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Motherhood and Ice Swimming: How Baby Joy Found Her Perfect Balance"

First Experiences

Abby, a 36-year-old Filipina, embarked on a life-changing journey when she moved to Finland eight years ago. As a registered nurse in a hospital's emergency department, she overcame the language barrier by learning Finnish to better serve her patients. Despite the initial challenges of moving alone without relatives, Abby found success in her profession and continues to make a difference in the lives of her patients every, but her true passion is swimming in icy water:

Motherhood and Ice Swimming by Foreigners in Finland
Photo by Juha Roisko

"Back in the Philippines, I used to go to Ace Water Spa, an indoor facility similar to what we have here in Finland at Urheiluhallit, but much better, especially for families. It was there that I first experienced immersing myself in very cold water, not just once but many times. Picture a small cold pool surrounded by four thermal pools with temperatures ranging from 37-40°C, all complemented by nearby saunas and steam rooms."

Motherhood and Ice Swimming

Abby's real name is Baby Joy. She is a joyful, expectant mother anticipating her baby's arrival in spring. On a sunny day at the stunning Oodi library in the heart of Helsinki, she carries her radiant baby bump and explains her hobby with enthusiasm:

"I remember it was July 2023 when I achieved my new record of 50 minutes in an indoor cold pool (6-8°C). Surprisingly, I didn't know that a month later, I conceived my first baby. I didn't stop my ice baths; it became a routine for me. I would dip 3-5 times a week. If I couldn't do an outdoor ice bath, I'd go to Urheiluhallit or use our ice water tub. Sometimes, I'd dip straight into the cold water without a sauna and other times, I'd include a sauna session in between.

Ice swimming and health benefits

Despite being exposed to sick patients daily at work, she didn't get sick throughout her pregnancy. She also didn't experience typical pregnancy symptoms like nausea, vomiting, swelling, or back pain. The only noticeable change was her growing bump. She continues:

I believe my previous hobbies helped me create a healthy environment for my baby. Before pregnancy, I had many hobbies. Alongside my favorite ice baths, I'm an active yoga enthusiast. I meditate, run, bike, and swim." Ice baths helped me a lot to strengthen my endurance and stamina, stay fit, and increase my tolerance to pain...something that will truly help me when labor starts. 

Abby, now known as Baby Joy, reminds pregnant women who enjoy ice swimming to check with their healthcare provider first. Cold water can cause hypothermia, and sudden exposure to frigid water may not be advisable during pregnancy. Always prioritize safety measures, such as swimming with a buddy, and consider personalized medical advice before making a decision. This advice is crucial to ensure the safety and well-being of both the mother and the baby.

Motherhood and ice swimming by Foreigners in Finland
Photo by Juha Roisko

Ice swimming as a lifelong hobby

"I have been doing ice swimming in Finland for more than 8 years now. So, it means I have been very active in cold dip/ice swimming during my entire stay in Finland. 

Abby's tolerance to cold water started by enduring it for a few seconds and gradually increased by minutes. As of this moment, her personal record was 50 minutes in a 6-8'C indoor cold pool and 16 minutes in an outdoor pool during a snowstorm with an air temperature of -22'C.

I'll never forget the day I set my first personal record of 16 minutes during a snowstorm with an air temperature of -22°C. I was at Allas Sea Pool, and the Baltic Sea temperature was 0°C at that time. - After the dip, I had to dry off, put on warm clothes, and head to the sauna to warm up. It was quite amusing because people questioned why I was wearing warm clothes inside the sauna. I laughed and explained later. There are many ways to recover quickly; you just need to find what works best for you. What works for me may not work for others. Like any sport, prepare yourself thoroughly before engaging in an extreme activity. Learn survival skills and techniques.

Ice swimming is a lifelong hobby and sport for me. I plan to resume it 6 weeks postpartum to aid in my body's faster recovery. Based on my experiences, I believe that immersing myself in cold water helps me recover from trauma or illnesses. Our bodies react differently—cold water might work well, expresses Abby, while warm water could benefit others. It's important for everyone to understand how their body responds to various treatments.

Experiencing ice swimming

Abby continues: "I consider this hobby an extreme sport, and I do not encourage everyone to do the same because it has its own risks for those who are not prepared; however, an ice bath has many health benefits to offer. Just know your limits, and you will be fine. "

Cold water immersion can be a powerful practice for enhancing resilience as it challenges your body to adapt to discomfort, fostering mental toughness. Engaging in this activity requires mindfulness, as the cold water demands your full attention, promoting a meditative state where you concentrate on the present moment. 

When I moved to Finland, life was challenging, especially as a foreigner facing numerous obstacles. Life can be incredibly tough if you can't lift yourself up when alone or feeling down. Your mind can easily take control, particularly in a negative state. It's vital to maintain self-control and be mindful of your actions. That's why cold water immersion, yoga, and my other sports have helped me and continue to strengthen my confidence and endurance. When I feel strong, I believe I can conquer life's challenges. If I can endure the cold, I can endure life's hardships. Whether feeling weak or strong, I always turn to ice baths to maintain my balance.

Encounters with ice swimming enthusiast

Abby has encountered foreigners and Finns who explore their limits and enjoy ice swimming or cold water immersion as part of their bucket list. 

She frequently visits Sompasauna, which is only about 1.5km from her place. She discovered a community of ice bathers at Eiranranta and had the opportunity to join them once during winter.

" From what I've observed, Finns tend to be more actively engaged in ice swimming, while foreigners and tourists often try it for fun or the experience—some continue, while others simply check it off their list, "she explains. Finnish people are usually amazed and curious about how a foreigner like me, who is originally from a warm country, can enjoy ice swimming. They frequently praise my tolerance for the cold, and when I'm in the sauna, they often ask for tips and techniques on staying longer in the cold. I'm not a professional myself; like any sport, I simply prepare and condition my body—before, during, and after an ice bath.

Abby clarifies that while ice swimming may not be suitable for everyone, those who can safely engage in this activity may experience a range of physical and mental health benefits. It's essential to approach it responsibly, be mindful of personal health considerations, and consult a doctor before attempting ice swimming.

"Like any other beginner, it was incredibly challenging at first. I could only stay in the cold water for a few seconds before rushing to the sauna to warm up. Over time, I gradually built my tolerance to the cold until reaching a point where I could do an ice bath without needing the sauna afterward—just warm clothes, tea, and chocolates. I can't recall ever getting sick after ice swimming. In fact, I find that I heal faster when I feel unwell. My body seems more accustomed to the cold than the hot weather.

Motherhood and ice swimming by Foreigners in Finland
Photo by Juha Roisko

"Motivation is crucial in life. When we're truly motivated, we'll tackle challenges and difficult paths with determination. Passion is equally important—we should pursue what we genuinely enjoy. Combining motivation and passion leads to the successful life we aspire to have."


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