Ice, snow and frigid temps won't keep Fredericton woman from daily swim

Jenny Spinney has been swimming outside most days this winter. (Shane Fowler/CBC News - image credit)
Jenny Spinney has been swimming outside most days this winter. (Shane Fowler/CBC News - image credit)

As the sun sets on Fredericton's Killarney Lake, a few kids playing hockey take their last few shots at the net and Jenny Spinney wades into a hole in the ice in her bathing suit.

Despite the ice being nearly a foot thick, this hole in the frozen lake has become her frigid refuge.

"It is very peaceful, as strange as that sounds," said Spinney.

It started as a personal challenge.

She went for a swim every day, in a lake or a river, in November. Some days she'd swim solo, others with a few brave souls alongside her.

Milder temperatures kept the waters in Killarney Lake and the Mactaquac headpond open for the most part. But there were a few days where she had to break the ice open with her feet.

Shane Fowler/CBC News
Shane Fowler/CBC News

When November ended, Spinney says she was still drawn to those numbing waters. Throughout December and now well into January she's still wading in every other day.

"It's really hard to explain," said Spinney. "It's just a very peaceful feeling once you just relax and are calm ,and you just focus on one thing. You're in the water and you're focused on that. And it just kind of shuts everything out."

WATCH | Fredericton woman is still swimming — despite ice, snow and hockey players:

Don't confuse this winter swimming regime with polar dips. Spinney isn't running into the freezing water and then staggering out to rush off to a nearby fire or sauna.

She wades in slowly in her bright blue Crocs. She then faces the woods and soaks in the cold for around 10 minutes. She keeps her mittened hands above water, as well as her head covered in a thick toque.

"I'm sure it looks ridiculous," said Spinney. "But I got off work at four and then came here and had the busy-ness of the day in my head."

But after soaking in the icy water, she says her head is clear and she's ready to transition into her evening.

She wades out, throws on a big, thick coat and heads for her car – which has not been idling to stay warm.

Shane Fowler/CBC News
Shane Fowler/CBC News

Her favourite time to swim? Around 6:30 in the morning on her way to her office job. It's still quiet and there's no one to see her walking in her bathing suit in the snow.

"Sometimes I could catch myself almost jogging down and I would think, 'why am I rushing?'" said Spinney. "It's because I'm excited."

The ice will eventually freeze enough to keep her out. Open water is getting tough to find as winter sets in, and keeping a hole in the lake is tough when the ice grows thicker each night. But until then, Spinney isn't finished with her extreme swimming regime.

"If I can find a hole that's accessible or if the headpond stays open, or in the St. John River, or wherever I can find a spot — I'll go."