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Swimmers compete in some of the coldest water on Earth
02:07 - Source: CNN

Fit Nation: Around the World in 8 Races will air three times on Saturday, April 21, between 1 and 6 p.m. ET and one time between 5 and 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 22.

Story highlights

Winter swim race was started by the Society for Happy Friends of Cold and Darkness

Before the competition, there is poetry about the cold; after, there is reindeer meat

CNN  — 

Plunge into water at near-freezing temperatures, and your body goes into extreme distress. Your skin screams signals of pain. You can’t breathe, because your chest is cramping up. Talking is nearly impossible. Your heart is pounding. Fear mounts – as it should. Without any protection, you may lose consciousness in under 15 minutes. You’ll be dead within an hour.

Or … you can start racing! That’s the idea behind the Open Scandinavian Championship in Winter Swimming, which takes place every year in a 25-meter pool cut out of a frozen lake in a small Swedish town only about 100 miles from the Arctic Circle. Nearly 400 swimmers traveled there in February for the privilege and thrill of competing in this unique sport with as many health benefits as risks, it seems.

It’s the health