Every day for 365 days — a swim in Lake Ontario

What some would consider torture, one Ward's Island resident says was fun. Kathleen McDonnell went for a swim in Lake Ontario every day for the past year — even if it meant punching through hunks of ice.

Island resident Kathleen McDonnell completes self-imposed challenge

Kathleen McDonnell has lived on Ward's Island for about 30 years but grew up in Chicago where, she says, people spend much more time on the less developed lake shore. (CBC)

Winter didn't feel as mild for Kathleen McDonnell as it did for most Torontonians. Rain or shine, whether it was warm of if she was punching through hunks of ice with her fists, the Ward's Island resident went for a swim in Lake Ontario every day for the past year. 

McDonnell took her 365th consecutive dip in the lake today.  

"I do it because I enjoy it," she told CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "It makes me feel vigorous and young. As I get older it's one of those things I think really helps me manage life." 

"But I'm not one of these people who want to climb a mountain, and I don't take many risks.''

McDonnell goes in wearing a one-piece swimsuit, cap, goggles and some scuba gloves. 

The water was about 8 C during one of her recent swims, and she stayed out for about 15 minutes.

Punching through ice

McDonnell's lived on the island for about 30 years but grew up in Chicago where, she says, people spend much more time on the less developed lakeshore. 

"Everybody went to the beach and everybody went in the lake," she recalls. "It was just part of what everybody did in the summer." 

Previously, she would stop swimming in the lake in November but, last year, decided to push on through winter. 

On one of the colder days, McDonnell had to punch through sheets of ice to make her way. But, she says, she always put in her time, even if sometimes she was less than enthusiastic. 

"There were days that were hard just because the weather was so miserable," she says. 

"If it was raining and windy all day I would just find a chunk of that day when I felt 'Okay, I can do this.'

"I'm lucky to be in a place where I can get in the water whenever I want."