Winter Swimming: A Growing Trend in the Czech Republic

Despite freezing temperatures, many Czechs enjoy taking a dip in winter, and the benefits which it brings. Soldiers from the Czech Army have shared photos of their experiences swimming in a frozen lake. Photo credit: Candida.Performa – Cold Dipping, via Wikimedia Commons under license CC BY 2.0.

Czech Rep., Jan 19 (BD) – One way to acclimatise for the winter is what some might call the hard way. As people search for ways to boost their immunity and improve their mental health, many have turned to cold-exposure and winter swimming. What Czechs call otužování (‘hardening’) has become increasingly popular in recent years. 

In the past few months, the coronavirus situation has further aroused people’s curiosity about winter swimming, as public pools have been closed. This pastime is well known for its many benefits, such as improving circulation, reducing stress, fighting depression, and building connections with friends. 

A traveller from Latvia who is passionate about cold exposure and winter running told Brno Daily that: ‘‘The cold brings you back to nature, to your senses. It’s also one of the fastest ways to learn to cope with stress.’’ The growing trend of winter swimming also goes back to the release of the heartwarming film Bába z ledu (‘Ice Mother’) in 2017. 

Yesterday, temperatures dropped below -20°C in the Czech Republic. Shortly afterwards, the Czech Army tweeted: ‘‘We strengthen immunity, we need to stay healthy,’’ with pictures of soldiers swimming in the icy waters.

The method involves slow exposure to cold and building up to be able to withstand colder temperatures. But if you don’t fancy it, there are several ways to ‘harden’ without jumping into a lake. You can also try:

  • Taking cold showers or baths
  • Wearing less layers
  • Turning down the heating at home
  • Opening the windows 
  • Exercising outdoors

Dutch athlete Wim Hof, also known as The Iceman, who is renowned for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures, explained that: ‘’The cold water is merciless, but righteous. It resets the body and this is what creates balance and allows us to be in our right place.’’ 

Brno expat Chun Kong Mak also advocates winter swimming. The record-breaking swimmer from Hong Kong swam across the English Channel after his recovery from coronavirus. Read more about what motivated him to complete the challenge here.

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