BIODIVERSITY SUPPORTS NATURELush forests of pine and spruce, broad lakes, deep glacial depressions and breathtaking ridges – Lahti’s natural heritage needs understanding and protection.
Ice swimming leaves you feeling relaxed and refreshed. Public ice swimming spots in Lake Vesijärvi are open throughout the winter.
Kaisa Tuominen, 26, started ice swimming last year. When the summer ended, she continued her habit of heading down to the lake. The weather got colder and colder – she kept on swimming.
“I decided to try winter swimming because I didn’t want to give up my hobby. You get used to the fact that the water just gets colder day by day”, says Kaisa.
There are a few popular spots for ice swimming in Lahti. Tuominen prefers a spot close to both her home and the city, Mukkula beach. The beach is right next to a nature reserve and it feels like you are far away from the city, when actually you are not.
“This spot is a short walk away from my home”, Kaisa explains. “Sometimes I bike here or take a route right through the nature reserve. I love that in Lahti you can enjoy the outdoors so easily. I even have a small plot not that far away in an allotment garden.”
According to the Finnish Society of Sport Sciences, about 150,000 Finns are regular ice swimmers. Physiologically, the icy water has similar effects on the body as cryotherapy. Cryotherapy is sometimes used in hospitals to relieve muscle pain and swelling caused by damage to soft tissue. A cold therapy treatment takes about a minute or two – the same as a dip in the lake. Winter swimming is also believed to be effective at relieving pain.
“I feel fresh after dipping in the cold water. All the tension that has built up during the day leaves my mind. I can feel the blood rushing through my veins”, says Kaisa.
Ice swimming can help to recover after a workout and with work-related stress. Most people go ice swimming after office hours. Instead of swimming laps, people do a few strokes or just have a quick dip in for a minute.
“I usually go swimming after work. I find it a good way to tell my brain to stop thinking about work. There are also not too many people swimming the same time as me then, so I also get a moment to be just by myself”, explains Kaisa. “When I take a dip, I just focus only on swimming. If I’m feeling overwhelmed or emotional, or if I’m stressed out, it all leaves my head the minute I get in the lake.”
How to bear the icy water?
“My friend got me started with this hobby, and ever since I started I’ve also encouraged my other friends to try it out. I love the outdoors, but sometimes it feels like in the winter there isn’t that much to do outside. Ice swimming is a great option for a winter outdoor activity because you don’t have to have snow”, says Kaisa.
The local ice swimming club recommends that first timers go ice swimming with a friend. Before you step into the water make sure you warm your muscles up and let your body cool down. You should never go straight from sauna into cold water or jump in head first. Diving or getting your head wet is also not recommended. Also, do not go ice swimming if you have a flu or are under the influence.
If you decide to go for it, take it easy. Take slow steps, because the area might be slippery. Take a quick dip if it is your first time: do not rush into swimming. If you are not used to the cold water you might feel a shortness of breath, but this is not dangerous. After swimming, put on warm clothes and have a warm drink.
For Lahti ice swimming map, visit www.lahdenavantouimarit.fi