Winter swimming is a fantastic example of Finnish madness. It perfectly represents the famous strength that flows through our Nordic veins. We fear not a dip into an icy hole, nor the frozen and pitch-black water underneath – more to the point, we actually enjoy it and long for the experience!
From the freezing water, we dash to another crazy hobby – sweating in a small room, more commonly known as a sauna. And that’s the method to the madness, baking steams between icy dips is key to the whole experience.
In all honesty, is there a nicer feeling than swimming in the ice and sweltering in the sauna, along with the total body euphoria that follows? No, no there is not.
Okay, we get it, winter swimming is wonderful. But why?
The list of probable health benefits of ice swimming are surprisingly large. Some of these are factually researched, whilst some are simply folklore or the experiences of individuals.
• Wellbeing - Winter swimming actually increases the production of happiness hormones such as dopamine and endorphin. (Could this be the reason why Finns are such a happy nation?)
• Speeds up the metabolism - Activates brown fat and the processing of waste products.
• Refreshing - Like throwing ice cold water on your face, but a full body version.
• Helps with pain - Cold treatment relieves pain and relaxes muscles.
• ZZZZZZ – The quality of sleep improves.
Winter swimming locations in the Turku region:
Falkinkoski winter swimming site
Masku Jääkarhut Assoc.
Saaronniemi Saukot Assoc.
Salon Seudun Avantouimarit Assoc.
Turun Avantouimarit Assoc.
Ispoinen Beach Sauna (also known as the Uittamo beach)
Turun Posti & Lennätinurheilijat Assoc.
Smoke sauna, peat treatments and hot tubs
Despite what the true fans of winter swimming might say, not everyone warms to this chilly pastime. If the idea of freezing water is not so attractive to you, don't beat yourself up, it's perfectly fine to stay in the sauna!
On the shore of Lake Littoinen, not only is there a hole in the ice, there’s also a hot tub. What luxury! If looking for the ultimate relaxation experience, weekdays at Villa Järvelä can include yoga, jogging, or sound therapy before a swim.
Here’s a top secret – only half an hour from central Turku you’ll discover a tar-scented oasis of recreation. Herrankukkaro hosts public sauna events open throughout the year, although at most other times the venue is for private groups only.
On the shores of the Archipelago Sea, become truly at ease in the glow of the storm lanterns. Here you can really unwind in the world's largest underground smoke sauna and hot tubs, before the evening culminates with an archipelago buffet.
Located at the tip of the Island of Kuusisto, the seaside Villa Wolax is, in every way, an idyllic place. A real paradise for sauna-goers, especially during winter, it's no wonder that Fridays at the Villa Wolax sauna are becoming so popular.
Sauna Fridays offer a refreshing wood-fired sauna, swimming, a Jacuzzi as well as a delicious buffet. Sauna Fridays begin again on 13th and 27th December, continuing through to early 2020. Events are open to all.
If you just want to go to the sauna, you don’t have to go far from the centre of Turku to relax in the heat. Forum Sauna has public saunas for women and men every Friday from 3pm to 6pm.
Tip: combine a visit to Forum Sauna with cupping therapy, leeching or peat treatments. The basic sauna shift instantly becomes a whole lot more interesting. On Fridays, you’ll also find washers in the sauna, from whom you can order a washing service.
Best with a group
Winter swimming is best enjoyed in good company. So grab a friend or two and head off to relax with this wonderful activity.
In other respects, Turku's winter swimming locations seem to have a very easy-going atmosphere. What’s best about this hobby is the chance to share your passion with likeminded people. While sitting on the bench with a group, a good feeling flows all around, with plenty of encouragement for one another on the pier. The sense of communal spirit is strong.
Tip: Saaronniemi Sauko have their own group of ‘cold-ring runners’. These are men and women who run a little loop on Tuesdays and Thursdays before heading to the ice and sauna. Pop you running shoes on and the right clothing, and get the heart rate pumping!
Text by Jemina Sormunen
Images provided by Visit Turku, Villa Järvelä and Turun Avantouimarit
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