Snow doesn't stop group of swimmers from taking to icy waters of Lake Ontario

A group of former competitive swimmers took to the waters of Lake Ontario to exercise and to socialize on Tuesday because public pools are closed in Toronto as the city remains in lockdown. It was a very cold swim.

Group swims in lake to stay fit with pools closed due to COVID-19 lockdown

Now, with public pools in Toronto closed while the city is in lockdown due to COVID-19, a group of swimmers says Lake Ontario is satisfying their need to be in the water. And a little snow on Tuesday wasn't going to stop them. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

For a group of former competitive swimmers in Toronto, Tuesday was the coldest swim of the year so far.

The swimmers, all of whom are in a coached class together, say they have been swimming in the open waters of Lake Ontario since the summer to challenge themselves, to stay fit and to socialize.

Now, with public pools in Toronto closed while the city is in lockdown due to COVID-19, the swimmers say the lake is satisfying their need to be in the water. And a little snow on Tuesday wasn't going to stop them.

Wearing wet suits, gloves, boots and swimming caps, the swimmers, ranging in age between 40 and 65, slowly eased their way into the icy waters of Lake Ontario early Tuesday afternoon off Cherry Beach. They swam off shore for about half an hour. 

It may have been cold, but it was just about the only way to get in a workout with pools closed because of COVID-19 restrictions.

"You get a bit of an ice cream headache, brain freeze at first, but once you kind of get moving, it's great," says Karl Boner, 40, who started swimming competitively in Ireland when he was seven years old.

Kate Moore, 58, says it's refreshing to be in the water at this time of year. She competed at the 1984 Canadian Olympic trials.

WATCH: CBC's Greg Ross reports on a group of swimmers who took to Lake Ontario on Tuesday to get their exercise:

With their pool closed because of COVID-19, these swimmers took to the lake

2 years ago
Duration 2:25
When your local pool is closed because of COVID-19 restrictions, how do you get in your daily swim? For this group, it meant a trip to Cherry Beach — and the icy waters of Lake Ontario. Greg Ross caught up with them today.

"It is a huge sense of joy that I get out of this, both because of the camaraderie with the other swimmers, and the exhilaration of just being in that cold water," she says.

"We all swim during the summer, and then we just kept saying, 'You know, it's still okay, why don't we swim next week too, and next week,'" she adds.

"I figure will be out for January and February, but we will be back in the water in March. That's my goal."

Mark Gilbert, 65, who has been competing as a triathlete for the past 17 years, says the key is having the right gear.

"I got my bootees on to keep the feet warm, my wet suit, which is a full triathlon wet suit. These mitts are very good, and then my headgear, with my hoodie and then underneath that, I have a swimming cap as well."

Ayesha Rollinson, a swimming coach, says the swim is refreshing but it may be the last one of the year. She said she has never liked swimming in cold water but has been swimming in the lake because right now she cannot swim anywhere else.

"I can't speak, I'm frozen.".

With files from Greg Ross