Cold Water Immersion - Winter Swimming in Wyoming
Would you swim here? Tim Walther has a wetsuit on in this photo, but he soon ditched the wetsuit for a winter of cold water immersion in the Tetons involving snowstorms, negative temperatures, and breaking through ice to reach water.
Walther’s current daily routine includes heading to the Gros Ventre river behind his home in Jackson, Wyoming. The ground is covered in snow, and snow is piled high along the banks of the ice-cold river. Walther prepares, then submerges himself in the 45-degree water for ten minutes.
Read on to learn his path, the benefits, and what you can do if you’re interested in cold water immersion.
Tim, what benefits can come from cold water immersion?
If done correctly, it can strengthen your cardiovascular health, stimulate white blood cell production, and build a stronger immune system.
It’s also a way of building self awareness. The mental aspect is huge, in the way you can impact your nervous system. If you can regulate your body temperature enough to keep your body warm in a freezing environment, what else can you accomplish?
It’s great stress relief. It becomes kind of addicting, the feeling you get afterwards is amazing.
It sounds like this has had a significant benefit for you personally. How did you get interested in cold water immersion?
Two years ago, I swam all the lakes in the Tetons, and my wetsuit had a hole in it. I wished I had an understanding of how to regulate my body temperature, and started researching Wim Hof. In December, I went to Iceland for a 10-day immersive training.
The training was important - there are significant risks to doing this incorrectly. It’s not just about the time you’re in the water, there is real risk in the water but the bigger challenge is when you get out of the water what happens to your physiology as you warm up and blood flow adjusts.
How long did you stay in the cold water when you first started?
I started with 30 seconds. Right now I do about 10 minutes, but you can get benefits with two or three minutes.
It’s not necessarily about going longer in the water, it’s about what happens afterwards. You have to manage your body temperature before, during, and after.
For anyone unfamiliar with the winter weather in Jackson, what is the typical temperature/water temperature range?
The temperature is generally between negative 5 and 20 degrees. Average, about 15 degrees, with a lot of wind and storms. The water temperature is 35 or 40 degrees.
You recently led a workshop to share your knowledge in Jackson. What was it like?
It was a six hour workshop, and covered skill building, breathing, mental strategies, outdoor cold immersion meditation, and hand and feet rewarming techniques, the specific fire breathing techniques to warm up your extremities after you get cold. Then we went out, and everyone stayed in the water for three minutes.
That’s amazing that everyone could do that after one day! Your work day to day involves coaching, correct?
My company, Grand Dynamics, puts on corporate events and team leadership development programs, with a heavy emphasis on adventure programming. We use adventure experiences to help people expand their capacities.
The way you describe your company makes it apparent this is just an extension of principles that were already important in your life.
Yes. I believe life is a continuous evolution of expanding what we believe in regards to what’s possible. My character, as a person, I’m always seeking different ways to enhance my performance, sharpen my abilities.
You will soon have an online program, and do multi-day retreats in Jackson Hole, so people interested in learning cold water immersion techniques should keep an eye out for those options - but for someone who is interested, what can they do right now besides online research?
The simplest thing you can do is take a cold shower. It’s the easiest way to introduce yourself to cold immersion.
Thank you for sharing, Tim!
Click here to take a peek at Tim in action, it's amazing -
For anyone interested in learning more about cold water immersion, click here to sign up for updates from Tim for online and in person learning opportunities.
More interesting viewing... check out Tim's multi-day swim of all lakes at the base of the Tetons, SO interesting and fun to watch!
Tim's Teton lake swimming was inspired by the Picnic. Watch a cool short film about the origins of The Picnic, A Teton Triathalon.