Taking the Plunge

The chilly wellness routine that's taking root in Horsetooth Reservoir

As the weather is turning towards winter and temperatures are steadily dropping, there’s a chance you’ve spotted those wild people wading into Horsetooth reservoir. The natural reaction to seeing people in the water, sometimes while ambient air temperatures are well below freezing, seems to be something along the lines of, “What on earth are they thinking?” I’ll admit that was my initial reaction, so I set out to learn more and eventually, dove in.

As it turns out, cold water immersion has been shown to have a wide range of health benefits. Regular practice can benefit the health of your circulatory and endocrine systems, promote healing of musculoskeletal injuries, and even benefit a person's mental health. The cold water also generates an endorphin boost, creating a natural energetic high, you could compare it to your morning cup of coffee but with a few shivers rather than caffeine shakes.

For Theresa Adams, founder of the Fort Collins Cold Swimmers social media groups that regularly meet to dip in the reservoir, the reasoning to dive into this new wellness routine was simple.

“I just wanted to feel happy,” Adams, a yoga and fitness instructor by day, says of her motivation to get in the water. She was ready to try something radical.

Adams’ first dip was with a friend in Minnesota and she’s been hooked ever since. Now she’s on a mission to share the radical benefits she’s found and is doing so with a close-knit community that has been steadily growing. While not everyone makes it out three days a week like Adams, they’ve all got their own motivations for being there. Some walk straight in up to their shoulders or sprint and splash headlong into the chilly water while others still work slowly away from shore, maybe only submerging their feet and ankles, the methodology like the motivation is personal and so long as you are safe there is no wrong way to dip. 

Aside from all of the purported health benefits one of Adams’ upbeat sayings seems to permeate the entire happening. “You can do hard things!” She’s often heard encouraging people forward. “This makes doing hard things easier,” Adams includes it among the benefits she’s found in dipping.

For those who want a different way to get into the water, and some extra motivation, there’s the option of the annual 5k race and polar bear plunge put on by Green Events. The annual race and cold dip event is a fundraiser for the Larimer County Dive Rescue Team, who are on site to help make sure all the participants make it back out of the water safely.

Lisa Sinclair created Green Events ten years ago to create more running and fitness events in the area and when she noticed there wasn’t a Polar Plunge in the area she decided it was time to add one to her list of yearly events. Now seven years and as many chilly January swims later, the event has continued to grow and Sinclair loves seeing the laughter on peoples faces as they take the plunge with their friends. 

“It usually ends with a smile because people are so happy they did it,” Sinclair says of their reactions.

The event provides an excellent chance for people to kick off their new years fitness goals and remind themselves of what they’re capable of.

Sharing a similar sentiment to that of Adams, Sinclair tells us, “If you can jump into cold water, you can do anything.”

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