What better way to treat a Saturday night hangover than swim in the Vltava river on a Prague winter Sunday morning! Moreover, this ritual takes place all year long and in summer is followed by a volleyball match!
Okay, I know that must sound absolutely insane to most of you, as it did to my friends when they found out I did this hours after we were clubbing to the early Sunday hours…but it ended up being a great way to start the day!
At about 10 am (after a good three-hour nap) I met up with all the other insane morning polar bears at the sandy volleyball courts of Žluté lázně. It was a sunny, but cold frosty winter morning. I was soon introduced to Jakub Lunga, personal trainer and organizer of the weekly Prague ice baths event. He talked me through some of the benefits of icy water baths and how we were going to prepare our bodies and minds for the experience.
Swimming in cold water may not sound very therapeutic to some, but cold water immersion works wonders on your immune system. Through causing our lymph vessels to contract, our immune system is prompted to detoxing our bodies from any unwanted substances. It also allows our muscles to relax and serves as an exhilarating energy and mood boost.
Although I was legitimately dreading the experience on the tram ride there, the energy at the place was so lively and fun that I quickly forgot what we were all about to do. Everyone was in a lively mood and the music was pumping us all up for the experience. Jakub asked if I brought any diving shoes or something for my feet, as that area was the most uncomfortable part to immerse. I lamentably told him I forgot to pack that, all I had were my Doc Martins.
…well next time then.
After a 15-minute workout to some motivational music, we approached the banks of the river together. I focused on my breathing, relaxed and slowly immersed my entire body. Controlling my breath allowed me to surrender to the experience, even if it felt like a thousand tiny, cold but hot burning needles were piercing through my body simultaneously. I think I stayed for a total of three minutes, I swam and floated on my back for a little while. Although it was a cold frosty day, there was a dreamy winter sun above spreading a little sunshine over us. I dipped my head under until the sounds of the people chatting amongst me and music drowned away. Euphoria.
My fingers were starting to feel a little numb after the three-minute mark. I was a little bit nervous about that and decided to get out. My body felt like it was on fire, and my fingers and toes felt like they were about to break. I had my towel at close reach and dried off. My body felt so hot that it didn’t really feel like it took that long to dry. I joined some of the others who got out at the same time for some stretches and exercises. An ice bath regular, Petra introduced me to some exercises that Wim Hoff, the dutch extreme athlete known as The Iceman does after ice baths to relax the body to a state of equilibrium. We did some more exercises and started dancing, it felt like I was back in the club!
Jakub offered me a hot drink and ran me through how I should expect to feel in the next few hours. He told me to avoid a hot water shower three hours post-dip, and that I might feel either very tired or very energized. I felt a mixture of both. I had a lot of energy until about 3 pm. I walked to Jiřího z Poděbrad, had lunch, then crashed for the rest of the day. Compared to most days when I wake up from a night out and I feel like a shell of a human, I felt glowing!
Fancy taking a dip? The polar bears meet up every Sunday morning at 10 am at the beach volleyball courts at Žluté lázně. You can follow the group at Otužilci-Žluté lázně. Although it’s Czech it’s an English-speaking event and everyone is super welcoming!