulties getting into the cold [shower], I know,” he says. “But the benefits far outweigh the investment.”

3. The cold makes you truly present

When submerged in the freezing temperatures Wim says, “you have ownership over your own mind… you don’t think about your mortgages and petty thoughts.”  

Basically, when you’re cold, you’re cold – and that’s your focus. The key ways to release tension are to breathe deeply, relax and be truly present, releasing you from the stress of daily life and establishing a closer bond between the body and mind.

Wim explains why this can be an emotional experience that heightens one’s consciousness “all the stressful activities we do in our work and emotional life leave behind a biochemical residue. By breathing deeply, belly breathing, we cleanse the body and break down anxiety. That is what breathing does, and it works.”

4. Community is key

The beating heart of the series is the connection and encouragement between the participants. By the end of episode 1, the group of celebrities had formed a powerful bond oozing with compassion and support.

Welsh weather presenter, Owain Wyn said: “We all got on. I think that was down to the fact that we were all there together doing something that was massively out of our comfort zone.”

This was emphasised by sports presenter, Gabby Logan who added: “the overwhelming sense of love that was around me and flowing through me, it was almost tangible.”

The connection between the group still lasts to this day. “We have a WhatsApp group, and we talk to each other every day,” said Strictly Come Dancing star Dianne Buswell.

Cold water exposure was done in a controlled environment under the supervision of professionals. People: (from l-r) Dianne Buswell, Professor Green, Gabby Logan, Alfie Boe, Chelcee Grimes, Owain Wyn Evans, Wim Hof, Patrice Evra. Image: BBC

5. It’s often emotional

Here is the thing viewers may not expect: it’s emotional. It’s as if the cold melts the ice caps on our emotions. 

In the first episode alone, Hof shares his “devastating” story of losing his wife, “it was the cold that brought me back to life. It healed me. Instead of being guided by my broken emotions, the cold water led me to stillness and gave my broken heart a chance to rest, restore, and rehabilitate.”

Everyone on the show has an unexpected emotional response during the challenges. “They have vulnerability, deep fears and traumas that come up, as it does with everybody” said Hof. 

One moment of release comes when the celebrities participate in breathing exercises, Holly Willoughby says, “celebrities thought initially it was going to be like going to the spa for the day, just a real chilled out ‘yeah let’s go do some breathing,’ [but] was such an emotional release for a lot of them and took them to places I don’t think they thought they were going to go to.”

“The hardest thing for me was ‘letting go’…there was a block somewhere and trauma that I still had underlying which was magical to find and release,” said singer-songwriter Chelcee Grimes. 

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By the end of the first episode, you will be convinced to turn your shower temperature down a few notches. And with rising energy prices, what better time to inspire us to turn the heat down? 

As Wim Hof’s motto goes: “What I am capable of, everybody can learn.” 

Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof premieres on Tuesday April 12 2022 at 9pm on BBC One, with a spin-off series, ‘Munya and Filly Get Chilly’ on BBC Three. 

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