Would you like to have more energy? Want to feel more alive? Need inspiration to go on your next adventure?
If so, then this episode is for you…
Investigative journalist Scott Carney thinks modern living has made us weak and sick…but never fear – he’s found a solution for us.
In his new book, “What Doesn’t Kill Us”, Scott explores how people of the past were able to traverse great distances through extreme heat and cold without modern gear, and how today more and more people are regaining their ancestral strength by exposing themselves to the elements.
On this episode Scott recounts his journey to Poland to study and train under the “Ice Man” Wim Hof – a man who has broken world records for being able to expose himself to ice and extremely cold temperatures for long periods of time.
He also explains how his training with Wim allowed him to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 28 hours without acclimatization and how he later went on to train with Brian Mackenzie of Crossfit Endurance fame as well as big wave surfer Laird Hamilton.
And he didn’t stop there.
Taking the new skills he learned from Wim, Brian, and Laird, Scott went on to complete one of the coldest, toughest, obstacle course races in the world, changing his physique and mindset along the way.
If you want to get stronger, have more energy and feel more alive – this episode is a must listen.
In this episode you’ll hear:
- How Scott found and met the “Ice Man” Wim Hof
- How to Find Your Inner Strength
- Why Modern Living Has Made Us Weak
- Scott’s Theory of Why Our Immune Systems May Be Attacking Themselves
- Proven By Science: You Can Influence Your Immune System
- The Fat Burning Benefits of Cold Showers
- How Scott Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 28 Hours
- Why Group Dynamics Often Break Down When Things Get Tough
– What Doesn’t Kill Us
– Death on Diamond Mountain
– The Red Market
– Born to Run
– Power Speed Endurance
– Becoming the Ice Man
– The Kingdom of the Ice
– The Story of the Human Body
Adam: Hey, Scott. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much for taking the time to be here with us this morning.
Scott: Well, thank you for having me. This is great.
What Doesn’t Kill Us & Dying From Meditation
Adam: Yeah, man. So I guess the first thing is that I just wanted to ask you if you could tell us a little bit about the premise of your new book that’s coming out in January and sort of what inspired you to write it. That’s called, “What Doesn’t Kill Us.”
Scott: So I’m an investigative journalist for “Wired” and for “Playboy” and a bunch of other magazines. And I had been working on another book project about a guru in the Arizona desert in the Tibetan tradition who was teaching this bastardized form of Buddhism that ended up with the guy meditating until he died in the desert. And the reason he did that is because he was in pursuit of super powers. He was hoping that he’d get enlightened and then when he was enlightened, he could do all these crazy abilities, and literally becoming an angel.
Discovering the “Ice Man” Wim Hof
Scott: And I was really…you know, after working on this book for a little more than a year, I was pretty sure that I had a good idea of what the dangers are on this sort of a sham spiritual path. And I was looking for a new project to work on. And I figured I’d go amass another person with some sham spirituality ideas. And I found this mention on the internet of a guy named Wim Hof who’s a Dutch sort of fitness guru, who had this training center in Poland. And he had made these claims that he could control the autonomic processes in his body and heat himself up into almost super natural ways where he could sort of resist arctic storms with no apparent discomfort. And I just called bullshit. I was like, “Okay. I’m gonna go…” And people were paying like, $2,000 for his courses. So I just figured that he was just in this for the money, and I had this great…you know, another investigative story.
So I went over to Poland with a commission that eventually ran in Playboy Magazine. And I met Wim Hof, who is this really eccentric guy, big bushy beard, sort of like strikingly blue eyes. And the first thing I did…his center is like this dilapidated, falling-apart house in the mountains. So I was pretty shocked that it was such sort of spartan quarters. And there were three other guys with me. And the minute I get there, there’s this guy. I go upstairs to a room. I throw down a sleeping bag on sort of this bunk bed. And I look outside, and there’s a guy standing in the snow throwing snow on himself, and you can see steam wafting up from his body. And I was like, “What the fuck is that?” And I was like, “Hell of hell. I’m not doing anything like this.” Right?
And then I started hanging out and talking with the other people at the center, and they’re all really excited to get in the snow. And I’m like, “I do not want to do that at all.” And in the night, I hang out with Wim, I was talking with him. And we play this game of chess. And after this game of chess, we’re sort of bonding. I’m like, “All right, I’m gonna give your training a shot. I’m gonna do it.” And with this in mind, like, “I’m gonna do this and it’s gonna turn out horrible, I’m gonna be miserable, and I’m gonna debunk this guy.” And so part of the training, there’s a breathing method and there’s a cold exposure.
So we go out, we stand in the snow for like, five minutes, and my feet are just on fire. They feel terrible. The way you might expect. But Wim’s like, “That’s okay. Your progress is gonna be rapid.” And then the next day, I’m standing in the snow and I’m there for 45 minutes before that same level of pain comes in. And I’m thinking, “Wow. This is weird. Like, I’m conditioning really rapidly.”
