SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — "Couch-to-Coldwater" is an effort that two personal trainers, including Kelsy Hartley, lead for women of all ages to embrace the cold water temperatures of Maine winters.
During four different sessions, women who are part of the program slowly dip from toes to shoulders in cold water as a way to release endorphins and for mental health benefits during the long winter months.
Many women do it once, many weekly, but for Hartley, it's more about the courage, motivation, and dedication to simply take a few minutes of your day and do it.
For the past few weeks, the water temperature at Willard Beach in South Portland has been around 39 degrees, give or take.
"We are just going to kind of really tune in to like how we are feeling," Hartley said one day, as she led two women into the cold water. "It's amazing, I want to say we are probably two minutes right here, and it's like, 'Oh there are the endorphins!'"
Two minutes that made them feel amazing at that moment and for the rest of the day.
"I think it's so hard to come in here and be mad about anything," Hartley added.
For participant Cait Vaughn, it's just a way to remind herself that she can do anything she sets her mind to.
"I'm really interested in different ways of being in my body, and practices that focus on embodiment as like a healing practice, and I had heard about this group and then thought it is really good to do it with other people," Vaughn said.
Then, the weekend before International Women's Day, hundreds of women gathered Sunday just for the sake of it to cold water dip, all holding hands. Some were in for seconds, others for a few minutes.
"I'm not surprised at the joy and the capacity that all these women are bringing," Hartley said at the big event where more than 200 women showed up with towels in hand.
"It really helps me get through the winter, getting those endorphins and getting to connect with your body, and sort of embrace the cold instead of trying to hide from it has been really good for my mental health!" Angelina Nichols said.
Hartley said the dip also helps bring your energy levels up.
"We kind of say its a conversation with our nervous system and it's a real learning process and it just gives us kind of a wider window of tolerance to deal with stressful events," Hartley explained. "You really feel how alive you are and that just translates to every aspect of your life."
If you would like to learn more about this effort, click here.