Have you ever experienced a moment when you realized, truly realized, that you are capable of doing more? That what you previously thought to be impossible, is actually do-able? Do you remember what brought you there?
For a lot of us, these moments of breakthrough occur when we’re physically stressed.
Legendary big wave surfer Laird Hamilton and professional beach volleyball legend Gabby Reese used this concept and their own daily regimen to create XPT, the couple’s Extreme Performance Training system. XPT is designed to get you “operating at the highest possible potential in all areas of your individual life.”
“Our goal through XPT is to use what we have learned to challenge others to push beyond their own physical boundaries, and breakthrough mentally,” Hamilton said.
Breathe involves breathwork, breathing exercises and working to prolong the holding of breath. Move entails intense exercise like heavyweight work in a swimming pool. Recover could combine time spent in a sauna followed by an ice bath, or the ice bath alone.
The focus on breath-work came from co-founder Hamilton’s breath-holding exercises. He needed to remain calm and focused when under giant waves, so he took inspiration from an ancient Polynesian practice of carrying stones underwater. And it worked.
It turns out proper breathing has dramatic effect on the body. By bringing more oxygen into vital organs and tissues, you can alkalize the body. Increasing breath-holding times can also cause the body to release adrenaline. “It creates a sympathetic nervous system response (fight or flight response) to increase alertness, get you fired up, boost your energy and enhance your mood,” PJ Nestler, director of performance for XPT, explained.
The recover aspect, with the sauna and ice bath, also boosts energy.
These full-body, head-under-the-water ice baths are where Sean Miller, a certified XPT coach, has seen the most dramatic transformations in his clients.
“I meet my clients at the level they are at and then I pull them to where they can go,” Miller explained. “My motto is ‘slow is smooth and smooth is fast.’ You can’t get in the water with weights and power through. It takes breathing, focus and the ability to remain calm.”
Documented benefits from ice baths include increased testosterone in men, a boost in human growth hormone, increased sperm count, reduced swelling in joints and increased blood flow and alertness.
“Some people will say they did this as part of their high school athletic program. It’s not the same,” Miller said. “We’re dealing with stress adaptation here. The ice takes you to a different level. If you don’t want to think about anything in life, go in the ice,” he said.
Adrian Bears, a client of Miller’s, admitted he was changed by the recovery work. “The hot/cold therapy helped me focus,” he explained. “The second time I did an ice bath I felt completely still and calm. Sean has been such an inspiration. I’ve pretty much changed my whole life since starting (XPT). I stopped smoking. I started running again. I realized I was not taking any time to better myself and I changed that.”
Miller said this response was not uncommon. After attending a few classes he’s seen clients invest in infrared home saunas and create ice bath systems in their homes.
“This work creates a mind-shift change. Let’s say you’re in the pool swimming with weights. If you need to come up or stop, you can’t come bursting out of the water and drop the weights. That could break the pool or hurt someone else in the water. XPT creates an awareness in everything you do.”
And it’s that awareness in everyday activities that might be one of the most important benefits of XPT. Having the ability to slow down during stressful experiences, pay attention to the task in front of you or to remain calm under pressure are vital to success. The physical benefits are almost a bonus.
“The main part of the journey for me has been how much it has helped me de-stress and deal with everything going on throughout the day,” Bears said. “I started out as a skeptic and it has bled into all areas of my life.”