fbpx ← Back

How to get started and best practices

Your complete guide to cold plunging – Cold Corner

Find all the top tips, newest articles and insights related to cold plunging, cold therapy and ice bathing. Discover all the benefits from this column where we bring first hand experience and mix it with science. Whether you want to know how to start cold plunging or you want to enhance  your cold journey even further, this is for you.

Avanto – are we Finns a bit crazy or have we always been on to something?

Up here near the arctic circle where winters are cold and all the natural waters turn into ice, cold exposure is an inevitable part of our lives, whether we like it or not. The cold is in our genes, while some try to shelter from it, others embrace it. For generations Finns have known the benefits of cold-water bathing and made good use of the thousands of lakes surrounding us. Plunging into the avanto, swimming in cold waters, running from a steamy sauna and rolling naked in the snow – all of these used to seem borderline crazy when explaining it to others and most often the basic question “why,” would come up. It does seem like the obvious question to ask. But what´s the answer?

“Avanto”, referring to a hole cut into the ice to plunge and immerse in, is a Finnish tradition that dates all the way back to the 1600.1 This favourite Finnish past time that may have raised a few eyebrows in the past is catching wind and becoming very popular around the world. Almost like a secret that has been unlocked in the world of health and wellness that is becoming accessible to more and more people.

Many centuries ago, cold water immersion was used to cool down and cleanse the sweat from the sauna, our national pride and glory. 1 Yes, we Finns love our saunas with approximately 3 million saunas in a country with a population of a little over 5 million people. The combination of both hot and cold remains to this day as the routine way to relax after a hard week. Cold plunging from and to the sauna is a tradition that we enjoy with our families, friends, neighbours, and complete strangers.

Avanto has a history of being a way to bring people into the community. In 1923 the first registered winter swimming club was founded and since then the popularity has grown with 720 000 active members and many more non-registered dippers.1  Events and competitions started emerging for the public to enjoy and learn about cold exposure. The activity has become so established that there is even an official opening day and time span for what we call “winter swimming” which is from October to May. 1  The water temperatures during this time are so low that they mimic that of an ice bath.

In more professional setting, avanto has also been used as medical treatment for especially rheumatism since 1950s.2  Doctors back in the day would even organise horse carriages to take the patients to the local avanto and utilise the natural element of cold water as a way to ease the pain in their joints. 2

It was also well known among the Finns simply through observation that regular ice bathing kept the immune system up and the doctor away. It became an accessible way for even the poorer families to keep themselves healthy and protect themselves against diseases.

So how about now?

The winters in Finland remain long and dark with barely any sunlight. More people work indoors in offices and use heated cars to move around. In modern day Finland we have managed to find ways to shield ourselves from the cold through good clothing and insulation of our houses. This has caused our tolerance for cold to diminish from before. 2 We are now looking for that feeling and benefits that our ancestors have experienced before us. Many use cold plunging as a recreational way to build up tolerance against the cold. Improved blood circulation helps us to get outside to do our daily tasks without our fingers and toes immediately freezing up.

With these cold night-like days combined with sitting in front of screens comes added tiredness and seasonal depression. A dopamine rush from an ice bath works wonders to boost the mood and energy levels. It is a guaranteed pick me up solution for many. That and large amounts of coffee of course (fun fact Finland is the most caffeinated country in the world with the biggest coffee consumption per capita).

It remains a popular past time for all ages and genders for multiple reasons. It is not only for athletes or fitness enthusiast looking to improve performance, but it is for everyone. In fact, if you were to visit a local avanto spot in Finland, you might notice that there usually are more senior citizens. The older generations love braving the cold and soaking in the crispy feeling of icy waters.

For me, and many of my fellow Finns, the answer to why is a very simple one – because it makes you feel great. We didn´t need the science to convince us, we had the experience from our grandparents and great grandparents. That was all the explanation that us Finns needed. The feeling of relaxation, freshness, and satisfaction is what keeps us hooked. Or so we might think, scientist may argue that in reality there is a chance that it is due to the release of endorphins that contribute in forming addictions.2  However that may be, the tradition goes on and I for one will soon head out to the nearby avanto for a fresh dip.

It does makes me think – Finland really is the home of pure cold.