Ryan Hutchinson prefers winter swims

Ryan Hutchinson gives a two thumbs up sign as he stands in the frigid waters of Lake Manitou during a recent sojourn into the icy waters that forms part of his health regimen.

With proper breathing techniques, it’s a healthy pastime

SANDFIELD—Ryan Hutchinson isn’t letting cold weather or ice stop him from enjoying his afternoon swim in Lake Manitou. The Sandfield resident has trained himself in the Wim Hof Method and by using a combination of deep breathing, cold exposure and commitment, is continuing to enjoy the lake all year round.

“I live on Lake Manitou and I swim a lot,” Mr. Hutchinson told The Expositor. “A couple years ago I began looking into ways that I could extend my swimming. A friend suggested that I explore Wim Hof.”

Wim Hof is known as The Iceman because of his ability to withstand extreme cold which he credits to breathing techniques based on Tibetan Tummo mediation. He holds 26 world records including longest ice bath and ice endurance.

“I signed up for a 10 week course with Wim Hof where I learned the three pillars of the Wim Hof Method: cold therapy, breathing and mental focus,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “You work on it every day, gradually increasing your exposure to cold and after 10 weeks you can go into the cold water no problem.”

Mr. Hutchinson explained that during the first week of the program you work on deep breathing and breath retention followed by a 30 second cold shower.

“By week three or four you are following your breathing work with a two to three minute cold shower,” he explained. “It looks dramatic swimming in ice water, but there is a lot that goes into it leading up.”

While Mr. Hutchinson enjoys his daily cold water dips in 3-4 °C water, he stressed that it isn’t the same as a ‘polar bear dip.’

“I’m totally against polar bear dips,” said Mr. Hutchinson. “People just jumping into the cold water without intention or preparation is dangerous. It can shock someone’s system and has even killed people. Add alcohol into the mix and the danger level is heightened.”

Since Mr. Hutchinson began his cold water swims, he has been approached by many Island residents with questions regarding his chilly dips.

“I had a lot of interest last year to teach a workshop on cold water swimming so I held some classes in March and April of 2017,” he said. “The workshops are three hours long and I really stress the importance of safety.”

One of Mr. Hutchinson’s pupils, Rebecca Mende of Assiginack, was profiled in the media last year for swimming every day for 100 days in Manitowaning Bay, concluding her personal challenge on December 23.

“Deep breathing is the foundation of everything,” said Mr. Hutchinson. “Rebecca’s swims average three minutes (she swam for 12 minutes in November). My longest is right after I completed the 10-week course, I did 10 minutes. We have never tested how long we could stay in the water—it’s not about that—it’s a lot about listening to your body.”

Mr. Hutchinson said that the benefits of cold water swimming are immense, beyond both mental focus and a feeling of “personal power.”

“It has been found to be good for your immune system and is also great for the skin,” said Mr. Hutchinson, naming a few of the benefits he has personally seen.

Mr. Hutchinson has recently purchased a new chainsaw and has built a special area for his cold water swims with a wooden ladder and plans to add a collar to further secure the ladder.

“I will also be adding lights so I can go in after work,” he said. “I am going to be redoing the 10-week course and would like to work towards doing an under-ice swim between two holes.”

Mr. Hutchinson will also be offering a free course again in the spring for any interested parties.

“People aren’t required to go in the lake, but they can come out and learn more about it and learn the breathing techniques,” said Mr. Hutchinson. “I also have a sauna and offer warm suits for those who do work towards going into the lake.”

If individuals are interested in signing up for Mr. Hutchinson’s cold-water swimming workshop they can contact him on Facebook (R.M. Hutchinson). For more information about Wim Hof, visit www.wimhofmethod.com.