Ice bathing makes you sparkle!

«Don’t think! Just do it! Remember to breath!» The words run in my head like a mantra as I’m standing on the small pier that leads to a black hole in the ice. The temperature is -18 degrees Celsius and I am wearing only my bathing suit, bathing shoes and a knitted white and orange hat. 

We are three girls about to have our very first ice bathing experience, at this cold and clear afternoon in Porvoo, Finland. We are standing outside the premises belonging to the local ice-bathing club, and we are being guided to learn the secret behind a successful swim in the ice water. In the clubhouse, there are two small locker rooms with showers. No sauna.

Without a sauna, we have to warm up our muscles the natural way.  Before taking off our warm clothes, a workout has to be done. Jumping around, waiving our arms, shaking our legs and dancing in the freezing air, makes the blood rush and warms up our whole body. Our guide tells us that the experience of ice bathing is much better when the muscles are warm. I am doubting ice bathing ever can be a good experience, regardless warm or cold muscles.

One down, 2 to go! (Photo: K. Åberg)

Actually, I was determined not to go ice bathing. During the day in Porvoo I was thinking of the planned activity for the afternoon, and although I did pack everything I needed, I didn’t quite see myself going through with it. I’m one of those persons who thinks it’s way too cold to swim outside if the water temperature is not over 20 degrees Celsius. That is probably the reason why I have never considered ice bathing as an activity I would appreciate.

As the time for ice bathing was approaching I was thinking: When will you ever get a chance to do this again? I quickly concluded that this might be my only chance ever, and if i passed on it, I would regret it. I am a competitive person, and the feeling of crossing my own boundaries can be quite satifying!

With the greatest confidence, our ice bathing supervisor climbes from the pier and down in the freezing water. The small ladder secures entering and exiting the water in a rapid but controlled way. "It's lovely", says our supervisor as she swims around in the water. "Now it's your turn!". Nobody says a word. We are terrified and excited at the same time, and I feel like beeing in a trance, deeply consentrated with the mantra whirring around in my head.

The first one of the girls slowly walks towards the ladder, turns her back to the water, and climbes firmly down into the freezing lake. She screams and laughs and can barly breath from the cold experience. We are so nervous and are trying to laugh it away. Our turn is comming up! After spending one whole second in the water, the first girl rapidly climbes up the ladder. Ready for number 2. Filled with confidence, she enters the water and repeates the screaming and lack of breath. I am reconsidering my own need of pushing boundaries. Two down, one to go! I'm not going to chicken out now! The two first girls runs towards the club house, laughing. I need to do this. I feel surprisingly calm as I'm turning my back to the water on top of the ladder. I'm trying to convince my self by saying the mantra out loud: "Don't think! Just do it! Remember to breath!" as I'm climbing down the ladder. At some point, I let go of the handles and suddenly I am floating in the lake.

Steaming body in freezing cold water (Photo: K. Åberg)

I'm surprised that the water doesn't feel cold, at all! It feels lukewarm, but it is only an illusion. My body realise the fact, and starts reacting. At this point I understand the importance of the last part of my mantra: "Remember to breath". It is realy hard to breath, and I am trying to consentrate to fill my lungs, but end up with short and hecktic breaths. Instead of just dipping myself in the water, I threw myself bakwards into the lake. The distance to the ladder is longer than I expect, and it seems like forever before I'm abel to get hold of the handles again, and climb out of the water.

What a rush! My whole body is in tension and quivering at the same time, and I'm feeling incredibly fresh. Crossing my own limits and aversion against ice bathing is one of the reasons, but what happens when my wet body meets -18 degree celsius explains it all. As the water on my body starts to freeze, it feels like I'm standin in the middle of a sparkle storm, or even better, it feels like I am literally sparkling!  

With a towel wrapped around my sparkling body, I run from the pier towards the club house. It is getting dark and all the candles lit along the path gives the perfect frame for a perfect ice bathing experience. I can't stop smiling!

The Ice bathing experience was a part of my NBE program during the Nordic Bloggers Experience in Finland.