It was right that on the agenda that the Visit Finland folks emailed me. I wasn’t sure they were serious or whether it was part of some sort of Finnish joke.
Finnish sauna is for every occasion in Finland, for business as much as for leisure. The Finns believe that due to its social nature and relaxing effect, the sauna is an excellent place for negotiations, and exchange of ideas and opinions. In ancient times, the sauna in Finland was linked to spiritual and religious ceremonies and healing. The sauna meant a quiet, peaceful place and a clean and warm haven. Saunas have always had a very strong significance and social importance.
The health benefits of ice swimming have been thoroughly researched. Due to the drastic changes in temperature the discharge of stress hormones is increased and both blood circulation and metabolism are improved. Studies have shown that people who swim regularly have significantly lower blood pressure and a better tolerance of the cold. Many swimmers say that all aches and pains disappear in the water.
You can feel the effects of ice swimming even after the very first dip in the icy water. Blood rushes through your veins, your body is pumped with adrenaline and the feeling of achievement brings a smile to your face: “I did it!”
Whaaaa?? Sauna? Fine, even if naked.
But Ice swimming??
What the heck had I gotten myself into on this trip?
My First Effort
My first sauna was in a small house in the Phyä-Luosto area up in Lapland that I was staying at for most of my trip. The sauna was male-only, and therefore we did the sauna portion naked, which was fine. Bit odd to be talking to a couple guys about the weather and such in the nude, but not that big a deal.
But before that, when I pulled up with my two wonderful local tourism folks/drivers/guides, they told me that it was easiest to just do the ice lake swimming right in the beginning, before your body warmed up in the sauna too much which would only highlight the difference in temperature more.
By the time I shuffled down the frozen path from the sauna building to the lake, my feet were frozen solid and I was completely and totally mentally psyched out by the whole experience.
(Side note here is that I didn’t do the lake swimming part naked, not only because I was going to video it, but because my camera person was one of my guides, both of which were women).
My Second Try
After my stay up around the Arctic Circle in Phyä-Luosto, I hopped back on a train and headed down to meet one of my favorite people in the world, Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic, for a couple days of hanging out in Tampere.
As soon as I got there, I told Ayngelina that we would be doing the frozen lake swimming. She had already done a sauna or two and loved the experience, but hadn’t jumped in the lake yet.
Time to overcome that mental hurdle.
A couple things to note. See that blurry photo over to the right? Those are the various temperatures in Celsius.
First is the temperature of the sauna. Below that is the temperature of the water. Last is the temperature of the air outside the sauna.
So, the water was 0.3 degrees Celsius — that is 32.54 degrees Fahrenheit. The temp inside the sauna was 91.4 degrees Celsius — that is 196.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Science review: water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) and boils at 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit).
We were just slightly short of being able to put out a glass of water and watching it boil in front of our eyes. I actually am more shocked by that than the water temperature.
The second oddity on this visit was when we learned that our local Finnish guide, a truly great guy named Ville who runs the Tampere Dream Hostel in town, had never gone ice swimming before. He was a regular sauna-goer, but had never jumped in the lake.
We were going to fix that oversight.
Lastly, do the sauna first to warm your body up. It doesn’t matter a bit once you hit the freezing water, but the steam that comes off you as you walk down to the water keeps you body warm for that part, at least. It makes a big difference.
In the continuing effort to work on my video skills, I give you my video proof of all the above…. with a good song (wait for the timing of “fool” about 20-25 seconds in).
I’m still working a lot on my shooting and editing skills, so any feedback that you have is more than welcome. I know I still have a ways to go, but if you’d like to subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep up with my progress, you can either click on the link that shows up in the lower right on this video or just click through here.
I was a guest of the Finnish Tourism Board as part of a Navigate Media Group project. Thanks to Visit Finland and Phyä-Luosto Tourist Board from sponsoring my eye opening journey through Finland in the winter. Though this trip was sponsored, obviously all the views (and photos and video) expressed herein are my own.
And if I get to go back later this year… yes, I WILL be doing this a few more times.