A popular activity in Iceland is to go swimming in the ocean and its popularity has been growing rapidly the last years. Now, that would sound normal to most people except the fact that the ocean here is a little colder than most people would consider swimming in:)
I just came from this weeks swim in the ocean, and today the ocean temperature was 1°C/ 34°F, which is the coldest i´ve been in so far. In this temperature you can only swim for a few minutes but the most experienced swimmers can last around 15-20 minutes.
The facilities down at Reykjaviks only beach resort, Nautholsvik are excellent. They provide swimmers with hot showers, exchange rooms and steaming hot tubs to melt in after the swim. They are open in the noon and evening of every weekday.
Icelanders believe that this activity is good for your mind, body and spirit. It is in accordance to our beliefs that we are the descendants of strong people that survived the harsh winters of isolation and hardship for ages.
The benefits of winter ocean swimming are not only based on belief though, it also has scientific acknowledgement credited to it. By jumping from cold to hot extremes like this your body reacts by strengthening your immune system and increasing the levels of white blood cells. Your blood circulation and lymphatic movement will improve and your metabolism will increase. This results in an overall improved person with increased levels of wellbeing and energy.
The feeling of melting of in the hot tub after the refreshing ocean is hard to describe. Once you get the hang of this one, you are hooked! Consider yourself warned :)