For some reason, otherwise perfectly sane individuals, choose to plunge themselves into icy, freezing cold water each year on New Year’s Day. These “polar bear plunges” have traditionally involved thousands of participants and plenty of spectators. However, many events could be cancelled or virtual this year due to social distancing guidelines. Never fear, if you still desire to test your cold-water threshold, the solution might be right in your own backyard. Should you plan a “polar bear plunge” in your pool? Absolutely! Here are a few tips to keep your event fun, successful, and safe.
History of the Plunge
How did the polar bear plunge start? While many cultures have encouraged cold water bathing for centuries, The Coney Island Polar Bear Club claims to be “the oldest winter bathing club in the United States.” The Coney Island Club has been going strong since its founding in 1903. The popularity of these polar bear plunges has grown exponentially in the last hundred years. People all over the country commonly don crazy costumes and take the challenge each year. Most participants do it for fun, excitement, or to raise money for charity.
When You Shouldn’t Plunge
Polar bear plunges are not recommended for individuals with certain health risks. In an interview with ABC News, Dr Thomas Traill, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, explains that the cold water causes increased heart rate and blood pressure. Therefore, anyone with “high blood pressure or another underlying heart condition” should be evaluated by their doctor before swimming in glacial temperatures.
Take Time to Prepare
Many seasoned polar bear plungers recommend acclimating your body to frigid water in advance. Even a small amount of preparation can reduce the shock of cold water to your system. Most people experience a feeling of hyperventilation or difficulty holding a breath when first submerged in the freezing water. But how can you prepare your body for such an extreme temperature change? It’s simple. Take a few frosty showers to acclimate to the frigid temperature.
What About Hypothermia
We’ve all seen the movies; we know what happens when you get wet in wintry weather. Hypothermia, right? Not really. There’s not much risk of an adult getting hypothermia unless you spend more than 30 minutes in the water. Let’s face it, most people probably won’t be spending a half an hour immersed in these conditions. Just be sure to towel off quickly and change into dry clothing immediately afterward.
How to Plunge
While many favor the Band-Aid approach of jumping in and getting it over with, wading into the water slowly is recommended by medical experts. This method might require more willpower, but it also gives the body more time to acclimate to the icy water. And think again if you’re looking for some “liquid courage” to take the plunge. Alcohol should not be imbibed prior to swimming because it actually lowers your body temperature.
Finally, remember this is best enjoyed as a group activity. Friends don’t let friends plunge alone! Safety should always come first. If you are planning to start off the new year with an icy dip, let our experts test your water in preparation for the big event. We’ll make sure it’s safe and sound for the ultimate backyard polar bear plunge.