Deam Lake Dip

0By JD Dotson

For th e past few wi nters, I have been

asked off and on by my friends Jenna and Kara to

join them and a small group for a winter dip in the

lake. Every Sunday from November through April

these two will trek to Deam Lake – and sometimes

Blue River – to take a dip in the frigid waters. My

answer has always been the same.: “I love you, but

that will never happen.”

I pride myself on being a man of my word, but I

had to go back on part of it. Before I did, I wondered

if I would still love them as much after jumping

into a lake in early March.

I despise being cold and much prefer the heat of

the summer. New Orleans in July, for instance, is the

best time to go in my opinion. I suffer through the

cold weather, wishing summer would last longer

every year. To say I was dreading telling the girls I

would go with them would be the understatement

of the year. But I said it, it was out there and I would

honor my word.

Before I would subject myself to this icy torture,

I had a million questions and got the basics about

where to meet and what to bring, which included a

swimsuit, bathrobe, towels, a toboggan and water

shoes. I would get the rest of my grilling out in the

car ride. I figured if I was more informed about

why on earth people would walk of their own free

will into a lake in winter, it might calm my nerves

about the whole thing.

On a chance meeting at a New Year’s Eve party in

New York City in 2008, Jenna learned of a group of

people meeting the next day at Coney Island for a

dip in the water. The Coney Island Polar Bears are a

charitable club with member dues and a 12 dips per

season requirement to join. Jenna met her member

requirements doing a two-hour door to beach trip

across New York. Where I am a worshipper of the

sun and summer, Jenna is my polar opposite. She

thrives in the cold weather and is co-responsible

for bringing Santa Con to Louisville in December

and jumping in frigid waters all winter long. The

coldest water Jenna has been in was 36 degrees,

and the group has broken up ice to get to the water

in the past. Luckily for me, the day I dipped was

unusually warm and sunny out.

Many cultures around the world have been

practicing cold water plunging for centuries.

Dipping in cold water was all the rage during the

Victorian era as an exhilarating way to start the day.

Research and modern science tell us that there are

many health benefits, too. Any Google search will

include numerous medical and health professionals

extolling the virtues of taking an ice bath, none of

which are lost on Kara and Jenna. Studies show

that cold water stimulates the release of cytokines,

a substance vital to immune systems. Cold water

is known to reduce pain and inflammation by

releasing endorphins in a more immersive way that

is similar to the effects of an ice pack. There is even

evidence that the cold water helps with weight loss

by increasing adrenaline and causing your body

to burn sugar. Mental benefits abound as well as

research shows the cold water activates sensory

nerves leading to the brain, greatly improving

mood and leaving you with a feeling of elation

and accomplishment.

Health and mental benefits aside, the duo

ascertain that other important benefits of taking

the plunge is to test your willpower, and training

yourself to face your fears can be a practice. Kara

knows if she can walk out into icy waters for a

sustained amount of time, she can do anything she

puts her mind to doing. They both agree one of the

greatest benefits they both get out of meeting every

Sunday is the camaraderie of the group of people

that join, sharing tea and stories, and supporting

each other facing their fears together. As a moody,

arthritic person obsessed with his weight and scared

of doing new or uncomfortable things, this plunge

seemed to be just what I needed.

Armed with all of the knowledge I could want,

I enjoyed the camaraderie and tea, which felt like

a pre-game has helped allay some of my fears as

we headed lakeward. I knew what to expect in my

body, and my mind was set on doing this thing,

facing this fear. In reality, nothing can really prepare

you for the first time getting in water that cold.

The temperature of the water that day was 53

degrees, which doesn’t sound that bad. A 53-degree

day is actually pretty nice, sunny and mild. The

same temperature in water is not so nice.

The last person to wade out to the group, I

ditched the robe and thought to myself, Just go

out quick, get covered fast, yank the Band-Aid off,

so to speak. I was not expecting how my breath

would be taken away. I had a hard time forming

full sentences (though curse words came easy),

and I can only imagine the look I had on my face.

At the time, I would have told you I was out

there up to my chest for at least 10 minutes.00 In reality, I lasted 90 seconds, but I am proud of that

minute and a half. In 90 seconds, I felt the sting

of blood rushing out of my extremities to keep

my core warm and my skin numb. I held on as

long as I could before heading back to shore. The

more seasoned group stayed in the water up to

15 minutes, laughing and talking before casually

making their way back.

To say I enjoyed the experience would be a bit

of a lie. I did enjoy the company, the camaraderie,

the snacks and the tea. I do feel like I faced and

conquered a huge fear, and feel like I do not have

to be so “I will never do that” all the time. Maybe it

was psychosomatic, but my shoulder didn’t ache

in its usual, arthritic way, (although maybe I was

just numb.) Also, if the weight loss aspect turns

out to be true, I could be persuaded to make it a

regular thing. Summer is coming and my swimsuit

was a bit snug.

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