And then he has me do this push-up routine. It’s an introductory method that a lot of people that he teaches first where you sort of hyperventilate, and then do push-ups. And you know, I could do like, 20 push-ups usually. But you know what? It’s not bad, but it wasn’t great either. And then I do this method, it takes me about three or four minutes of breathing, and then I do the push-ups. I suddenly do 40. And I’m holding my breath the whole time, I’m not taking a breath. And the push-ups were easy. I was like, “Oh my God. I’m doing this thing.” I sort of hacked my body, and it was so quick.
And over the next couple of days, I just dive into his method. I was like, “I’m gonna give you as much of an honest shot as I can.” And I end up meditating on this snowy river bank and all the snow is melting around me because of the body heat that I’m generating. I’m dunking into ice cold ponds. And at the end of a week, I climb up a mountain in Poland with Wim and couple of other guys wearing just a bathing suit and hiking sneakers.
Scott: And I’m sweating the whole way up to the top of this mountain. And I’m like, “Oh my God. There’s something really interesting here.” I mean, it’s not a super power. It’s not like magic, what’s going on. But I’m suddenly understanding that my body is capable of so much more than I ever expected. And I come from Los Angeles which is like, palm trees swaying, to Poland which is the winter that killed Hitler’s armies, right? And I’m energized. And as an added bonus, I lose seven pounds in like, the seven days we’re there because you know, heating yourself and this methods are really rapidly…increase your metabolism.
Scott: So you know, I wrote the story and it was one of the first magazine stories in America written on Wim, and I was just astonished. And ironically the same week that I’m there doing the stuff with Wim, I get a letter from a publisher in New York saying, “Your previous story on the sham guru, we wanna buy it, we wanna make it into a book.” So I’m like, “Oh, shit. Okay. I’m gonna go work on the sham guru story for a little while.” And I keep Wim in the back of my mind because I know that I wanna do more with him and explore more. So I finished that book where I find crazy things where people follow all of these meditation routines literally to their doom over and over again.
Scott: And all the time I’m thinking, “Well, here we got the doom side, but we also have this really legit thing that I sort of discovered.” And then when I finally came back to Wim after that book had been released into the scene, that book was called, “A Death on Diamond Mountain.” Very good.
Scott: But after I finished that book, I came back to Wim, and all of the sudden, he risen up to like, super stardom. Wim has gone from this sort of no-name guy in the mountains of Poland literally to a phenomenon that is like, spreading right across Europe. You know, a lot of people did know Wim Hof there, and was gaining attraction in like crazy athletic circles in the United States. A guy named Laird Hamilton was one of the most well-known and legendary surfers of all time, the guy who surfed the largest and heaviest wave ever, does his method. And all these extreme athletes are doing this. And so I know I was really excited to be able to go in there and have this sort of long relationship with Wim and then be able to sort of write the book about his story but also the reasons why this method works. And that’s how I got into it.
Adam: Cool. That’s such a fascinating story. You know, it’s interesting that you got to meet him and be a part of that in the early days before it kind of started to hit the mainstream more so. People are starting to find out about him more and more in North America, but like you said, in Europe he’s really big. Why do you think that is? Why is it catching on so quickly?
Finding Your Inner Strength
Scott: Well, I mean people want to find out what they’re capable of. Right? And here’s a guy who can prove that you’re capable of something that you never expected. Like, who expects that they’re gonna walk through a snow storm shirtless and feel warm? Like, it’s mind boggling that that can happen. And I think people want to find inner strength and inner power. And Wim has one method to go there, and it works. That’s the cool thing is that it works.
Why Modern Living Has Made Us Weak
And another thing, one of the things that I talked about a lot in the book is that humans, we evolve. Our species, atomically modern humans are about 400,000 years old. And we have a long line that goes, you know, all the way back to like, plankton. But we’re about 400,000 years old. And modern technology, the stuff that we think…our computers, our lights and all this stuff is really like a hundred years old where you could come into your house, flip on an electric light, jack up the thermostat and live in this sort of static and warm and comfortable environment. That’s only like, a hundred years old.
So in the vast length of our species’ history, we were enduring snow storms. We were taking treks on the scorching deserts. And we had some stuff, we could make fire, we could hunt animals and wear their skin. But we didn’t really have much at all. And we are subject to the natural fluctuations and variations of the weather, of the seasons. Even if you’re in the tropics, you might be 100 in the day, but it will drop down to 50 at night. And your body just got…those rhythms of nature are ingrained in your physiology.
Now, we ramp this up to modern times. Your physiology is basically static. You’re giving it a signal of 72 degrees in the winter and 72 degrees in the summer with your air conditioning that you essentially exist in this perpetual environment, and you’re not having those fluctuations. And because of that, we’re getting weaker. We’re literally not giving our bodies the necessary stimulus that we had through our entire history.
And what I found is not only the resilience, the sort of stunts that I’ve done in the book and what Wim does in more serious levels, is that without those fluctuations we get, our metabolism just slows down, and you get this big, lighter fat on you. Circulatory diseases account for 30% or 40% of mortality. But if you’re not going out in the cold, you’re not exercising your circulatory muscles because there’s all these autonomic signals in your vasculature that respond to the cold that you cannot activate consciously.
Is Your Immune System Attacking Itself?
