ice bath lake ontario

People in Toronto are taking ice baths in the frozen waters of Lake Ontario

Ice baths in Lake Ontario may not be everyone's idea of a good time in Toronto, but one person is making it into a ritual.

About a year ago, a video of Ron Batuigas playing chess with a friend while sitting in holes in a frozen icy lake went viral.

"That night, we conceived the idea of starting a wellness group to challenge mindsets, personal growth, pushing limits through exploration of discomfort," Batuigas tells blogTO.

They called the group Unbounded, which deals in experiences and therapies involving cold exposure, movement and breathwork.

Though that viral video was taken at resort The Trace in Oak Lake, a couple of hours from Toronto, Batuigas takes frigid dips in Lake Ontario with views of the CN Tower as well.

He originally took up the unusual hobby with a group of friends back in October 2020, looking for ways to occupy time and something to do other than the usual nightlife activities that were shut down at the time. Batuigas had been heavily involved in nightlife and individually was looking for a healthier path.

"I was always a swimmer growing up and I feel like the water is calling back," says Batuigas.

What started with one dip grew into a routine for Batuigas as he steadily built up his resistance to the cold. He and began following experts including Wim Hof, Andrew Huberman and Susanna Søberg, and now takes ice baths every day. 

Jan. 10, 2022 was his 400th consecutive dip.

"The benefits and studies about cold water therapy are endless," says Batuigas.

He says that personally, for him, he finds that the practice improves brain function and mood, alleviates depression and anxiety, stimulates weight loss, strengthens his immune system, and helps with energy levels and sleeping more deeply.

"It's almost acquiring a super human strength," says Batuigas.

Lake Ontario is almost always be safe and clean enough for dips, but Batuigas and his fellow bathers always bring water testing kits to check water quality.

"People still have a lot of trepidation about swimming in Lake Ontario. I find myself often defending it," says Batuigas.

"The good news though is that we have some wonderful underutilized beaches in the winter. Guess what, often times there's always no one on it but only the brave ones."

Some of his favourite spots for freezing dips are Humber Bay Park, Ashbridges Bay and Cherry Beach.

If you're interested in similar benefits but aren't sure where to start, Batuigas recommends researching the same experts he did and starting small.

"I think everyone will have a different experience. Always trust your body and follow your instinct," says Batuigas.

"Don't risk injury over ego. Push the limits but be safe in the process. I suggest starting with cold showers, even a splash of really cold water in your face has benefits, and build your tolerance from there."

Along with Unbounded, he's also involved in the new ice bath house and wellness space Othership, where he himself can take you through guided cold exposure practice and breathwork.

"Everyone always asks what I'm thinking when I get in there, that's the thing, I am not thinking at all and that is the best part. I just focus on the experience and my breath and everything just becomes so peaceful," says Batuigas.

"We are not meant to live in a confined environment, disconnected from the world. Our biological self thrives on, in, and ends with nature," he says.

"Healing with water is one of the most transformational methods. It puts us in the flow of the energy of the earth. Doing meditations, swimming, and self-healing in the lake or ocean is restoring."

Lead photo by

Adam Kozak

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