TikToker Elina Makinen said ice swimming is a “common” activity in Finland, her home country.
She believes the activity is good for her health and makes her feel “energized.”
But the tax advisor warned that swimming in such cold water is not for everyone.
Elina Makinen swims twice a day, and there’s nothing too surprising about that — except that her pool of choice is an icy lake.
For the past 10 years, the 28-year-old has enjoyed her daily soaks amid Finland’s freezing temperatures, which on some days can dip below -22 degrees Fahrenheit.
This hobby has now turned the tax advisor, who lives in Muonio, into a TikTok sensation. She’s amassed more than 1.4 million followers who love watching her wading in icy waters in her native region of Laponia.
Many of her videos have more than a million views each, with one clip in particular — in which she lip-syncs to the high-pitched “I’m so happy, I’m so sad” TikTok audio — gaining 76.5 million views.
“It can get boring just staying in the water and waiting for time to pass, so I thought it would be fun to start filming some videos. Doing these TikTok videos just came naturally,” Makinen, who joined the platform in 2019, told Insider.
Some of her more popular videos involve her using axes or ice drills to dig holes in the frozen lakes before she plunges into the waters below.
“A lot of people in Finland have their own axes to do these things,” she said.
“There are ice swimming clubs, of course, where people can go, but many of them were closed because of Covid, and so people would just make their own ice holes and swim wherever they wanted,” she continued.
She added that while ice swimming may appear novel to foreigners, it’s “so common” in her home country.
“A lot of people on TikTok comment and ask me questions like, ‘Won’t you get hypothermia?’ or ‘How do you resist the cold?’ To them, this is crazy, but to Finnish people, it’s nothing.”
When she was just five, Makinen took her first icy dip with her family. “My whole family loves ice swimming; it’s our bonding activity,” she said.
She added that the hobby used to be more popular among older Finns, but has in recent years become trendy among younger people too. “Think of it as our version of yoga or meditation, it’s for both peace of mind and an endorphin rush.”
Indeed, the activity has been great for her wellbeing, she said.
“I swim once in the morning, and it helps to get my blood circulation going, and makes me feel energized. Then, I swim again at night, and it helps to release my stress. I always sleep well after.”
Makinen typically spends anywhere between 30 seconds and six minutes in the water. Occasionally, she goes for a swim for up to 12 minutes.
“I keep it shorter when it’s too cold, even for me. When temperatures go below -25 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit), I have to be careful not to get frostbite.”
She swears by its health benefits.
“During the winters, I never get sick. I only get the flu after the winter season, when I take a two-week break from ice swimming,” she said.
As much as she touts the benefits of ice swimming, Makinen is quick to warn that the activity is not for everyone.
Swimming in such cold water can be dangerous for some people, and in rare cases, can cause tetany, a condition in which the heart freezes and stops.
“You definitely have to know yourself and your body. For me, it’s fine to shiver a bit. Other people like to sweat when they work out. I like the shiver.”
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