Extreme Sports 101: Ice Swimming

For the majority of people, having to swim in ice cold water sounds like a chilling nightmare, however for others it is an enjoyable sport. Yes, that’s right we said a sport! In this article the team at Mailsports will provide an overview of this extreme sport, along with its training process and health benefits.

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Many people participate in ice swimming for special Christmas and New Year’s Eve events, whereas others take it up as a competitive sport.

 What is Ice Swimming? 

Ice swimming involves swimming in a water temperature below 5C. It has its own international association which is aiming to make it a recognised sport in the Winter Olympics. Ice swimming races involve swimming a mile in water below 5C without assistance. Ice swimmers wear the same costumes and accessories as other swimmers – no wetsuits are allowed! It is thought to be one of the most taxing and dangerous extreme sports in existence. 

Health Checks

If you want to take up ice swimming, it is essential that you undergo a medical examination first. This can be performed by your local GP who will check that your heart is in a good condition. It is important that you have a healthy heart as it is the organ that is put under the most strain when participating in ice swimming.

Training

Cold water can be a killer so it is essential that those intending on taking up ice swimming, whether as a hobby or competitively, undergo the necessary training. Throughout the year ice swimmers train their bodies to harden against cold water, enabling them to endure freezing cold temperatures safely. It is recommended that novice ice swimmers begin the training process by taking cold showers and swimming outside during the summer. As the temperatures drop throughout the year, so should the amount of time you swim for. Training for ice swimming is a lengthy process. You do not want to put your body under too much strain too soon. Whilst ice swimmers need to be tough and courageous, they also need to have respect for their bodies.

It is recommended that training takes place over the long term. Novice ice swimmers should aim to train between two and four times a week, whereas experienced competitive ice swimmers will benefit from training every day. It is essential to keep up with training and spread it out systematically to prevent your body from de-hardening.

Benefits of Ice Swimming

Many people have found that there are health benefits associated with ice swimming. For example many ice swimmers find that they can fight off colds and sickness bugs much easier because their bodies are hardened and their immune systems are strong. Ice swimming is also a great way to relieve stress, lower blood pressure and alleviate aches and pains. It is even thought that ice swimmers stand a better chance of recovering from more serious illnesses as their bodies are much stronger.

Places to go Ice Swimming

If you think you have the mind set and skills to become an ice swimmer, there are many places around the world you can train. The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London is one of the most popular places in the UK for ice swimmers to train. Ice swimming is also very popular in Northern European countries like Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Northern Russia. In these countries they have dedicated centres where participants can have a session in the sauna before going ice swimming in a specially designed pool.

There is a club that many European ice swimmers are part of, known as the ‘Polar Bear Club’ which also operates in North America. Ice swimming events are held all over the world, so it is worth joining clubs and visiting online forums so that you are kept in the know about the latest events and races.

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Ice swimming is not something to rush into. You need to train and harden your body throughout the year to prepare it for the ice cold winter temperatures.

Ice swimming is becoming a popular extreme sport that may one day earn its place in the Winter Olympics. If you want to try it out for yourself, it is worth looking online to find the various locations where ice swimming sessions safely take place in your country of residence. It is recommended that you swim with a group of people in a safe environment to prevent accidents from occurring. Ice swimming is a dangerous sport that should not be taken lightly. You need to have spent the time training your body and have the required level of fitness if you want to be taken seriously as an ice swimmer.

Image credits: VisitLakeland & Marijn de Vries Hoogerwerff

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About Hannah Jennings

Hannah Jennings is a writer for Mailsports with a passion for water. The inspiration for this article came from both her personal experiences and those still on her bucket list.
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