Hold's 26 endurance world records.
Before Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile, scientists said that it was impossible. They said that the human body was not capable of running a mile faster than 4-minutes. That changed in 1954 when Bannister ran a 3:59 mile. Forty-six days later, his record was broken by another. Now, even high schoolers run sub-4 minute miles.
More than half a century ago, Roger Bannister made us question our preconceived notions of what we think we're capable of. Today, Wim Hof has done (and continues to do) the same.
Wim “The Iceman” Hof is a Dutchman who claims that he can condition his body to endure extreme conditions for periods of time that modern science previously told us was not possible. How? Breathing. This is where most people dismiss Wim and assume that he's another con-artist looking to make an easy dollar. But Wim has something to his name that makes him worth a second look: 26 Guinness World Records.
When someone can say they set a high-school record, that’s an achievement. When someone can say they set a world record, that’s an incredible achievement. When someone can say they set 26 world records, that’s downright insane. Especially, when that person is a skinny, 58-year-old man from Denmark and the records that he’s set are all records for human endurance.
Among others, Wim’s records include running a marathon above the Arctic Circle wearing only shorts, swimming under an iceberg for almost 200ft, sitting in an ice bath for almost two hours, and climbing to 22,000ft on Mt. Everest wearing only shorts.
If Wim had only one record, it would be easy to dismiss the accomplishment as a fluke. The fact that he has repeatedly survived exposure in some of the coldest environments on Earth makes it more difficult to do that.
Not only has Wim defied conventional wisdom when it comes to cold exposure, but he’s also done so with the heat. In 2011, Wim ran a full marathon through the Namibian desert without drinking any water. Temperatures reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and Wim had lost 14 pounds by the end of the run.
We know that Wim can absolutely do what he says he can. On top of the world records, which have all been recorded, he has invited film crews to document him and scientists to study him. No holes so far.
So is Wim Hof just a superhuman? A biological anomaly that was born with an immunity to extreme physiological distress? We can say for sure that he's not. How do we know? Because Wim has successfully taught his method to others.
Doing Is Believing
Scott Carney, an American investigative journalist, set out to attend one of Wim’s seminars to debunk his method and expose him as a con-artist. A few months later, Scott was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with Wim and a few dozen others in subzero temperatures — in nothing but a bathing suit. The US military and Dutch Mountaineering Association predicted the entire group would die. Everyone made it to the top except for two, who descended due to acute mountain sickness.
Wim has been called a charlatan, a daredevil, and a guru. We like to think of him as a revolutionary. Not because of the breathing method that he’s developed, but because of his willingness to challenge what science has defined as "possible". Wim has broken dozens of records that, according to modern science, he should have died from. What he's done should not have been possible. Just like it should not have been possible for Roger Bannister to break the 4-minute mile. What can they teach us? In order to do what has never been done, you cannot base your beliefs on what has been done.