Celebrating the changing seasons with a frozen dip in Heffley Lake

How do you feel about cold water swimming?
Justin Turwiel sees the health benefits in jumping in frigid water. Do you? Photo submitted.

The weather has been pretty darn nice of late. And while some have been taking advantage with early-season bike rides, cross country skiing and leisurely walks, others are taking things to a whole new level. 

As you may have seen on social media, some brave souls are marking the changing of the seasons by jumping into Heffley Lake last week, which is quite the feat considering it’s still frozen over in many parts. 

Justin Turwiel, who grew up in Heffley Lake, was one of the first to go in, using a broom to break and clear away a section of ice before plunging in.

Turwiel said that going in has become a fun tradition for some people who live in the area. He wasn’t the first one to go in this year. That distinction goes to another Heffley Lake local, he said. 

Turwiel’s first dip was quick—in and out. But he said he hopes to stay in longer next time around (and there will be a next time, he said). 

“An icy lake is a different level of cold,” he said. “I tried to stay in and the instinct to get out kind of took over.” 

Cold water swimming seems to have blown up in recent years, with some of the growth attributable to Wim Hof. 

The charismatic Dutch extreme athlete holds the world record for swimming under ice and prolonged full-body contact with ice.

Hof, who is popular on the podcast circuit, credits his ability to carry out extreme cold-temperature feats to the Wim Hof Method, which is a combination of breathing techniques, meditation and frequent cold exposure.  

“He’s found a way, through his breath work, to basically be able to control his immune response,” explained Turwiel. 

Turwiel said he sees all sorts of positive health benefits from cold water exposure. He likes it so much that for the past couple years he has been starting off his day with a cold shower. 

“There’s not much else on your mind when you’re in the water,” he explained, adding repeated cold water exposure can be used to train oneself to be calm in stressful situations that arise in life.

Joel Barde is a reporter hired with funding from the Local Journalism Initiative, a federal program created to support “original civic journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada.” His writing is focused on the tourism industry in the Thompson Okanagan from the resident perspective.

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