The water temperature is a couple of degrees above zero and the air is bitterly cold. Every time I walk to the shed, serving as the dressing room, before a dip in the hole in the ice, I ask myself: why am I doing this? And every time when standing at the end of the hole and looking at the cold surface of the water, I wonder how crazy you have to be to go in. But it’s amazing how your mood can swing from one extreme to another: after a dip in the ice-cold water you feel so euphoric that it’s impossible to explain it to another person who has not felt the same. What’s more, you become so addicted to this wonderful feeling that you start wanting more!
I was only 16 when I started ice swimming with my mother, and I still remember how the first few dips in the cold water always took my breath away. Yet I always went back, addicted to that sense of well-being. Now, twenty years later, I keep doing it, chasing that same feeling no matter what the weather is like.
Recently, ice swimming has been gaining popularity even among young people, particularly because of its health benefits. How, then, does ice-swimming affect your body? It gives you a boost and shot of energy that lasts up to the next day. This invigorating effect is due to the hormone rush released by the cold, because the excretion of stress hormones increases in response to temperature variations. Additionally, ice swimming accelerates blood circulation and the metabolic system, slowing down ageing and retaining the resilience of the skin. Moreover, the basic blood pressure of those who engage in regular ice swimming is reduced considerably.
Here are a few tips for those interested in ice swimming, to make the experience as pleasant as possible and maximise the beneficial effects. It is not advisable to take a dip immediately after a hot sauna because the temperature change is too abrupt for the body and puts a major strain on the heart. It is, therefore, a good idea to allow the body to cool down after the sauna for a couple of minutes before going into the cold water. I myself prefer to take the dip directly without first warming up in the sauna. The only accessories you need are a swimsuit and towel. Additionally, I have worn slippers and gloves right from the beginning to protect fingers and toes that are likely to freeze. I also wear a knitted cap because you are not supposed to dive while ice swimming.
The Jyväskylä region offers a number of places to test ice swimming. The local ice swimming association operates five ice swimming sites in Jyväskylä at the following locations: Köhniö, Tikka, Tuomiojärvi, Vaajakoski and Palokka. All sites have heated dressing rooms for women and men. My favourite spots are Tuomiojärvi and Köhniä as they are located near the city centre and are easily accessible by car.
Contact the association office and get a one-week familiarisation ticket for 20 EUR. It gives you unlimited access to the ice swimming sites in Tuomiojärvi, Vaajakoski and Köhniö. If you do not feel up to trying ice swimming on your own, the association offers instruction and a guide, who will accompany you to the swim site to give advice and tips.
Ice swimming is more than just healthy madness. It’s about pushing and expanding your comfort zone. It’s about the sense of satisfaction you feel after a dip in really cold water. It’s about challenging yourself and feeling elated. Good energy and a sense of being reborn. We all have places where we can shed our worries. Ice swimming is an excellent way of relieving stress and purging your brain of all unnecessary concerns!
Writer: Jasmine Rahkonen
“Hi! I’m Jasmine Rahkonen, a welfare entrepreneur from Muurame. I work as a gymnastic teacher, personal trainer and a massager. I often go to the forest and nature to relax with my dog or my horse. Life is here and now, so I often seize the moment – I think that makes life rich and interesting.”
The atricle has been published originally on the Visit Jyväskylä Region’s website in 2019.