If you need something to wake you up in the morning, a group of financial professionals in London might have just the thing — a short run and then a swim in freezing-cold water.
The men, sporting woolly caps and backpacks, have been meeting every weekend morning at the top of Parliament Hill on London's Hampstead Heath for the past two years — never less than two, sometimes as many as 15, and their numbers are growing.
They head off shortly after 9 a.m., jogging down the hill.
In their professional lives they work for banks, hedge funds and private equity firms. The 25-minute run is just a preamble. Soon they strip to swimming shorts, gloves and swimming caps — not wetsuits — and dive into a pond, which on this day is at 36 degrees Fahrenheit. It can dip well below that.
Most are committed to swimming at least twice a week. Others attempt to sneak in an early morning dip before work. Snow and ice — all the better. The only criterion for membership is getting in the water.
Alcohol seems to be the common theme in terms of their recruitment. Many an introduction occurred over a wine-soaked Saturday night dinner where, according to James Knowles, a managing director at Knight Vinke Asset Management LLC, one of the team's earliest members, a regular will sell “the poor sucker on how he should spend his Sunday morning.”
Some come just once, unwilling to give it another try after the shock. Others, intrigued by the challenge of taking themselves out of their comfort zones, return.
Upon entering the water, it's a shock to the body, said to be like a heart attack. Mr. Knowles describes the feeling as “the body's natural signal forewarning death.” If you can get past the initial 90 seconds, “one feels a sense of euphoria as the body seeks to compensate, and then calmness,” he said.