And so there is quite a few things like this. One of the things that I point out in the book is we talked about autoimmune diseases like arthritis and lupus, and to some degree, diabetes, and other illnesses that are coming into this and that we experience quite frequently. One of the reasons those may be there is because our immune systems are essentially bored. We’re filling them with all these high calorie diets, all of this heat, all of this light all the time. And our immune systems don’t really have anything to fight against. Even our environment is bacterially deficient.
And maybe your immune system is saying, “Well, fuck it. I’m gonna go attack myself because I’m bored.” And what I’ve seen when I met probably a dozen of people in Poland and I can just keep meeting more and more if I wanted to, who’d reverse like Crohn’s disease, reverse rheumatoid arthritis by basically dunking themselves in cold water everyday….
Scott: …and using certain breathing techniques and other parts of the method as well. And it’s fascinating because the body is designed for variations. And by just even putting in moderate ones, you see really dramatic health changes.
Can Stressing Your Body and Immune System Healthy?
Adam: And so those health changes are coming about you think because people are putting their bodies under a new form of stress and it’s causing the immune system to strengthen up and react? Is that kind of the idea?
Scott: Well, sort of. You have an environment which is naturally variable, right? And your immune system and not only immune system but autonomic system in general, all these unconscious processes in your body have to tick by and do stuff all the time. It gets colder, they tweak your insulin production. It does basic constriction which is constricting the veins and arteries in your limbs and to put blood to the core. There’s a metabolism changes. There’s a bunch of things that happen when you move to different environments.
Think about the runners who train at altitude. They have an advantage to run if you train at sea level because it generated more red blood cells. It’s an environmental response, and that works. That works at any altitude. But also heat and cold are two other just major drivers that things on your body does unconsciously. And what I’m saying is that if your body is not given anything that chew on, anything to think about, anything to do, that excess energy, that latent potential start going against itself.
And I do have to say this is a hypothesis. This is not established medical science the way I’m describing it. But what we have seen is that is scientific research that the Wim Hof method can actively and scientifically suppress the immune system. And they did this in a lab in Holland two or three years ago where they put Wim Hof into a laboratory setting, and he made the claim that he could suppress his immune system.
So the doctors there, one of this world-renowned guys, who develops autoimmune drugs or helped developed autoimmune drugs, injected him with a bacteria which is E. coli bacteria that has been killed so that it wouldn’t cause sickness. But the antibodies on the bacteria were still active. So that anyone injected with this bacteria should immediately get a fever response, that you got really sick headaches and all the things you get with a fever. Then normally, your body would say, “Okay. Actually, it’s not so bad.” And then you get better.
Now, 99% of people react with a fever response when they get injected with the substance called endotoxin. They injected Wim, and he had no reaction. What he said was a mild headache which means that he was able to consciously suppress his automatic response in the body which is really, really big. Because usually doctors had said you cannot consciously influence your immune system.
Proven By Science: You Can Influence Your Immune System
So the doctors, the researchers were amazed by the results, but they weren’t about to declare it a miracle. And what they said and said was like, “Can you teach that method to other people? Could they do the same? Maybe you’re just a freak or a medical anomaly.” So the next year, they brought, I believe it was 20 people. But you can check the numbers in my book. He trained them for only one week at the center in Holland, brought them in Holland, injected them all with endotoxin, and they had the same results. They did not react to this bacteria which means that not only can you just consciously suppress your immune system, you can teach this method to other people. And the implications are just huge. Any autoimmune disorder from, as I said, arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s, celiac disease, they all are potentially managed by putting environmental stimulus into your daily routines.
Adam: It sounds incredible.
Scott: It’s amazing.
Adam: Now, you touched on… probably the premise of the book is modern technology, it’s made us weaker. We just talked about that a little bit. But I guess I wanted to ask you, do you think we’re too far gone to save or do you think the pendulum is starting to shift in the opposite direction?
People are doing things like obstacle course racing and the Wim Hof method as it gains popularity. These are examples of…I mean your whole book is an example of you putting yourself through sort of trials and tribulations to strengthen yourself and get tougher. So are we too far gone or are people starting to see the light that they need to get out into the environment and toughen up a bit?
Scott: Well, I think the great thing about the world that we live in is that we all have choices for what we can do and what is available to us. And we, as a species, a sort of planet doomed to extinction, I can’t play in on that. But what I can say is that lifestyle changes can do major things for you. And I think that it’s not only what I’m doing writing here and what Wim’s doing, but these are the paleo diet or these are the barefoot runners of the world.
These are the obstacle course race sort of people. Hell, these are the people who bought the Squatty Potty who are saying that maybe the technology that we have has made easier and more comfortable and great. And I wouldn’t want to live in any other millennium for sure, 2000 or after. That’s where I wanna be. But nonetheless, the creature comforts that we have outsource some things that we have in our biology in a way that is detrimental to us.
