Updated: Dec 17, 2019
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A couple of weeks ago I had the experience of a lifetime. The first half of this experience began two years ago. I was working for the local newspaper and was looking for events to fill my quota. By accident I stumbled on an airbnb event, caught my attention as airbnb events where just being unearthed in places like Muskoka. It was a barefoot walk in the snow in Gravenhurst. Prior to that moment after childhood it had never occurred to me to walk in the snow barefoot. Something about the experience and the woman behind it, Sue Kenney, fascinated me. I decided to not just add the event but also write a story about this crazy woman barefoot walking in the sub-antarctic temperatures of Muskoka.
Instead of just an interview Sue asked me to join her with a group on the next barefoot walk in the woods. I came into the experience a completely different person than I am today, I left Sue that afternoon with my chemistry changed forever. Though I was use to being barefoot indoors I was conditioned, like most from childhood, to always wear shoes so my feet 'wouldn't be cold' or so the floors 'wouldn't get dirty.” This diminished my sensory capabilities and quite unconsciously numbed my nerve endings for years. The day of the walk, on a random February morning I was like a kid experiencing something for the very first time filled with wonder and excitement. Sue led us into the woods, threw down some yoga mats and asked us to take off our socks, shoes and to stand in the snow. She then focused the group to feel the snow, the sensation of the cold, the squishy feeling of cold powder between our toes. Think about how crazy that now seems to most people, and yet just over a hundred years ago shoes were a luxury item. There are tribes all over the world till this day who not just walk bare foot but run marathon distances.
My very first barefoot walking experience in February 2018
When Sue began explaining her own health improvements both mental and physical following her own practice of barefoot walking, it all fell into place for me, and I never looked back. Sue is a best selling author of My Camino but her book How to wear bare feet is one of my favourite books.
Barefoot walking generates this magical post experience sensation of orgasmic energy, and a calm and clear euphoria settles in. Think of it as a natural high your body is capable of accomplishing by the simple act of feeding it oxygen and adrenaline. Everything opens up when the veins and arteries rev up during a snowy winters barefoot walk. You will literally begin to come alive. Your body has such mileage of veins and arteries that your innards would literally circle the planet twice. When you expose your body to cold temperatures your artery and vein muscles, called smooth muscles, activate. Which means your arteries are naturally working on helping your circulatory system. At the same time you are deeply breathing as your feet adapt and your body adjusts to the cold. This combination creates a meditative euphoric feeling of clarity, calmness and energy, while literally grounding you through your hundreds of nerve ending receptors with the earth’s surface electrons.
The Wim Hof Method which Sue also practices and teaches doubles down on the above through ice submersion. The anti-inflammatory and health benefits of this type of therapy have been documented. Scientists have also found evidence that exposure to cold temperatures speeds up metabolism. Cold body therapy is also linked to improved sleep, more focus, and improved immune response.
While I was diligently practising my barefoot walking during all seasons of the year, and reaping the benefits of non-stop grounding and connecting to the planet, about a year ago one of Sue's facebook posts caught my attention once again. She was in the mountains, surrounded by snow and ice in her bathing suit. You have to know that Sue is a world traveler. She has walked the Camino for hundreds of miles barefoot, she then began Camino guiding, so to see her on a Polish mountain in her bathing suit was not all that surprising. It was, however, surprising when Sue began axing and drilling holes in the ice on Lake Couchiching and plunging in it. Did I think she was crazy, yes a little bit, who wouldn't. But what she did for me by introducing me to barefoot walking and re-introducing me to nature was undeniably fantastic as well as crazy for most. I knew that while it seemed slightly insane she was exploring and sharing yet another way to improve health, mind, body and soul. Sue's passion is the pursuit of natural body healing as well as overall physical and mental well being.
I unconsciously began my journey into ice submersion when I began barefoot walking, I consciously began shaping the journey this past summer after watching Sue plunge all winter. I started swimming in the lake regardless of how cold the water was, I added cold showers, I still didn't know if I was ever going to attempt plunging into an icy cold lake but my brain was preparing me anyway. The day I knew for sure that I was going to try this crazy thing and sit in ice cold water was when I barefoot walked the shoreline of Lake Rosseau in late November and played with the ice as it lapped the shore. While my feet were cold, colder than ever before, this familiar and far more intense euphoric feeling of well being washed over me with an electrifying and resounding 'YES, let's take the plunge.'
As I took this video of me moving ice on the shores of Lake Rosseau in late November it became clear that I wanted to take the icy plunge.
Sue's Wim Hof Method workshop has once again transformed me into a different version of myself. It has to be experienced, felt, and touched by your own senses and cells to fully comprehend. By the way your cellular system literally wakes up from a lifetime slumber following this workshop. I can tell you this; that 2 minutes in ice cold freezing water established a deep, soulful rooted trust between instructor and student. Sue prepares the body for a 2 minute experience through a 3 hour workshop. The workshop includes deep breathing, a mind and body preparation course, food, coffee, and a human to human community connection that is hard to establish in the world of social media these days.
The following is a photo journal of my November Wim Hof Method workshop:
Sunrise accompanied me on my morning workshop. It was a balmy -5C.
Learning to breath
Pre-plunge body warm up.
Newbies began in the tub
The more experienced Hofers walked out into the lake.
Post plunge warm up
Our WimHof group.
Following posting pictures of my experience friends have as per usual called me crazy, similarly to when I began barefoot walking in the snow. But they were also curious as to what sitting in freezing water feels like; the first few seconds are breathless, you are searching for breath, your body is in shock, but when you find your breath and when you realize that you can train your body to calm and harness your core‘s inner warmth into the submersion you truly tap into your reptilian brain of survival. It's a sensory feeling unlike anything else which is why you should experience it at least once.
Muskoka has at its finger tips access to only 1 of the 10 Canadian Wim Hof instructors right here on the ocean fed shores of Lake Couchiching. Level up your life and start feeling on a completely different spectrum.
You can book a WimHof ice submersion workshop at; https://www.wimhofmethod.com/activities/whm-fundamentals-workshop-washago-sue-regan-kenney-1
The next workshop is on Dec. 27, I highly recommend giving the gift of a once in a lifetime experience for Christmas to your loved ones this year.
For more information on the Wim Hof Method visit WimHofMethod.Com.
Sue will also be hosting a Solstice Weekend starting Dec. 20 where you can play in the snow, snowshoe on the lake, plunge in an icehole, go barefoot, explore deeper breathwork, chant by the bon fire and create community with a group of likeminded people. Pre-registarion is required, to register click this link; https://www.wimhofmethod.com/activities/whm-fundamentals-workshop-washago-sue-regan-kenney-1
In the meantime go and take a few steps outside in the snow, you need to be uncomfortable to grow.