You’ve just signed up for your first Polar Plunge. Now what? We’ll let just assume you’ve hit up all your friends and family and raised a ton of money for the Special Olympics. Now there is only one thing left to do. But do you have any idea what you just got yourself into? Don’t worry, I got you covered with all the Polar Plunge tips.
My First Plunge
As the polar plunge got closer and closer, the realization of what I was about to do started to get to me. I would wake up in the morning in the week leading up, step outside to let the dogs out, and go, “it’s not that bad”.
But whenever I would leave work, in my nice warm pullover and coat, I would feel the cold breeze hitting my face. This is when the panic starts to set in. I started a frantic search for Polar Plunge Tips everywhere to see what I was getting myself into.
What should I wear? I need something that I can get off quickly, but don’t mind jumping into freezing cold water. Do I go for more coverage? Or less? What would be the easiest to get off after my jump? How long will I have to walk on the ice before jumping in? How far away is the changing tent after I jump?
What shoes should I wear? I need two pairs, one to jump in and one to wear after. How deep is the water going to be? What if I panic and need assistance getting out of the water! OMG, what am I thinking!!
Before going to the event, our team captain reminded us of the Special Olympics Oath: Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. I guess there is no going back now. Especially after the struggles, so many others face. What’re a few minutes of being uncomfortable?
Polar Plunge Day
The team of volunteers that puts on the Polar Plunge is incredible. At our jump location, they arranged multiple different shuttles that would bring you there and back. The shuttles were supposed to run every 15 minutes but in reality, they went every 2-5 minutes.
Arriving at the Plunge people are everywhere in a rush of excitement of those that had just gone and those gearing up to do there. Along the sidelines for the main event, your cheering crowd could sit in bleachers, or watch the action up close with the big-screen monitors.
Our team was fortunate enough to raise enough money to be able to go into the VIP tent. It was heated with free food, drinks, and tables. They had monitors in there so you didn’t miss out on any of the action outside.
If you were not fortunate enough to get in there, outside was just as much fun. They had food trucks lined up, music playing, and my personal favorite a fire pit with free Smores. They also had other free giveaways and a heated tent area with other activities that anyone could go to.
Throughout the day, I was gauging what others were wearing, and wondering if I was appropriately dressed. I was doing everything I could to get Polar Plunge tips before it was my turn. I got responses from seasoned jumpers like “you want to wear less, not as cold getting out”.
Others recommended wearing more coverage. I decided to skip the long shirt and just go in my t-shirt. I was not surrendering my yoga pants for shorts. Somewhere in-between all of their advice sounded good. Then the time arrived when our group was up. Everyone started to head for the changing room. I kissed my husband goodbye and grabbed my changing bag.
Once you enter the changing area, the tents split off for Men and Women. For those that are modest, be warned… when you get out of the water, no one cares. We put our stuff down and headed out to the staging area. The men’s and women’s tents merged into that tented area, still heated up. We had scheduled our jump for 2pm. It was more a suggestion than a required time to help ease congestion.
This year, we were limited to only 5 jumpers at a time this year because of the ice thickness. Our entire group started to move out to the docks for the group picture. This was when my nerves really got to me.
There was no backing out now. The crowd would have trampled me. Luckily I had a friend of mine who promised to jump with me and hold my hand. With all pictures complete, we started to move out single file to the jumping platform.
The water wasn’t that deep. If you jumped straight, it would have only gone to your waist. But that didn’t stop others from doing all kinds of things like belly-flopping, cannonballs, and pencil jumps.
My turn. I line up. The announcers yell 3, 2, 1 jump. I take a leap. Instincts took over and I jumped, knees bent. I have no idea what caused me to bend my knees. The cold rushed all up my body. As I was going in, I keep thinking about just how cold my feet are. Then I felt it cold over my head.
OMG, I just went under and all I could think was about how cold it was! Bone-chilling cold! I was frantically trying and get up to the surface. After just standing and coming to the surface I realized that my jump friends were not next to me, but a few feet in front. I heard them yelling my name. One came back to grab my hand and lead me to the exit.
I was in such a state of shock over what I had just didn’t I didn’t even dawn on me to move my legs and get out. I probably would have gotten over the initial shock and found my way without the medical assistant that was standing by, but at that moment, I couldn’t be sure.
I’m not sure what was colder, the ice water or the walk back to the heated tent. Both of which were only about 10 feet, but a slow 10 feet due to the traffic jam of people walking. No one runs and we all kinda bunched up trying to get back into the warmth. Getting into the tent again was like stepping off an airplane in a tropical destination.
The second we hit the warm tent and all coldness disappeared. It must have been a combination of adrenaline and acclimating to the temp.
Now that you are inside the warm tent, there is only one mission. Get into some comfy dry clothing. We all got our bags and immediately start to strip down. Everyone was exchanging their stories of how wet we all got. Even though the experience lasted all of 60 seconds total in the water, there are still stories.
Everyone’s experience is a little different. I packed up my wet stuff and headed out to meet my husband. My nephew and sister showed up too to cheer me on. It was great to see the support.
Warming Up at Home
Once we got home, I took a nice long hot shower. It was odd. I never completely felt warm that night, but not cold either. Later that night as laying on the couch bundled up, I was still a little cold in just the spaces that were not covered while I jumped. It must have been a phantom cold.
Maybe more clothing would have been better? Oh well. It was still fun. If any of you southerners that go running into the lakes and oceans and call it a polar plunge, you are wimps. Here in Minnesota, we have to cut a hole in the ice. It’s that cold!
The question on everyone’s minds after my first jump, is will I do it again? Sure why not! As long as it’s not 40 below count me in!
Polar Plunge Tips
Everyone’s Polar Plunge Tips are a little different. For a Minnesota Jump, here are the best tips.
What I would bring
- Clothing that is loose-fitting, and quick removing. I chose athletic pants and a dry-fit t-shirt. Some people have chosen bathing suits. I feel like you need a little more warmth than that in the water. But that’s just me.
- No padded costumes that will weigh you down in the water.
- Shoes are required. Tennis shoes you won’t lose in the water. You can also opt for a Teva-style athletic sandal if you want, as long as they won’t fall off.
- Hat if you’re not going to go under! If you are, make sure it fits tight, or you’ll have to retrieve it once you get to the surface again.
- Bring a friend to the sidelines to get your picture.
- Have a plastic bag to bring your wet clothes back in.
- Bring a new set of dry clothing that you can quickly change back into. Remember if you are wet, things may not go on as quickly as they do when you are dry. I recommend cotton pants and a loose-fitting hoodie. Don’t forget your shoes either, since the ones you went in with are now soaking.
Is there a strategy for a Polar Plunge? Or should I train for it?
The biggest strategy is to get in and out as soon as possible. If you’ve done it before and want to showboat a little on your jump style, go for it. But then get the heck out of there! Nothing you can do will come close to the feeling of being in ice-cold water.
Under no circumstances should you try and train by exposing yourself to ice-cold water without the supervision of a medical team like at the Polar Plunge. It is only about 60 seconds’ worth of discomfort. You can do it!
Can I do a Polar Plunge if I don’t know how to swim?
This one is a tricky one. I would like to say yes because in most cases, they select a location with a lower water level. In most cases, it’s only waist deep. If for some reason it is deeper and you start to panic, they do have rescue swimmers next to you the whole time.
Remember why you chose to do the event. It’s will be a story you’ll be talking about for years.