Ice-dipping - yes, I AM that stupid.

>> Thursday, 3 March 2011

This is an e-mail I got on Tuesday night, from a friend who organises a cross-country ski group that meets a couple of times a week near our home.

Hi Ladies
Today was the first day of spring and the forecast is for more sunshine tomorrow!
It is also my birthday and I was hoping to go into the "icy pond" by the lake today but have delayed it until tomorrow and so the plan is to warm up with a ski and then I ( and anyone who would dare join me) will dip. I have ordered some limoncello and so will take it along for you all to enjoy.


I read this and laughed. My friend had been threatening to do exactly this for a while now, but I never really thought she would get round to it. Climb into a frozen lake, in the middle of the day, sober? And then ski home? Was she crazy?

But then, completely unbidden, the thought came to me; 'Why not do this with her? No. No! Don't be an idiot, PM.


I am in Russia. I am relatively young, fit and healthy. I would never get the chance to do this in the UK; ski through a forest, take an ice-dip, and ski home again.

So I did what any self-respecting woman would do these days; I asked Twitter. The overall response that came back was unsurprising; what the hell would you want to do something like that for? That should have put an end to it of course. But funnily enough, I found that I didn't like that answer very much ('what's wrong with me?'), so I asked around some more. I asked Heather from Lapland, who encouragingly told me to wear flipflops going into the water (how practical, not something I would have considered myself), and I e-mailed a friend who's lived here for while. Her response?

'My husband did the ice dipping and got double pneumonia shortly after... but otherwise apparently it makes you feel great!'

Definitely not a good idea, then.

But you know what?

Yesterday morning I put my swimsuit on under my ski clothes, skied for an hour, stopped by a frozen lake, got undressed, and my friend and I jumped in.

Well, when I say 'jumped', what I actually mean is that she bravely waded into the water and spent a minute in there, whilst I gingerly climbed in, dipped once, and climbed straight out again (putting my flipflops on as I did so - such a good tip, Heather, thankyou!).

Was it cold? Hell yes. So cold that I lost the ability to speak whilst I was in there. The water smelt, a little, but then since the lake is essentially a large pond it was always going to do that. And I have to say taking my swimsuit off and replacing it with dry underwear whilst standing on a snow drift in -8degC and in full view of the anyone who cared to look was not something I had planned on, but the changing shed by the ice hole was locked so there was nothing else for it (skiing home in a wet bathing suit under my snow pants appealed even less than the thought of flashing a boob as I struggled into my bra under my thermal t-shirt, for some reason...).

But, it was a beautiful day. The sun shone so brightly on the white snow that it was like standing inside a light-bulb. I had worked up some heat during the ski there, so my circulation was buzzing, and admittedly the adrenaline of 'what on earth are you doing?' might have helped bring on a bit of a sweat. And standing on the banks of the lake afterwards, wrapped in towel, wearing a swimsuit and flipflops and nothing else whilst I knocked back a shot or two of limoncello in celebration, I didn't feel the chill at all.

Husband, when I spoke to him later, was amazed; he never thought I would do it. The Russians I've spoken to about having done it have been uniformly confused. Why would I do such a thing? They know I'm not an Orthodox Christian (for whom this is religious cleansing experience), and I'm not a health nut, so clearly the only explanation is that I am certifiably insane.

They may be right.

But as Husband said to me, over the last two years my boundaries of what I will and won't do have expanded considerably*, and whatever else I may feel about Mother Russia, I have to give her a lot of the credit for that.

Ultimately though, my motivation for doing this probably idiotic thing was impulsive; 'Fxck it. I can do it, so I shall. Life is for living.' And if there's one thing that doing that dip made me feel, it was ALIVE.

* extreme waxing, going blonde, bungy jumping and throwing myself out of airplanes are still off the menu, by the way...


LJB 3 March 2011 at 11:01  

I was just talking about ice dipping to my sister-in-law today and how people who do it are CRAZY :D

I have to say it's definitely intriguing though and more challenging than running a marathon, so maybe I'll do it next winter when I'm in Estonia :|

PantsWithNames 3 March 2011 at 11:21  

If you have the opportunity to do something like that you HAVE to do it. Bet it made you feel exhilerated - once home and having warmed up with some hot chocolate that is!

nappy valley girl 3 March 2011 at 13:47  

Bravo, well done you. I bet it felt great. I remember swimming in a cold river in Norway - it was summer so it must have been warmer than your ice-dip - but it was painfully cold. However, getting out made you feel amazing....

Michelloui | The American Resident 3 March 2011 at 19:05  

I'm with Pants, you've got to take these opportunities!!

I'm just off to turn up the heat and pull on another jumper. Your description made me cold all over!

Iota 3 March 2011 at 19:37  

Yay, go YOU!!

(and you really did it for the blog fodder, didn't you?!)

Muddling Along 4 March 2011 at 15:38  

Having lived by the mantra of I'll try anything once for years I can understand why you did it... and yes I think ice dipping and chicken sushi probably are both nuts

But hey you did it!

Heather 5 March 2011 at 18:48  

woohoo! You did it! It's a cool thing to be able to say you've done if nothing else. Glad the flip flop tip helped x

Potty Mummy 6 March 2011 at 08:18  

LJB, OR you could run the ice marathon on Lake Baikal next March as a friend of mine is currently trying to convince me to do...

PWM, amazingly enough, I still haven't had that hot chocolate!

NVG, yes, it's when the pain stops that you feel good. Which when I think about it, definitely is crazy.

Michelle, you do have to take these opportunities. Still no bungy jumping, though...

Iota, you know me too well. x

MAM, chicken sushi? I wouldn't put ice dipping in the same category - but perhaps I should...

Heather, it absolutely did - so thankyou again!

Emma 15 March 2011 at 20:45  

Fabulous, good for you :) (I wouldn't be brave enough!!)... Emma

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