Winter Swimming

Winter swimming refreshes the body as well as the mind

You can feel the effects of winter swimming even after the very first dip in the icy water. Blood rushes through your veins, your body is pumped with adrenaline and the feeling of achievement brings a smile to your face: “I did it!”

The health benefits of winter swimming have been thoroughly researched. Due to the drastic changes in temperature the discharge of stress hormones is increased and both blood circulation and metabolism are improved. Studies have shown that people who swim regularly have significantly lower blood pressure and a better tolerance of the cold. Many swimmers say that all aches and pains disappear in the water.

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Take part in events

It’s good to start winter swimming with experienced swimmers at the start of the season. They can give a newcomer tips on the sport and how things are done. You can also get plenty of information and general guidance at info-meetings, which are open to everyone. At most swimming venues the winter swimming season starts in October.

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Winter swimming place

Creating a place to go winter swimming does not require a big investment or an expensive building. The essentials are a warm changing room and a hole in the ice. Keeping the hole free of ice used to be hard work. Nowadays we use electricity; different kinds of pumps and other devices that create a current help keep the water moving around the pier and keep the water from icing over in the coldest parts of the year.

Some of the better-equipped places also have a shower and a heated mat, which prevents the pier from becoming slippery. In some places the ladder leading down into the hole in the ice is also heated so the steps and the railing do not freeze and become slippery.

Winter swimming equipment

A winter swimmer’s personal equipment consists of a bathing suit and a towel. If the path to the hole in the ice is not covered with a heated mat, you can wear wool socks to insulate the soles of your feet from the cold ground. You can also buy special shoes made from neoprene, the soles of which protect your feet from sharp rocks and salt, and which also keep you from slipping or falling.

The cold isn’t for everyone

Winter swimming is good for almost everyone, but people who have heart disease or suffer from either low or high blood pressure should first consult their doctor about the risks of winter swimming. The difference in temperature between the sauna and the hole in the ice causes great strain on the heart and changes in blood pressure may cause dizziness for some people.

Photo: Suomen Latu/Antero Aaltonen

Ten Tips for Winter Swimmers

1. Always bring a friend.
2. Warm up your muscles before you go into the water.
3. Let your body cool down after the sauna and before you go into the water.
4. For your first time, just take a quick dip.
5. Dress warmly after the swim.
6. Drink warm beverages and enjoy yourself.
7. Never go into the water while sick or under the influence of intoxicants.
8. Wear a wool hat or knitted cap, gloves and special shoes if necessary.
9. Never jump in the water headfirst.
10. How many times you go into the water, how long you stay and whether you do it after the sauna or not are all individual choices. You should listen to your body to learn what works best for you.

 

 

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