One of the things on our list to do in Finland was to try ice swimming or what the Finns call avantouinti. Ice swimming is a body of water with a frozen crust of ice. You must either break the ice or enter where a spring keeps the water from freezing over. We went to Nuuksio. This is in the National Forrest and we went there in the fall for mushroom picking and sauna with Tekla Family Club. This time we contacted Pekka at Nuuksio and just our family was there. We swam in a spot where the ice was broken by hand. The ice was probably 10cm thick. Natalie with the help of Pekka took a snow shovel and cracked the thin layer of ice that had formed on the hole from the previous night. Swimming in the ice hole is very good for the blood circulation and resistance.
Before ice swimming you enjoy warming up in a traditional Finnish sauna. Sauna is pronounced sow- na. We went to a place that has a smoke sauna or in Finnish the savusauna. This is my favorite type of sauna. This sauna does not have a chimney. The wood is burned in a kind of stove with stones above it. The smoke fills the room. Once the sauna is hot enough the fire can die out. We took a shovel and removed the hot coals into a special container outside of the sauna. The smoke is then ventilated out. Smoke saunas provide a mystical “löyly” – a combination of heat, steam and atmosphere, and are highly prized by sauna aficionados because of the deep relaxation it delivers. “Löyly” in smoke sauna is very gentle and soft, not dry at all. I would describe as a very smooth feeling. Other saunas can cause my skin to feel uncomfortable, but the smoke sauna is softer and more relaxing. We toss water onto the rocks in the sauna to cause steam. Before we got in the sauna we rinsed in the shower. Most saunas you are completely nude. Not a big deal in Finland. But as Americans we tend to be a little modest with our bodies and with our own family we wear swimsuits, but at our sauna in our home we do select to be nude. You should always sit on a towel or special sauna paper. The girls and I brought our robes and wore them out to the smoke sauna.
Sauna has always been considered the source of energy and health in Finland. When some studies say that sauna is a health risk, Finns find the conclusion rather amusing. An old Finnish adage says an ailment only to be deadly if liquor, tar, and sauna cannot cure it.
After several minutes in the sauna and getting nice and hot. We made our way down the dock to the swimming hole. I decided I would go first so that I could then help with the girls getting in to daddy since they are not swimmers. I received some advice from another American that had gone in the previous night and she said, “Just do it!” Get right in fast. I kept saying that in my head. I felt like I dipped myself in for a while, but after watching the video it didn’t look as long. My lower legs were quite cold! As I look back it was refreshing! My plan to stay and help the girls quickly changed as I felt the need to get right back into the sauna. After a few minutes I made my way back with the girls and Christian. Christian quickly got in and waited for Ella which ended up not doing it and so I quickly grabbed Natalie to go in to her dad. Everyone climbed out and we quickly returned to the sauna.
You can feel the effects of winter swimming even after the very first dip in the icy water. Blood rushes through your veins, your body is pumped with adrenaline and the feeling of achievement brings a smile to your face: “I did it!”
I did a little search and found these benefits of winter/ice swimming
The health benefits of winter swimming
• better tolerance of cold
• fewer colds
• fewer aches and pains
• better circulation
• lower blood pressure
• a refreshed mind
• a lessening of stress
• improved sleep
All in all I would do it again! Thumbs up for ice swimming with sauna!!
A few days later Ella ended up getting strep throat. She was the only one that did not go ice swimming. The rest of us did and have stayed healthy. Go figure…
I hope you enjoy our video of our Avantouinti experience.