Most college students will do just about anything to get a free T-shirt, even if that means jumping into 40-degree water in February.
The fifth-annual polar bear plunge starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Maverick Activities Center outdoor pool. It started in 2011 as a way to bring awareness to National Recreation and Fitness Day. Students who participate will receive a free “survivor” shirt. New this year is online registration as well as the partnership between Campus Recreation and Special Olympics of Texas, said Stephanie McAlpine, assistant director of aquatics and sports clubs.
McAlpine said signing up for the event and participating is free, but a $5 donation for the Special Olympics of Texas is welcomed. She said polar bear plunges are like 5Ks because they are done to raise money, but most polar bear plunges raise money for the Special Olympics.
“We do a lot of things to partner with Special Olympics, so we thought this would be a good way to raise money to give back to them,” McAlpine said.
McAlpine said National Recreation and Fitness Day is Feb. 22, but they wanted the event on a day where more students can participate. She enjoys the event because it’s an experience where everyone can have fun together rather than compete.
Mechanical engineering sophomore Cody Cartier took the plunge last year and will do it again this year. He said it was cool to see everyone out there participating.
“It’s cold and it’s hell, but by the time you get to the other side, you’re awake and filled with energy,” Cartier said.
Here are some tips for those who are thinking about taking the plunge or who are doing it again:
Do it with a friend
McAlpine said returning people recommend bringing a person along.
“It’s not necessarily to do it with them, but to have someone to watch their stuff and take their picture,” McAlpine said.
If students are curious about the process, McAlpine said they can go online to watch videos from the previous years.
Cartier said there’s no point in doing it alone.
“The best part about the whole thing is at the end when you’re laughing at how stupid you are for doing it,” Cartier said. “Sharing a moment like that with a friend is much better than being that awkward guy who’s chuckling to himself at the side of the pool.”
Have a plan to warm up
Just because it’s been a warmer winter doesn’t mean that the water isn’t cold.
“The pool is still really cold, so the weather won’t matter too much,” McAlpine said. “It’s just much more pleasant to get out of the freezing cold water into warmer weather.”
McAlpine said the water temperature ranges from the high 40s to low 50s.
The best way to warm up after jumping into cold water is to get rid of the water on your body and then to put on warm clothes, kinesiology assistant professor Michael Nelson said.
The length it will take to warm up varies for each person, Nelson said. He said it depends on the modality and length of exposure.
McAlpine said there will be hot chocolate available for students after they take the plunge.
Wear your swimsuits
“You can’t show up in clothes and jump in the pool,” McAlpine said.
Once you get in the water, keep going
“Having your muscles strain against the water is what keeps you warm enough to move,” Cartier said. “If you think you can hangout in the water and not do anything at first, I wouldn’t suggest it.”
B.Y.O.T. - Bring your own towel
McAlpine said there are towels at the event, but they aren’t large.
She said they put the towels in a dryer to warm them up some, but it’s best for students who want to wrap themselves up to bring their own.
Show up on time
The only way to be guaranteed a shirt is to register for the event online and to show up at the correct wave time, McAlpine said. There’s a 7 p.m. wave, 7:15 p.m. wave and a 7:30 p.m. wave with about 30 people in each one.
To complete the plunge, the students must jump into the pool and swim or walk across to the other side. It only takes about a minute to get across, McAlpine said.