MC Student Veterans Take a Deep Breath and Chill

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Liza Williams

Graham Cole, Writer

Students who take a chemistry class at Montgomery College—or earlier in high school—learn that when two oxygen atoms covalently double bond to one carbon atom, the result is a colorless gas known as carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide, otherwise known as CO2, is everywhere. It exists in the atmosphere at around .04% and in carbonated beverages at various concentrations. In the human body CO2 is a waste product formed through a process called cellular respiration. When CO2 builds up in the bloodstream it can be dangerous and even life threatening.

Luckily humans naturally expel CO2 from the body by breathing. Frequently, the urge to take a breath is not due to a lack of oxygen, but rather due to CO2 build up in the body.

One human, Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof, purports to have unlocked a way to purge CO2 and saturate the bloodstream with oxygen. Hof holds 26 Guinness Records related to breathing, athletic feats while in ice, and running marathons in Africa without water.

Hof claims his numerous physical accomplishments are due to his unique method of deep meditation which combines breathing and gradual cold exposure. With this method, Hof has helped numerous people increase energy levels and athletic performance, heightened focus, and boosted immunity.

Montgomery College’s “Combat2College” coordinator Jason Franklin met Wim Hof after he became a certified instructor in the Wim Hof Method. Franklin offers his Wim Hof Workshop exclusively to student veterans at MC so that they can get the focus they need to thrive in academics.

Franklin has worked for over a dozen years helping veterans and their families deal with stress through exercise. According to Franklin, “One of the methods for reducing stress that kept popping up both at Walter Reed and with other veteran service organizations including the VA was the incorporation of meditation, yoga and breathing exercises. These techniques have started to greatly help a population of veterans prone to depression, anxiety and substance abuse.”

The transition from military life back to civilian life is not easy for some veterans. Franklin observed many overcome their fears, both in the Marine Corps during his military service and through his participation in numerous veteran events. Franklin’s Combat2College program provides an invaluable service to Montgomery College’s student veterans with events like his Wim Hof Method workshop.

During Franklin’s latest workshop in SC-151, he instructed a handful of student veterans on the Wim Hof cycles of breathing, breath retention, brown fat activation, and other mental focus techniques before leading them outside to be submerged in an ice bath. Franklin describes the ice as a metaphor “meaning different things to each individual. For some it symbolizes stress or discomfort and for others it represents fear. When I see people approach their pain and fear standing face to face with it and then I see it no longer bother them. It’s a real powerful thing to witness.”

For Franklin, Hof’s “basic breath” and his methods are more than just expelling CO2 and the human body’s parasympathetic response. He believes these workshops can help student veterans at MC to face their fears, decide to never to give up, and to keep on breathing.