Hands up if you have never complained about the temperature of the water before entering the pool for training or warming up before a race. Well, icy water swimmers would laugh at your complaints.
There is, in fact, an international organisation – the IISA, International Ice Swimming Association, founded in 2009 – for promoting swimming in icy waters, officially classed as water below a temperature of 5°C. How does it do this? By organising competitions over various distances for swimmers wearing ordinary swimsuits: they must be standard swimsuits that do not reach below the knee and must not be wider than shoulder width or above the neck for women. You are allowed to wear a swimming cap, goggles and earplugs.
Photo Credit: (Bárbara Hernández H.) @barbarehlla_h
The South African swimmer, Ram Barkai, who founded the IISA, also set the rules – the idea is to create a unified international schedule of competitions and specific rules for safety purposes. Ice Mile swimming races are held in icy cold waters wearing the type of swimsuits described above. The Association’s website provides a list of all the “ice swimmers” who have successfully completed this event from 2009 to the present day.
It is also worth mentioning the manager from Genoa, Paolo Chiarino, Italy’s Ice Swimming ambassador, who completed an Ice Mile in 2015 in Lake Montorfano in the province of Como, when the water temperature was 4.2°C – ambient temperature 7°C – in just over half an hour.
Some athletes have said that to complete an Ice Mile you need to feel invincible in some sense. Every Ice Mile is a battle against yourself. So, what are the effects of icy water on the body?
During an Ice Mile you encounter phenomena all associated with “fight or flight” situations. In other words, your central nervous system release hormones, including adrenaline, that prepare your body to run away or fight. When we feel a threat or danger, subconscious mechanisms are triggered that are out of our control. They are quite normal and often emerge before we are even consciously aware of them.
So, why is there such a thing as ice swimming and why is it becoming increasingly popular? It is definitely a test of physical-mental stamina and, like many other extreme sports, those taking part embrace the chance to learn something about themselves.
The people who take part in events like this get a rush of endorphins: the outcome is a lasting feeling of euphoria and calmness that continues for an entire day.
You might now be interested in trying it out… we will soon be giving you with some tips.