Now, one of the things I pointed, I drilled in in the book is that comfort isn’t really a thing. If you think about what comfort is in your head, you usually have to define it by the opposite of things that are not comfortable. Even if a very comfortable bed for instance gets uncomfortable at some point because you’ve sat on there for too long, or not quite where it’s need to be. Comfort is the way we think of it is an absence of stuff. And so we’ve been taking the stuff that makes us feel uncomfortable out of our bodies for so long that maybe we need some discomfort, right? You go on a five mile run and you haven’t run for a while, it doesn’t feel great. Right? But that doesn’t mean running itself is bad.
Adam: Right, right. I’ve heard that over the course of our lives we…this may be a weird example, but we eat, we end up eating a lot of dirt specially if you eat vegetables and things like that. And I can remember when I was a kid as well, I grew up in the country side. So roadside, you’re getting dirty, you’re playing in the grass and the dirt and stuff like that. But it seems like today, modern kids especially if they grew up in the city are not exposed to any of that stuff. So they’re not getting… you expose your feet and hands to the outdoors and you grow calluses, you toughen up. But it seems like more and more or less and less, we’re getting doses of that.
Scott: Sure. And we can have a whole discussion of modern parenting thing if we wanted to. But I would say in general, yeah, we’re very protective. For a child, we’re very protective of exposure to the world and that these amorphous dangers that are out there. I mean yeah, [inaudible 00:21:06] and a whole other thing. We don’t have the exposures that we evolved with.
In some ways, that’s good. I don’t wanna be exposed to saber-toothed cats on a regular basis. But some of these things are necessary for our biology. Variation is necessary for our biology, and if it’s under stimulated, that’s a problem. And it’s very easy if you’re never exposed to this stuff to fear it, to fear the cold, to fear the heat, to fear altitude or water. And breaking past those fears is really liberating. So one thing that’s big in this method is taking a cold shower which is so ridiculously easy. You could do that right now, the person listening to this podcast, right? You could go and take your shower and turn it down to cold. But you probably won’t. Right?
Scott: Because you feel like it’s so warm, it’s so nice. And it’s gonna hurt if I did that. So I don’t wanna hurt myself. But seriously, your shower is what? Fifty degree. It’s not gonna frostbite on you and send you down to this cascade of hypothermia. But it might make you shiver, right?
The Fat Burning Benefits of Cold Showers
Adam: Yeah, yeah, yeah. This morning, I forgot my towel. I go to change my towel up. There was no towel in the bathroom, and I had a shower. And I was like, “Crap.” So I had to run out and go down a hall and grab a towel. And then I got back in and I was like, “I’m just gonna jump in and get into this hot shower.” And then I was like, “No way. I can’t. I’m interviewing Scott, I need to have this ten seconds of suffering.” And so I denied myself. And then yesterday, I took a cold shower just in honor of this call. On the cold shower topic, will people get a benefit just from having a cold shower regularly?
Scott: Yeah. They will. And if that’s the only takeaway from my book, then I failed. But yes, definitely. You will definitely get a benefit from a cold shower. It will tell your nerves, “Hey, it could potentially be cold out there.” And a ten second cold shower, it doesn’t really do that much, but it does something. It does send a signal into your nervous system which is important.
And the method is like various types of cold stuff, some exercise stuff, and some breathing stuff. But you also don’t have to do it for an incredibly long time either. If you were there just for a minute, actually you’re gonna get a lot of benefits. Because the first thing that happens when you turn something to cold is you have this constriction response. You get really tense, and then it feels like totally uncomfortable. And you’re like, “It’s so uncomfortable. I hate this water.” And then that lasts, I don’t know, five to ten seconds. And then after that, you’re like, “Well, actually it’s not so bad. It’s not as bad as my mind had built it up. It’s actually sort of fine.”
And that’s actually the point where you need to get to. It’s that not that initial fright which is actually mostly like your psychology. And it’s mostly your own shock and your own fears of what’s gonna be like. It’s getting past those fears and then feeling it for what it actually is which is where you start getting the benefits.
Because with cold showers, the thing that you’re trying to do in the method is suppress the response to shiver. So you wanna actually bring the shower down to a cold enough point where you actually feel like you want to shiver. And then you want to put that sensation of shivering away and just delay it or make it not happen. And the reason why this is important is because shivering is an automatic response. You don’t consciously think about shivering. That’s your body saying, “Okay. I’m gonna go shiver to warm myself up.
Scott: And if you suppress that response, your body says, “Well, fuck. I can’t warm myself up with shivering, my normal programming. I need to find another way to warm myself up,” which then activates all of these internal signals in your body to ramp up your metabolism usually. And there’s a couple of other things that it can do, but basically you’re taking the shivering off the table. So your body is like, “Well, what else will I do?” And it’s the ramping up of the metabolism which is actually pretty remarkable. You start metabolising fat to heat yourself up. You’ll actually suck fat, white fat from your belly, and it will use that, transform that directly to heat energy which is super cool. Whereas if you shiver, you’re using muscular energy, and for most of that us, not athletes, but for most of us, that means you’re burning carbohydrates.
Scott: And so this gets you right into a fat burning stage.
