“Every Saturday, at 9 a.m., I have only one thing in mind..."
"It gives me so much energy!"
Ever since 2015, Anne Kristin Møller has been hooked on ice bathing. It has become her regular ritual every single Saturday morning.
It's no doubt a frosty experience.
Why does she love it so much?
A quick search on "ice bathing" on social media makes it seem like this freezing activity is the only thing Norwegians do these days. And that's actually not so far from the truth. In recent years, ice bathing has become a very popular trend in Norway. But why do so many choose to freeze voluntarily? Do they actually enjoy it, or do they just want to look tough?
Anne Kristin Møller would be the right person to answer that. She has been an eager ice bather since 2015. Having recently publishing a book about ice bathing, it's safe to call her an expert on the subject.
"Every Saturday at 9 a.m., I prepare myself mentally and get very focused. I am going down to get new energy," she says about the weekly ritual she has had for the past seven years.
For Anne Kristin, it all started back in 2015 when she was one of 320 people that took part in an event to set a new Norwegian ice bathing record at Tjuvholmen in Oslo. She describes it as a "very refreshing experience" that got her hooked – this was to be her new hobby.
"The rush you feel in your body and the contrast of going from cold to warm is an absolutely fantastic experience. It gives me great joy in life, and is good for both body and soul. At the same time, it makes me very focused."
Anne Kristin thinks that might be the main reason people love it so much. Experiencing nature that way is also very special, she adds.
"I always get so surprised at how beautiful the nature is, showing itself from a new side every time. There is an incredible silence at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings, when almost nobody else is outside yet. It feels like receiving a gift when you walk towards the bathing jetty, and it's easy to get euphoric."
Lives in Oslo and is an experienced and keen ice bather.
In 2021, she published the book Isbading Norge rundt – 25 unike steder ("Ice bathing around Norway - 25 unique places").
“It gives me great joy in life, and is good for body and soul.”
According to Psykologisk.no, there are many health benefits associated with ice bathing. For example, it can reduce stress and fatigue.
You can also experience an enormous sense of accomplishment. It's a rush that instantly makes you feel truly present in the moment.
This is caused by the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, which the brain secretes to cope with the cold shock.
“Ice bathing is an outdoor social activity that gives everyone involved a real kick.”
It's fun no matter if you're a beginner or more experienced. Too much ice? Gather your friends and make a hole in the ice before bathing!
Being in the cold water makes the perfect conditions for mindfulness, and can also be a way to challenge yourself.
How long will you last?
A good tip is to bring something hot to drink right after your ice bath. Hot water bottles can also be used to heat up your cold fingers.
And of course, having access to a hot sauna is a real luxury. Invite your friends and rent one for a day!
With the rising interest in ice bathing, new ice bathing clubs have appeared throughout Norway. There are now over 100 different clubs from the south to the north.
"There was a survey that said that 1 in 5 Norwegians plan to go ice bathing this winter. That's around 1 million people. There can never be too much ice bathing. I think we need to get out of our comfort zone and challenge the forces of nature," says Anne Kristin enthusiastically.
She also points out that it's a great way to make new friends or find local guides in the places you visit.
"There is an ice bathing club almost everywhere in the country, and it's easy to find them. Just google 'ice bathing' and the name of the place you are visiting, or look for Facebook groups. In most places, you can join a guest bath, or join the club in time."
You can have experiences that will remember for a long time. For Anne Kristin, one of the most special moments was when she took a dip in the Arctic waters off Svalbard.
"When I was working on my book, I wanted to bathe in a place that was not so close to the city, so I sailed on M/S Polargirl to Nordenskiöldbreen in Billefjorden, a four-hour boat ride from Longyearbyen. Bathing between the ice floes was my most exotic ice bath ever, in many ways. Just a few days later, polar bears were spotted in the exact same spot where we had been."
...might be wise to stick to the safer bathing jetties in town!
Don't worry, that's totally normal. Anne Kristin has some good advice on how to gradually get comfortable with the cold water shock and become a regular ice bather.
"The easiest way to start is to not stop bathing when the summer is over. Then you will get a natural transition from warmer water to cold water, and your body will adapt to the cold water more easily," she says.
She also recommends finding a friend that wants to take part in the same hobby.
"It's nice to have a regular bathing day and a friend who wants to join you. Both because you have more fun together, but also because of safety reasons."
See Anne Kristin's five best tips on how make your ice bathing experience as smooth as possible below.
1. Never stop swimming when summer is over, to slowly get used to the colder water.
2. Practice with ice-cold water when you shower, or have a cold foot bath before bedtime as often as possible.
3. Bring a hat, gloves and socks to wear when you are bathing. And remember: you don't need to dip your head underwater.
4. Bring something hot to drink right after, or a tub you can fill with hot water to warm the feet (just make sure the temperature is not too high).
5. Look for a place with a dock ladder for swimming, so you can go down into the water slowly, and get back up again quickly, if you need to. Take a deep breath!
And remember: always swim with others, in case of an emergency!
"The ultimate place is Svalbard.
The Arctic climate provides some of the most pristine and untouched nature we have in Norway. You can ice bathe all year round there too."
"You can also either be adventurous and go for an ice bath in the wild (beware of the bears), or do it more comfortably at the floating sauna SvalBad in the Arctic waters of Longyearbyen Harbour."
"Two reasons: there, you find one of Norway's biggest and oldest ice bathing clubs, Ishud ("Ice skin"). They are still recruiting new members and arrange free tours for both tourists and locals to a popular bathing spot called Telegrafbukta in Tromsø in Northern Norway."
"The other reason is the architect-designed, award-winning sauna Pust, worth a visit in its own, in downtown Tromsø."
"One of the most beautiful places I know in Norway is Bodø, also in Northern Norway. It has fantastic beaches, almost like in the Mediterranean. They also have a very keen ice bathing group, Bodø Penguins, that meets almost every day for a swim in Kvalvika, close to the city."
"Åfjord in Trøndelag has its own ice bathing festival, Vinterbadefestivalen, featuring swimming sessions and lectures, and parties in the evenings at Stoksund and Kuringen, and at Hosnasand, on Stokkøya island. The closest hotels, Kuringen Bryggehotell and Stokkøya Strandhotell, have spa and sauna facilities. There's even a wonderful little beach nearby them."
"The beautiful island Karmøy, on the west coast of Norway, is popular in the summer and known for its SILK Literature and Culture Festival in the wintertime. But apart from that, the place has been pretty quiet in winter. However, with a new bathing jetty and a sauna that looks like a lighthouse, people now flock there to swim year round."
In addition to these, there are thousands of spots on the long Norwegian coastline and in Norway's many lakes, just waiting to be explored.
Are you up for the challenge?
Discover the cool saunas in Norway and find out where you want to go.
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