Who is Wim Hof?

who is wim hof

When you think of the Netherlands, the chances are the first images that pop into your mind are those of windmills, poppy fields and wooden clogs - not sub-zero temperatures.

Sure, the Dutch climate is not a famed suntrap like Western European territories such as Italy or Spain, but neither is it comparable to Siberia.

Dutch daredevil Wim Hof has been on a one-man mission to change this, using his unique tolerance to freezing conditions to aid and abet his body.

Hof is adamant that his techniques can be taught to anybody to assist them in their own pursuit of better health, but that's another conversation for another time.

The question we need to ask ourselves right now is just who is Wim Hof, aka The Iceman?

Hof was born as one of nine children in 1959, raised in the historical village of Sittard in the southern Netherlands.

Little is known about the first four decades of Hof's life, which we can only assume were uneventful with the exception of one major tragedy; the death of Hof's wife - and the mother of four of his five children - in 1995.

Hof claims that the emotional upheaval caused by this event led him to seek out new experiences, which soon took shape in the form of extreme endurance challenges when surrounded by freezing temperatures.

Since the turn of the century, Wim Hof has been making a name for himself as a fearless extreme sports athlete that has shattered world records all over the world.

Hof managed to climb 22,000ft of Mount Everest clad in just shorts and a pair of sandals (later switching to hiking boots for safety purposes), failing to make it to the mountain's summit only due to a foot injury; a recurring problem that was initially sustained while running a shirtless and barefoot marathon around the Finnish Arctic Circle the previous year, naturally.

You can watch it below, if you're interested in witnessing Hof's undertaking:

The disappointment of Hof's Everest experience was also tempered in 2009, when he managed to scale the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro within two days dressed only in shorts. He must save a small fortune on clothes and laundry.

Hof holds the world record for the amount of time spent submerged in ice, having shattered his own previous achievements on a number of occasions.

His most recent feat of endurance was completed in New York, where Hof remained in deep freeze for 1 hour and 52 minutes.

Obviously, it goes without saying that this should not be attempted at home!

So, how does Wim Hof managed to achieve these astonishing feats - which also include running a marathon in the Namib Desert in 2011 without the aid of water? And perhaps more pertinently, why?

The latter is answered by the man's personal motto, in which he claims that, "I am not afraid to die, but I am afraid to not truly live."

"I am not afraid to die, but I am afraid to truly live" (Wim Hof)

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As for the how... a large part of Hof's ability to withstand these freezing conditions is down to simple biology.

Hof was apparently born with an excess of brown fat tissue, which is what the human body uses to maintain body temperature and produce heat from within – all while combatting obesity.

This is why Wim Hof has become something of a celebrity within health circles, teaching breathing techniques that promise to help us mere mortals 'become the Iceman', and stay strong, happy and healthy.

Whether you are interested in subjecting yourself to such feats (and the associated risk) is entirely down to you; some may prefer a more sedate health routine of eating carefully and regular exercise in the altogether more conventional surroundings of the gym.

There is no denying, however, that Wim Hof is one of the most fascinating health gurus in this ever-expanding community.

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