Adam: Very interesting. The method is more complicated. Like you said, there’s more to it than just taking a cold shower. But if you were going to start there, is there an amount of time or how often should you do it? What do you think about…
Scott: Everyday you should… What I usually do and I’m not too extreme in what my daily method is. But I’ll take my normal shower because I want to clean myself. And actually if you wanna clean yourself, hot is better because your pores are open. And so you clean yourself, and then at the end of the shower, I will turn it down all the way. And I’ll let it run a minute or so and then suppress my shiver response and then go about my day. Now, some people more hardcore will do longer throughout the cold showers. But it doesn’t really matter. You’re at least ending your shower in that cold space.
Now in the winter, it can be a lot more fun because you can…You’re up in British Columbia, so you have longer winters too. But what I can do is I’ll go outside, and I’ll lie down in the snow in a bathing suit. And get myself… at first, I’ll be suppressing my shivering while I’m in the snow. And then I’ll come back inside and I won’t dress up again, I won’t put on my clothes. I’ll stay in my house, and I’ll keep trying to warm myself just metabolically throughout the day. And that’s it.
It doesn’t look like a normal exercise. It doesn’t look like you’re doing push-ups. It doesn’t look like you’re doing calisthenics or anything like that. But it’s a really intense workout to try to heat yourself after being in a cold spot. But you’re benefited by the fact that once you’re in the snow for a little bit, your body’s response is like, “Let’s get working right now. Let’s do this.” So you also release a ton of endorphins especially initially, and it feels really awesome.
Adam: Cool. Now, would you say that it’s fair to say that you went through a bit of a personal transformation over the course of writing the book?
Scott: Yeah. The biggest transformations were what I could do, like realizing the abilities that I had. And I end the book, you know, spoiler alert, I hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro and I’m just wearing shorts.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 28 Hours
Scott: And boots and…I’m wearing some gear but really not very much. When we get to the top, it’s negative 30 and I’m shirtless on the top of this mountain. And we also did that incredibly fast. We did Kilimanjaro in 28 hours without acclimatization. And to put that in perspective, usually people will take four to five days to get to the same point. So it was blisteringly fast, and what I was testing there is how to deal with altitude acclimation with the breathing method and with environmental exposures. So those things were really amazing.
You know, I lost a lot of weight doing this, but nothing… I wasn’t really trying to lose weight. This isn’t a diet book. And I still am not a world class athlete. I’m not Adonis or anything that. I’m training these things in my body. Another thing that was interesting was I used to get canker sores, like these like mouth ulcers. I had them since I was one. And they could get as big as a dime in my mouth which is just horrendous. And you can’t really talk. And since doing this method, I haven’t gotten them for about three years. And they used to be the bane of my existence. And now, it just doesn’t even come up which is really cool.
Adam: It is. That’s super cool. So are you still motivated to keep pushing your limits and take on I guess, uncomfortable challenges? Is that still a thing for you now?
Scott: I think I’ll always be interested in doing stuff like that. I live in Colorado, and you know, I go on hikes all the time. And usually, there’s a lot of mountain lakes. So I hike into some snow area, and I’ll jump into a cold lake and love the hell out of it. I’m not like a general adrenaline junkie. I’m not always on obstacle course races or anything. I’m a journalist really interested in ideas and putting myself in some interesting situations. But I’m not a full time athlete or anything like that.
Adam: Yeah. Fair enough. So just changing gears a little bit, it sounded like when I was reading the book, it sounded like you came a long way in your relationship with Wim Hof. I mean, at the beginning, you set out to expose him, and then you started to see that there was something there. What do you think about him now that you’ve learned his method and you saw him in the early days versus now? I mean, what’s your impression of the man?
Scott: Well, I often write about him that he’s a prophet and a mad man.
Scott: And I don’t think it’s possible to separate those two. On one side, he has shown, but me personally, and made me quite a bit stronger. But he’s also shown that you can do all this stuff with your body, and it’s so impressive that he’s really opening a doorway. On the other side, he’s also this crazy, eccentric, Dutch guy who has negative personality traits as well.
And one of the things that I like most about Wim is the fact that he has so many failings. He’s battled alcoholism. He’s a smoker. Off and on, he can just talk nonsense at you for an hour. I was like, “What are you talking about?” He can be very ego-driven sometimes, and at the same time, he can be totally oceanic and expansive and loving and a really good guy. But he’s got this sort of almost manic-depressive, maybe… I don’t wanna give him a diagnosis, but he’s got like really good and really bad qualities. And I think that in many ways the best thing about him.
I’m very skeptical of gurus who will tell you that they are perfect and they achieve something greater than you and all of that stuff. What’s great about Wim is you look at him, “You’re sort of a trainwreck of a guy. And yet you have this thing that’s super special.” So what I like about Wim is I can take the special stuff and take it with me. But you’re not necessarily the person I wanna follow annually in my lifestyle. And I think that’s very strong.
And I think that one of the problems with his worldwide fame that’s coming up is that people really are captured by Wim the personality, Wim the man, is he great? Is he like a Chuck Norris man? And they really think that he is the trick. And he is not to be revered for his personality. He should be appreciated for his talents and what he’s giving to us on a knowledge basis. But he is not at all perfect.
