Half of Two Small Potatoes doing the polar plunge in Switzerland

How to Survive the Polar Plunge in Switzerland

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Since I was a little girl, I looked forward to the days when I could don my favorite swimsuit and hit the beach, lake, river. Just about any body of water would do.

During the years my mom, sister, and I lived in North Idaho, I spent most of my summer waking hours submerged beneath the placid viridian waters of the St. Maries River. With friends, we swam with suckers, craw dads, and the occasional trout. Pretending I was a mermaid, I fervently wished I would magically be transformed into a dolphin so I could live in the water forever.

Never in all my fantasies did I imagine myself as a polar bear or dream of dog paddling among icebergs.

But who hasn’t, at some point in their life, wanted to do a polar plunge, swimming in the dead of winter?

I know I have.

Sheets of ice on Lake Schiffenensee during my polar plunge in Switzerland
Inviting for a swim, eh?

When a couple of crazy adventurous friends invited me last week, I said,

Sure! Why not?

What could it hurt?

Let’s do a polar plunge!

On the Big Day, I was all set to go until I woke up that morning, saw the six inches of snow on the ground, and realized that staying at home wrapped in my toasty comforter sounded much more inviting.

In short, I chickened out.

See. I’m a chicken, not a polar bear.

Swimming with friends in Switzerland in February
Dorota just walks straight in. Without allowing myself time to think, I follow her. Apparently the answer to the age-old question is, “Yes Mom, if a friend jumps off a bridge, I would too.”

Luckily, these friends had wholly embraced the rejuvenating powers of polar swimming.

They’d decided to go every week, leaving me no shortage of opportunities to accept their persistent and uncannily convincing standing invitation.

But first I asked them how we’d even survive the polar plunge.

They assured me they had it covered. They knew just what to do.

1. First, we’d warm up with some yoga and running.

Shouldn’t this make it more difficult to get in?

2. Then, it would only be uncomfortable for a few minutes;

Until you lose feeling in your extremities.

3. Afterwards, we could have tea.

Apparently tea cures hypothermia.

Whether it was the chance to bond with new friends, to assuage my injured pride after initially backing out, or the offer of tea, I couldn’t say no again.

So it was that a Pole, a Swiss, and two Americans ended up at Lake Schiffenensee.

For swimming.

In February.

Dorota doing the polar plunge in Switzerland
Dorota is cool as a cucumber.
Doing the polar plunge in Switzerland in February
My attempt at “cool as a cucumber” fails miserably.

Not only were they right about it being exhilarating and only temporarily uncomfortable (the feeling in my toes came back in less than an hour), but it was empowering to go with a fun group of wild ladies.

Winter swimming with friends in Switzerland
Wild and wacky friends are the spice of life.

The endorphin rush kept me hopped up on HAPPY for hours afterwards, and the tea – don’t get me started on the tea. Homemade chai, steeped with love, with a generous dollop of syrupy sweet honey in a piping hot thermos.

No drink has ever tasted so good.

Not even coffee.

Not even alcohol.

I debated about pouring the cupful over my block-like frozen toes, but it just tasted too good.

Warming up after winter swimming on Lake Schiffenensee, Switzerland
Our small group of hardy ladies survives the polar plunge at Lake Schiffenensee, Switzerland.

So am I hooked on the polar plunge?

Not necessarily.

I don’t feel the need to take daily ice-cold showers to acclimate to the cold or swim habitually in sub-zero temperatures.

Will I swim with icebergs again?

Very likely.

Not only are we already planning a nighttime swim with a bonfire, but next time, I might even take my hat off.

Here are more outdoor activities in Switzerland for those who love DIY travel.

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