This post is part of the Get Outdoors Series, where we explore ways to enjoy NL through all the seasons.
When it comes to surviving, and thriving, in the winter, most people will offer a laundry list of ways to stay warm. Good socks, mittens, hats– maybe even a layer of long johns under your jeans, or a cozy fireside, are all ways to keep the cold at bay. For Brent Beshara, diving into winter weather and embracing the cold are what it’s all about.
A few years ago, Brent created the Newfoundland Winter Tribe, a Facebook group that encourages fellow Newfoundlanders to enjoy winter, and cold weather, as much as they can. From swimming in all seasons to snowshoeing, the group is “for the Newfoundland Winter ice-thusiast who wants to get more life out of their year with other fun, like minded peeps. A place to share ‘cool’ experiences, places and events with the tribe.”
Beshara served as a Special Forces Navy Bomb Disposal Diver for over two decades. He trained to survive in the arctic and dive into frigid waters. But it wasn’t until he discovered cold exposure that he began to adapt, and not simply tolerate, the cold. “It’s a biological superpower to be cold adapted,” Brent explains. “We’re training to adapt, it’s not cold resistance or cold tolerance. It’s adaptive.”
Every morning, Beshara starts his day with a dip in the pond near his home. In the winter, he cuts a triangular hole in the ice. “I’ve been doing cold exposure for 8 years,” he said. “In the military, I had no cold adaptive training or breath work. I was still just going outside and freezing. Now, I’ll be doing this barefoot all winter long.”
Beshara is trained in the Wim Hof Method, a cold exposure technique developed by Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof. Nicknamed the “Iceman,” Hof is best known for a number of world records, including running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts. The Method consists of a breathing technique and controlled exposure to cold.
Wim Hof purports a number of health benefits of cold exposure, including reducing inflammation and relieving stress. Cold exposure has been considered a healthy practice in many parts of the world for centuries, including Japan, Russia and Finland.
Brent has experienced the benefits of cold exposure first hand. “When I was in the military, I didn’t have time to process those crazy and sometimes horrific experiences and events. Because I didn’t properly process those events, they got stuck to my tissues; my joints and muscles. So when we start to do this work of breath work and such, we can access those old experiences, events and emotions trapped in our tissues and they can come out. By doing this breath work, I’ve had many great, emotional cathartic releases.”
The science behind how emotions and experiences are trapped in our physical bodies is well documented. Cold therapy is one method that people use to release those unprocessed events, emotions and tension.
If you’re interested in trying out cold exposure for yourself, start small and do your research to make sure you are following necessary protocols to stay safe. Cold exposure is intended to be gradual. Before you take the plunge, practice cold exposure using these exercises. You can try out the Wim Hof breathing technique by following online with this video. Make sure you are in a safe space on dry land before incorporating cold exposure into your practice. Taking cold showers is another gradual way to try out the Wim Hof Method.
“Afterdrop” is one risk of swimming in cold temperatures. Afterdrop occurs when a person warms up too quickly after cold exposure. The cold blood in a person’s extremities rushes to their core, lowering body temperature and blood pressure. This can be extremely dangerous. The solution is to warm up slowly and gradually.
After eight years of practice, Brent was recently able to spend twenty minutes in the pond near his home. The water temperature that day? A mere six degrees. Brent, and The Newfoundland Winter Tribe, will be swimming through the province’s coldest months.
Contact Brent Beshara to book a cold exposure workshop.Interested in sharing how you get outdoors in the winter months? Contact Natalie here.