• Emily McDonnell

#1: Ice Plunge

Who doesn’t want to start the decade submerged in 5-degree water? Well, most people I’d imagine…

My first Weekly Adventure, one which I was joined by my partner, was to be an ice plunge in Plötzensee, our local lake, a place we have only ever dipped our feet while sipping beer and enjoying the sun’s warming rays. For a duo who poses the traits of hating cold water (me) and hating swimming (him), this seemed like a particularly ill-informed activity to undertake, but why not begin the year with (dad joke alert...) a splash.

We’ve been reading more and more about Wim Hof, aka the Iceman. A man who has scaled Mount Everest in just a pair of shorts and hiking boots, taken a 57-metre swim under ice, and run a barefoot half-marathon in the Arctic. It seems inhuman, right? But Wim Hof believes in the power of the cold for fighting modern disease and boosting energy, and to find the strength to take on the cold, all you need is master your breath and your mind.

In preparation, we sat opposite each other and took deep breaths. Rupert managed to get into the zone, fully embracing the Wim Hof breathing method, while I giggled and had to turn around and face the wall. Next up, a cold shower. Also a big fail. I sighed and crossed my fingers that it would be alright on the night.

With our backpack full of supplies - towels, water shoes, tea thermos - we set off. While en route, Rupert turned to me, ever the optimist, and said: “most people start training for this in autumn when the weather is still much milder”. Which, while not useful at this point in time, is better than the text my Mum sent me reminding me not to drown...

We must have looked quite the pair, jumping on the spot in layers of thermals and woollens, as a few joggers who had decided to brave the cold and the rain passed us by. There was no postponing it anymore. We were here and neither of us was prepared to admit defeat. It was go time. 

I won’t lie. It was cold. Very cold. As I eased myself into the water and pushed away from the side, the cold crept up my legs, under my skin and tried to travel into my bones. I tingled as though electricity pulsed through my body, and the cold gripped my chest. I could do nothing but feel; there have been very few moments when I have been that present. I might only have stayed in the water for 30 seconds but I really felt my inner power supply light up.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Being submerged in the cold, surrounded by trees, knowing it’s just you against nature, does something wonderful to your mind. The sense of achievement plus the realisation that you’re capable of doing the things you put your mind to is intoxicating.

I might even consider taking cold showers…

Want to take your own ice plunge?

1. Preparation

I read up about ice plunges before I took my dip. I knew what to expect and understood how my body could react. Because it was my first attempt, I knew that my body could only handle a 30-60 second submersion (even if i felt ok while in the water). It was also essential that I focused on my breath, and inhaled and exhaled deeply and consistently to keep oxygen moving through my blood: panicking is the worst thing you can do.

I’d recommend browsing Wim Hof’s website and watching a few of his videos - he’s much more of an expert than I am! Pack lots of warm clothes, towels and hot tea. You’ll be so grateful for the extra warmth when you get out. I also took some (very unsexy) water shoes that allowed me to get in and out of the water without having to worry about cutting my feet open on the rocks.

It’s also key to do your homework before you decide where to take your plunge. You should avoid water with strong currents or places where it’s difficult to get out of the water. Also double check the water quality (look for clear water): for those planning a dip in Berlin, you can take a look at Berlin Badestellen to double check conditions.

2.Wrap up fast, celebrate later The feeling you have when you pull yourself out of the water is electrifying. My first instinct was to leap around and celebrate, but that is super dangerous as your body is rapidly cooling - 30 seconds in the water and I had lost feeling in my limbs. Quickly towel dry yourself and layer up, then dance around and high five your swim buddy(ies).

3. Don’t go alone You are, of course, shocking your body when you get into cold water, so please don’t go alone just in case you should react badly. Plus it’s much more fun to share the experience with someone. If none of your friends are mad enough to go with you, there are groups who organise plunges through the winter. For instance, there’s a group in Berlin called Ice Dippers who meet every Saturday.

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