Mark Whittle: Diving deeper into fear

“100% of the people who live on this planet experience fear - nobody gets away with it. But once you’ve pushed yourself through that  fear you realise what’s on the other side, and in most circumstances that’s a form of growth.”

For Mark Whittle cold water immersion symbolises growth, and its role in his performance and mindset coaching business, Take FLIGHT, is psychological. He uses the cold to teach his clients how to push through discomfort - training the mind to choose the difficult path to access their potential and get closer to what they’re really capable of.

Take FLIGHT focuses on what Mark calls the ‘inside game’. Your beliefs about yourself and how you view the world around you. How you manage your inner voice and energy. How you manage stress. How to push past your fears and prove you can achieve things you never thought possible in the ‘external’ world.

Mark’s clients are business founders and owners, CEOs, and athletes. For them, managing stress is a big one. The pressure to perform, whether a speech on a stage, delivering on targets and dealing with the scrutiny of others, or performing on the track, pitch or court the anxiety and stress is real.

The work at Take FLIGHT is holistic. They work on the mind so that clients understand themselves, their limiting beliefs, their stress response and triggers, but also their strengths which they aim to reinforce and grow.

How did Take FLIGHT begin?

Mark was always a strong athlete. He played different sports growing up and was always interested in finding ways to improve his performance. As he rose to a senior level in the teams, he realised he couldn’t do it all by himself and started exploring ways to help the team work together. He began learning about communication and ways to unlock potential in others.

When his sports career ended, he moved to the corporate world. Working the 9-5, chasing commissions, bigger salaries, and status, but after 10 years in the game, he realised he was way off where he truly wanted to be. He lacked real purpose and he began exploring something new. 

Take FLIGHT is now a business of two halves. The performance and mindset coaching on one side, and the digital content business on the other. A vlog and podcast that interviews elite athletes like Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Clive Woodward, Dyan Hartley, Wayne Bridge, Ben Haskell, and business owners to understand how they’ve achieved what they’ve achieved. Their stories are designed to inspire people to understand they can do something similar.

How does an ice bath help with stress?

An ice bath provides a controlled acute stressor delivered in a safe environment. It allows the body to respond and experience the same chemical signature of stress as they would in their daily lives. Mark teaches them how to use breathwork to relax, and take back control. They can take their new awareness and ability and use it to navigate life’s daily challenges. 

How to start cold water immersion?

Begin with a cold shower. Start warm and gradually turn the temperature down until you get to the coldest setting available. Try to stay in anywhere between 30 second and 2 minutes and build up the time. Move around, and let the water run all over your body especially the neck where your Vagus nerve sits. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system and coaches your flight or flight response, slowing your heart rate and helping to control your breathing. If you have access to cold water or an ice bath, start dipping your feet in, then you’re your legs and go from there. For Mark, it transforms his mood on a day-to-day basis. He recommends, “if you feel stressed, overwhelmed, if you experience anxiety or any mental health conditions absolutely try it. What is there to lose? Cold water can be the prescription. It certainly was for me. It was the first thing that separated me from that emotion first thing in the day. Just try it.”

The point is to make it challenging for it to be effective. Or as Mark puts it, “It never feels easy. I always feel the anticipation and then I remind myself it's for a good reason. I mean, what’s three minutes in the grand scheme of things?

If you’d like to explore more on the benefits of cold water immersion, visit our dedicated resource full of science-backed benefits for reasons to take the plunge.

The cold is my teacher series follows 12 amazing individuals and groups of fascinating people up and down the UK whose love of cold water has brought them together and inspired these incredible stories.
Continue exploring these fascinating stories below:

The Ice Viking

Fenwick Ridley is a titan. A Team GB Ice swimmer. An entrepreneur. A master of his mind and a lover of the ice. As he describes it, his body is “built for the cold”.

The Ice Viking The Ice Viking

Queen of the Cold

We all need a Jules King in our lives. A woman whose glass isn’t just full, it overflows with positivity. Determined. Life-affirming. Inspirational. A woman who overcomes so much every day to achieve the most simple things we can sometimes take for granted. 

Queen of the Cold Queen of the Cold

The Dales Dipper

Les Peebles is a wild swimming guide and the proud founder of a 14,000-strong community called The Dales Dippers. But that wasn’t always the case. Les used to be a joiner and a painter. He wasn’t particularly depressed or stressed in life but he felt something was missing.

The Dales Dipper The Dales Dipper

Multiple sources now prove that a practice of cold water therapy is unequivocally good for us. Here's your free guide why and how to get yours!