Although the winter weather might tempt you to stay inside, polar plunges are a way to stay active during those winter months. By participating in a plunge, you can raise money for a good cause -- in February 2013, plungers in Indiana alone raised more than $70,000 to benefit the Special Olympics, according to the "Evansville Courier & Press." The cold can be intimidating, but by choosing the right gear and learning how to motivate yourself, you will be able to brave the icy water.
Clothing and Shoes
Wear shoes to protect yourself from rocks and debris and keep your feet warm as you're standing on the ice and snow. Special Olympics Nebraska recommends tennis shoes or water shoes and suggests that you avoid flip flops and shoes without straps, as they may fall off. Old shoes are best since you will get them dirty and wet. Try not to wear too much clothing into the water so after the plunge you will have less wet clothing to remove, allowing you to warm up faster.
If you know somebody who has plunged before, talk to her beforehand to find out what her experience was like and how she stayed motivated. Bring friends or family, even if they are not plunging, to encourage you. If you go to the plunge alone, walk around and speak with the other plungers. Come up with a chant or slogan and repeat it to yourself when cold or fear set in. Pick a favorite song that energizes you and listen to it as you wait for your turn.
Entering and Exiting the Water
Gradually enter the water, letting your feet acclimate for several seconds, then your legs, then torso. This will minimize the initial shock. Once in the water, stay moving in order to maintain blood flow and keep you warm. Don't waste energy by swimming quickly, shouting, or taking large, gasping breaths. Exit the water slowly, as the plunge area will be wet and slippery.
After the plunge, take advantage of heaters or hot tubs supplied by the plunge site. Make sure to bring a towel to dry off if your site doesn't supply them. Change immediately after the plunge into warm clothing that's easy to slip on since your fingers will be cold, wet and possibly numb. Drink a hot beverage and eat a hot meal.
Review the rules for the plunge site before plunging. Find out whether the site supplies blankets, food and beverages, or anything else you might need so you know what to bring. Check the weather beforehand to get an idea of how cold it will be. Plan your outfit in advance and gather warm clothes to change into after the plunge. Remember that safety is the most important concern -- if you feel sick on the day of the plunge, don't participate. If you start to feel unwell during the event, contact a staff member or safety personnel immediately.
Natasha Hochlowski holds a dual B.S. in chemistry and writing from Loyola University Maryland. She has been writing professionally since 2007, frequently contributing to "The Journal of Young Investigators," and has worked as a technical writer/editor for several major pharmaceutical companies.