Scott Carney: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude, and Environmental Conditioning Can Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength

How many pushups can you do on a single breath?

My guest today, Scott Carney, best-selling author of the newly released book What Doesn't Kill Us could only do 20 pushups before his training with Wim "The Iceman" Hof.

During this time, Scott learned to control his body temperature and seek out the knowledge that was key to unlocking his body's hidden potential.

Since then, Scott has trained with elite athletes, competed in the world's most notorious cold-weather obstacle course race, and summited Gilman's Point on Mount Kilimanjaro... in nothing but a pair of shorts.  

In today's episode I talk with Scott as he shares how freezing water, extreme altitude, and environmental conditioning can renew our lost evolutionary strength.

In today's episode you'll learn: 

  • How Scott lost seven pounds in seven days,
  • The quickest and safest way to build what Scott calls "The Wedge",
  • Scott's personal 15-minute breathing routine, and...
  • Much, much more.

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Episode Breakdown

  • How to correctly pronounce "Wim" :)
  • Scott’s previous history as an investigative journalist
  • How people can lose touch with reality in pursuit of spiritual goals
  • Westerner’s lure to perform miracles and how they’re ingrained in our childhoods
  • Scott’s concerns about Wim’s initial claims of superhuman performance
  • Scott’s first thoughts and experience of Wim after being commissioned by Playboy Magazine
  • The simple, almost immediate trick to stop yourself from shivering
  • How Scott lost seven pounds in seven days
  • Scott shares a few of Wim’s larger-than-life claims
  • Why Scott believes Wim’s method has positive effects on autoimmune disease
  • The brief story of Hans Spaans and the Wim Hof Method
  • Scott describes how homeostasis has negatively impacted us as a species
  • Evolutionary Mismatch Disease
  • How fire may have shaped human physiology
  • How Scott outsources his natural pathfinding ability
  • How Tinder is possibly destroying our ability to create deep bonds and long-term relationships
  • How Lt. James Cook and his Polynesian navigator—Tupaia—mapped the Pacific seas near New Zealand and Australia
  • Di lep and wave-piloting
  • How humans have been using the cold to develop environmental robustness
  • Scott shares an old quote from the Journal of American Medical Association in 1914
  • Scott explains the purpose of brown adipose tissue (or BAT) and why it’s important
  • Scott’s first experience with Laird Hamilton and XPT (or Extreme Pool Training)
  • The November Project
  • Scott explains the evolutionary purpose of vasoconstriction
  • Archimedes Banya
  • What Scott calls "The Wedge"
  • Why Scott says you shouldn't use Wim's breathing techniques in water
  • Scott shares his 15-minute breathing routine
  • Why it’s easier to pass out with full lungs
  • Scott’s experience running the most notorious cold-weather obstacle course race in the world
  • Success at Gilman’s Point
  • Rapid-fire listener questions

Questions I Ask 

  1. "What exactly led you into writing this book to begin with?"
  2. “How were you going to move forward with debunking the charlatan that is Wim Hof?"
  3. “I would love to know whether or not the cold exposure and Wim’s breathing method had any affect on that [Parkinson’s Disease]"
  4. “When you came back to America, you started seeking out people who give you answers as to why this was working — correct?"
  5. “Because of fire, thus, we were able to get more nutrition from our food which softened our food and thus had an impact on our jaw — correct? Would you elaborate on that a bit?"
  6. “Explain to me some of the people that you met along your journey?"
  7. “If we’re looking to build this wedge, where would you have us start?"
  8. “I know that towards the end of your journey you did a really, really awesome climb with Wim himself. Where did you go and what happened?"

Mentioned Resources

What Doesn't Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength  by Scott Carney

What Doesn't Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength by Scott Carney

"I went from a guy living in Long Beach, Californiaamid palm trees and constant 80 degree weatherto a guy who was able to withstand the Polish winter in my bathing suit." - Scott Carney

Who is Scott Carney?

Investigative journalist and anthropologist Scott Carney ( has worked in some of the most dangerous and unlikely corners of the world. His work blends narrative non-fiction with ethnography. Currently, he is a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and a 2016-17 Scripps Fellow at the Center for Environmental Journalism in Boulder, Colorado. "What Doesn't Kill Us" is his most recent book; other works include "The Red Market" and "A Death on Diamond Mountain." Carney was a contributing editor at Wired for five years and his writing also appears in Mother Jones, Men's Journal, Playboy, Foreign Policy, Discover, Outside and Fast Company. His work has been the subject of a variety of radio and television programs, including on NPR and National Geographic TV. In 2010, he won the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for his story "Meet the Parents," which tracked an international kidnapping-to-adoption ring. Carney has spent extensive time in South Asia and speak Hindi.

Contact Scott, Here:


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Music Credit:

More Human Than Human by White Zombie

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James Broderick