And it comes to a head in the book where we’re climbing up Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the group actually has a mutiny where I’m with almost 30 people. And Wim is just like, “We have to go, we have to go, we have to go.” We had a couple of people get sick on our trip, and he was like, “Pussy.” to them. These guys are like puking and could die in sickness. He’s not connecting with that because he’s so driven because he wants to get to the top, and he wants to break a record. And then we’re following this like mad man up the mountain.
Okay. So the mad man has super powers. He’s gonna kill us all. And at the very end of the book, halfway or more than halfway up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the only thing I can think to myself is, “Fuck you, Wim. Why am I here? Why am I doing this?” And I actually have this protest moment where I went up mostly shirtless on this mountain and I just start putting all these clothes because I’m like, “This guy’s a big asshole.”
Anyway, I follow a little bit more and at this point, everyone has left in this group except for me and one other guy. Just three of us on the way to the top. And I get up maybe another kilometer on the way up this final very, very steep ascent to the summit. And I realized it doesn’t matter what Wim’s about. I did this because I was there and that what’s sort of stripped down again and go almost all the way to the top bare-chested. Because it’s not about Wim, it’s about me and my own overcoming. It’s my own journey. And I think that’s what I want people to take away. Don’t deify Wim but find the strength in yourself.
Adam: I thought that was a really cool moment in the book where you said exactly that, and you realized that this is about you and where you’re at and why you’re there. And this is a challenge that you wanted to take on and had nothing to do with him in that sense. And I thought that was really cool. We were talking before the call started or the recording started. We were talking about that hunting trip that I went on. And I think I had a somewhat similar experience, and that was a very just long thing. And similar type of experience where things come to a head and it gets intense.
Why Group Dynamics Often Break Down When Things Get Tough
So I not only could relate to that, but I wanted to ask you about that whole thing where if you’re on a track like this for a lack of a better term, people get worn down and it’s tiring and exhausting. And it often…people butt heads and things get a little hairy. Why do you think that type of thing happens? What is it about these extreme situations that brings that out in people?
Scott: When you were on your trip, were you at altitude?
Adam: I think the highest point we got up to was 5,300 feet.
Scott: So not really. Were you very cold?
Adam: It was all over the place. It was up and down. The weather would change dramatically in the span of an hour.
Scott: So one of the things that happens in extreme conditions whether it’s altitude, whether it’s cold, whether it’s heat, when you’re being pushed to a stressful limit is actually you get very uncooperative. You get sort of inwardly focused, and your group mentality dissipates. And it’s a problem that the military deals with quite a bit. You’re sending some of them to Afghanistan and the special forces unit. And they’re gonna take someone out at high mountain ridge, 14,000 feet up. And if they insert them too quickly, the unit can actually just completely dissolve.
Scott: Orders being disobeyed that sort of thing. And it’s a physiological response. There’s that sort of getting into a stressful situation too quickly from an environmental perspective. So a stressful environment too quickly can actually break you down a little bit. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened on your trip. But stress tests things.
Scott: It tests group metal, it tests your own metal. And if you’re not aware of a larger picture, a common goal, you could fall apart. You can definitely become too self involved. And I think that in some ways, this training helps you get over that if you already were in those stressful situations. So if you’re doing this cold stuff and these breathing stuff and those other stuff, those stressful situations, your needle and your ability to tolerate stuff gets harder, farther. You can deal with more stuff if you’re used to stress. If your all stress is like, “Did I put the right Facebook update up today?” And that’s the most stressful thing you do in a day, then faced with a mountain, you’re gonna collapse.
Adam: Right. That’s really interesting. One of the takeaways from my trip like that hunting experience was that I felt like I was mentally and emotionally weak like I needed to toughen up not only physically, but also internally. But that’s something I never considered before is that group dynamic because we were all feeling it towards the end where everyone was exhausted. So I’d never really heard it put that way that it actually affects that group dynamic and that people go internal because I remember it being like that. You shift into this gear where you’re like, “Okay. I just have to get through this.” Like it’s one foot in front of the other after two weeks of going the barriers and the stress, and the hiking and climbing and all that stuff. You shift into this gear. And yeah, you start to not think as much about what everyone else is going through.
Scott: Right. It’s you that’s important.
Adam: Yeah, yeah. So just to touch on it a little bit more, when you were speaking with the military and also I found that a really interesting part of the book. I don’t wanna reveal too much, but did you learn anything about how they’re able to fight that breakdown of the group dynamic and how they are able to keep going? Was it what you just said which was like being aware of a bigger plan or purpose or goal?
Scott: It’s a serious problem for them, and they have it. Wait, sorry. My cat just walked on the keyboard. Did I drop you? Are you still there?
Adam: Yup, yup.
Scott:The military tries to train people in stressful environments over and over again. And they’ll put people to breaking points especially in special forces training to try to see where their breaking points are. In some ways, that’s really good, and in some ways, they push people too far and wash people out that probably don’t need to be washed out of their units. But there’s this competitive mindset.
