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The Best Way to Start a New Year Is By Running Right Into It

There’s a peculiar tradition to be found on chilly beaches around the world at the top of the year. Throngs of people meet up to run headlong into the icy ocean, usually in nothing but their swimsuit. This chill-dipping crowd is commonly known here in the United States as Polar Bears. And though it doesn’t have to be New Years to enjoy a frigid dip, it’s as good an excuse as any — plus it tends to be a popular activity. (And we’ll admit after holidays with family for weeks, running into a freezing ocean would sound like an enticing activity.)

A cursory search on the internet will show you hundreds of barely-clad bodies crammed together on a beach. But you’ll also learn that the tradition began in Canada and dates back to the 1920s. There are fully-registered members that take a dip anytime they feel like it, but there’s always a big spike for the holiday.

Here in the U.S., there are also officially-recognized groups, the most famous of which are probably the Coney Island Polar Bears. Of course, you don’t need a fancy form to take part — there are unofficial polar bears anywhere the water meets the sand. (This writer has participated in many a polar plunge and found it exhilarating! Cleansing! Liberating, even!) Ushering in a year in good faith and a bathing suit aside, polar bears often swim for charity and will rattle off a list of health benefits from increased circulation to reduced stress with ease.

Our group of Polar Bears pictured above, though, are more in it for the fun. This group of men, who all live in New York City met at Motiv NY, a gym that’s got a bit of a cult (and growing) following. These sorts of activities are typical for the crowd, though, in the summer months, they’re more into long-distance running. The athletically-inclined group has done plenty of unofficial plunges in their day, though, according to Ross Twanmoh (who we’ll treat as the leader of the pack for this post).

If for some reason you’re thinking of making a pilgrimage to a wintry shoreline for the new year, the advice Twanmoh gives us is an all caps “run into the ocean,” before flourishing it with a “think less, do more.” Thinking less, particularly around the holidays, is something we can definitely get behind. And because he and his crew are planning an “official” polar plunge for 2020, we had to ask his thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions: “If you’re waiting on a specific day to make changes to your life, you’re going to be waiting a very long time.” In other words, your resolutions are on blast.