But still for insertions at high altitude, what they do is they have this application or these tables saying if we insert someone from sea level to 16,000 feet and we have a group of 20 people, 4 will come down with acute mountain sickness. I’m making that number up. But there’s a predictable number of people who are gonna get sick. And so what they do is they have these pretty accurate statistical models. So they just add more troops and compensate for it because there’s nothing they can do about it. They are like, “Were gonna get four people who are getting sick. And so what we can do is just add more people to this mission.”
But it still would mean you have to deal with four people who are in the health situation, in a combat mission which isn’t great. They’re working on it. They are aware of the problem in the military and more than probably any other organization out there is aware of environmental challenges. Because wars are won and lost by the weather. Look what happened to Hitler’s army as they try to invade Russia or Poland’s army as they try to invade Russia. Or any number of armies that have tried to raid Russia in the winter, they all fail because of weather and things like this. Now, heat and collision is one thing, but there’s also other factors as well as you can imagine.
Adam: Yeah. Absolutely. I wanted to ask you if there was any story that you wanted to share, something funny or bizarre that you had to leave out of the book or that you just weren’t able to include over that four-year journey. Maybe there’s a lot.
Scott: There are. The one that I was been thinking of recently because I just did the acknowledgements for my book because I was really, really excited to do a chapter on cold water surfing. Because I read about these people who were surfing in Alaska and Iceland. And I was like, “Wow. Can you imagine there’s people doing this?” So I went out to meet some cold water surfers. And this guys in Cape Cod in Massachusetts and I was like… And he was very well-known, Shawn Vecchione. He designs Vec Surfboards. And I was like, “Let’s go out. We’re gonna do some cold water surfing.” He’s like, “Dude, why do you think this is hard? We have wet suits, and they’re amazing.” And I’m like, “Yeah. Wet suits, but it’s so cold here in the cold water.” And he’s like, “No. Really. I’m hot the whole time.” So I put on a wet suit. We go out surfing and I was like boiling up in this thing. I guess the technology really is that good. But this is a chapter I had to cut.
Adam: Not dramatic enough, eh?
Scott: Not dramatic enough at all because I was boiling up in my wet suit. So I’m not very good. I’m a terrible surfer. I enjoy the concept of surfing.
Yeah. Me too, me too.
Scott: But I’m bad at doing it. But I lived up in Vancouver. If you want some empty breaks where there’s no one there, you should go north and start surfing northern waves because those wet suits are amazing.
Adam: Yeah, yeah. It’s a little bit difficult. Living in downtown Vancouver, we are quite far from the surf. But on Vancouver Island, there’s a place called Tofino which has some really good waves. I’ve been out there surfing. It takes about six hours to get there. But you pretty much have to wear a wet suit even in the summer time. All year round, right? Man, when you get in the water, it’s a little bit of a shock and then you warm up really quickly. But what always still surprises me is you’re warm in your wet suit. But every time, the wave, anytime you get any water on your face, it’s like a major shock. The water is just freezing. But yeah, the wet suit pretty much takes the big part of the challenge or all of it, I think. Although it’s really hard to even paddle and move around on a wet suit for a while for that experience.
Scott: Could be. And I’m not a great surfer. All I’m saying is that I am super impressed by how easy it is to hang on. And I also swim without the wet suit just to prove something, I guess.
Adam: Yeah, yeah. They didn’t think you’re nuts?
Scott: They didn’t think I was nuts. But, whatever.
Adam: Cool. So do you have any challenges, plan anything that you’re going to be next to kinda push your limits?
Scott: Getting a book out the door is enough. I’m looking at some other book ideas or for things to do. For fun, I may go to England and run Tough Guy again which is the first obstacle course race and the big challenge there is cold. I may do that just for fun.
Scott: Other than doing my normal routines and adding the Wim Hof method to my everyday life, I don’t need to seek an extreme every minute. I climbed Kilimanjaro in my shorts. Give me a break, man. What do you want from me?
Adam: Fair enough. That’s true.
Scott: But I am, by trade, an investigative journalist. And I’m pursuing some other unrelated topics at the moment.
Adam: Okay. Anything that you can talk about?
Scott: I always jinx it if I say what I’m talking about before I actually write it.
Adam: Okay. Fair enough, fair enough.
Scott: But it’s nothing to do with extreme sports. It’s a different topic entirely.
Adam: Okay. Cool. Well, we’ll have to keep an eye on you then and see it when it comes out. You interviewed some really interesting people for “What Doesn’t Kill Us.” I really liked the story of Laird Hamilton, and you went down and train with Brian Mackenzie and obviously Wim. Is there anyone else that you’ve come across in this field that you feel people may want or may want to study further or may want to further study?
Ido Portal’s “Movement Culture”
Scott: Yeah. There’s a guy in, I think he’s in Brazil, Ido Portal, who I think is fascinating. And if I had time, I would have done a chapter on him. He is a, they call, “The Movement Culture.” And he had a group of people around him are called movers which is super dumb. But what he is into is natural movements of the body. It’s sort of like gymnastics. It looks like rolling around on the ground. But basically, he wants to have the body move in unusual ways that it’s still designed to do. And you should watch his videos. It’s so graceful, so beautiful. Most of his exercises are isometric means it’s just using your body on the floor and maybe some, he used gymnasts rings. I don’t know how to set those up in my house. And he is just a super inspiring and fascinating. And I could never do the things that he does, but I would like to.
Scott: I-D-O P-O-R-T-A-L. I think he’s fascinating.
Adam: Awesome. I’ll find him and then include a link to him in the show notes. Yeah, that’s pretty awesome. Thanks for mentioning that.
Scott: For sure.
Adam: And then any other books that you would recommend of course other than your own?
Scott: So, “What Doesn’t Kill Us.”
Adam: Yeah. Number one on the list.
Scott: Number one on the list, best book ever written. I’ve written two other books, “A Death on Diamond Mountain” and “The Red Market.” One was about organ trafficking, and one is about cults gone wrong. But in terms of this stuff, you’ve probably seen “Born to Run” already, right?
Scott: That’s a great book. Brian Mackenzie has a book called, “Unbreakable Runner” about using high intensity in whole training to train yourself to do marathons basically. That’s a great book. He has another one called called, “Power Speed Endurance.” Do you want me to tell you all the books I like? Because I got a lot.
Adam: Yeah. If you can burn through a few quickly, absolutely.
Scott: “Becoming the Iceman” was one of the first books written by Wim. It has a lot of great information in it. I think some of it’s…the way he presents it is a little difficult but still great. I generally like books about polar explorations that go terribly wrong. There’s something called, “The Kingdom of the Ice,” which I thought was a great book. Nothing to do with training, but you wanna see what the ice can do to you.
Adam: That sounds interesting.
Scott: There’s a book that I cite in my book called, “The Story of the Human Body,” about evolution and how…basically where the body comes from and this concept of evolutionary mismatches, where our technology has out-paced the process of evolution and given us weird diseases because of that. There’s another book called, “Catching Fire” by Richard Wrangham, and that’s fantastic. It tells you how the invention of fire is literally what made us human. So in some ways, it’s the reverse of my thesis where I’m saying that technology made us weak. What he’s saying is that inventing fire had very significant effects in our biology, changed our guts, changed our mouths, changed lots of things about our body. And that’s a great book as well.
Adam: Cool. And I’m sure you could probably go on and on. Sounds like you’re a reader like I am.
Scott: Well, I am standing next to my bookshelf. That helps.
Adam: Fair enough. Cool. So okay, when and where can people get a copy of “What Doesn’t Kill Us,” because at the time of this recording, the book’s not out yet, but it’s coming soon. So where?
Scott: January 4th, anywhere books are sold. You can get it online on Amazon, there will be a link on my website where you can download the e-book. And you can also get the hardcover on my website. And I get a little bit more of a percentage so… But also we’re running a promotion very soon where anyone who orders the book can get a discount on Wim Hof’s course.
Adam: Oh cool.
Scott: So he has a video course that’s a 10-week long cold immersion course. It’s fantastic. And the promotion is not live yet, but it’ll probably be live by the time your recording goes, where you can download my book and get that course for affordable, whatever, blah-blah-blah.
Adam: And that’s scottcarney.com?
Scott: Scottcarney.com. Yes.
Adam: Awesome, awesome. So again I’ll include a link in the show notes, so people can find it.
Adam: Scott, anything else that you want to tell listeners either about the book or your experience, anything that you wanna touch on?
Scott: I would just say, try it. I would say sit in the cold shower a little bit or turn down your thermostat a little bit. The takeaway should be push yourself in ways that you didn’t think you needed to be pushed. Because no one thinks that they should be cold, right? No one wants to be.
Scott: But try it a little bit. Because it can do really cool things. And on the flip side, I also wanna say is don’t be stupid.
Scott: Don’t say you read the book about Wim Hof and then you’re gonna go swim under arctic sea ice, which he does which is… I think it was sort of dumb what he did. Because in the fight against nature, nature will always win. And you can greatly expand your abilities doing these methods, but there’s a limit. And I think doing it safely is very, very important.
A few people have died doing stuff like this that said they had been inspired by Wim, and in particular, it has to do with people who go underwater. And don’t read this book and think it’s a great way to go free diving, because it’s not. It will kill you. And I think that needs to be put out there. And also, if you are doing this stuff and you wanna go on a shirtless hike in the woods like I do all the time, great, do it. But bring a coat, just have it in your backpack, just in case you need it, right?
Scott: Because you can get yourself in situations where you do push past your limits. And you don’t wanna be there for when that happens.
Adam: Absolutely, absolutely. Scott, thank you so much, man. This has been fascinating. I feel like we could talk for another hour. I’d love to keep picking your brain. But I don’t wanna…
Scott: Bore the listeners forever. They don’t have to listen this far.
Adam: Yeah. Exactly.
Scott: If you made it this far, send me e-mails, and I want a pony. And Adam Killam [SP] will send you a free pony.
Adam: There you go. Awesome, man. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it, really interesting, and I just want to urge you to get a copy of the book when it comes out on the January the 4th. Visit scottcarney.com for more information and to get a discount on Wim Hof’s online course. Thanks again, Scott.
Scott: All right. Thank you so much for having me.