5 questions with... Mona Lisa Fiedler
In her struggle with atopic eczema, allergies and asthma, Mona turned to nature to cure her. Find out more about how she dived into the icy Wim Hof Method…
Wim Hof, also known as “The Iceman”, is a Dutch ice diver, famous for his ability to withstand the cold. Fed up of suffering from asthma, eczema and other allergies, Mona decided to take cold water swimming to an extreme and adopt the “Wim Hof Method”, which has been known to bring symptoms into complete remission. Read more about Mona’s journey into ice diving…
1. Hi Mona! Please tell us more about yourself.
I’m Mona Lisa Fiedler. I was born in Germany and now I live and work in a spiritual community above Brienz, Switzerland. I love being outdoors, and working with my body and hands. That’s why I’m helping in the permaculture garden project of the community. Since 2012 I’m a self employed photographer. I especially love the freedom that comes with being self employed. Even if I’m always working as a ‘people photographer’, my style of photography has changed over the years. Now I’m interested in real emotions and personality. For me, there’s no difference between work and hobby. Everything I do, I do it with joy.
2. Why did you get into cold water swimming/ice diving?
I struggled with atopic eczema, allergies and asthma all my life, and spent the last 13 years in and out of hospital. After reading about the Wim Hof Method and how it can help control your immune system, I was keen to try it. I desperately wanted to win back control over my own body.
The Wim Hof Method is a combination of breathing techniques, cold exposure and mindset. I started with the breathing. I was never a cold weather person. My favourite time of the year was staying with my grandmother in the Canary Islands and being in 30°C. Now I had to start doing cold showers. I did it, but not long enough and I didn’t like it. Then I started to go in the lake by myself. That was a completely different feeling. Just being able to sit for a short amount of time in the cold autumn lake made me feel powerful. It opened up my mind and I started to believe everything is possible. It also became time I took for myself. I started meditating during this time and I found that the best form of meditation was in the iced water. There is nowhere else my mind could go. It’s just me in this moment, focusing on my breath and all my senses being filled up by nature.
It was hard to motivate myself to go in the cold water in the beginning, because I never felt like “I want to freeze today”, but I became hooked by the feeling I felt afterwards. Every day turned out amazing after ice bathing and I started to feel an inner urge to go in the water just to take a silent moment for myself.
After a while, I started doing this daily by myself and then once a week with a group in Berlin. I wanted to test my limits and stay in as long as possible. To stay motivated, we would cycle to a beautiful spa to get warm again. I was diving into the heated outdoor pool when I imagined what it would feel like to dive into the ice. A tiny fear came over me. That was the moment I decided I want to train to swim under the ice.
I’ve been training in ice diving since Winter 2017. I did a freediving course with a Swiss trainer, Peter Colat (world record holder in ice diving, 80m underneath the ice, no fins, no wetsuit) to be able to join the ice diving event ‘Päijanne on the Rocks’ in Finland. During the course I realised how much I love diving. And how much I’ve learned already. While the other participants were still struggling with the cold indoor pool water (around 18°C), I enjoyed the water and was able to fully relax, holding my breath longer than the others. That was so empowering, because since childhood I was told that my breathing is especially weak because of my asthma. That was another moment that reminded me, everything is possible. It‘s your mind that sets your limitations.
In March 2018 I arrived in Finland and I was standing on top of a triangle shaped hole in the ice. Finally, I was going to fulfil my dream. Fear came over me as I looked into the very dark, almost black, uninviting plunge. I told myself if I‘m not ready, I don‘t have to do it. But when I saw the first freedivers coming up from beneath the ice with big smiles on their faces, I couldn‘t resist and began preparing myself. Wearing my wetsuit, I took a shy look underneath the ice. Petrified, I daren’t dive from hole to hole. Then I learned that I could just pull myself at the rope from hole to hole. I gave it a try and that was easier. While I was warming up in the sauna, I knew that I wanted to push myself to dive in my bikini. Calm and relaxed, I sat on the ice, focused on my breathing. I was surrounded by like minded people. I didn‘t feel the cold. I took my time. Then I went into the water. After the first shock, I relaxed, took some air and dived to the other side, pulling myself on the rope. I couldn‘t believe how easy it was. I wanted to go back. My friend Johnny told me to swim this time. And I dived the 11m back again, this time all by myself. Approaching the ice hole, it looked like the triangle shaped gate to heaven. Then I emerged from the water with a big smile on my face, proving to myself that I can do it. I never wanted to wear a wetsuit again.
3. What does being a cold water woman mean to you?
I haven’t had any guidance from women through my life. I didn’t have any women to look up to. Soon after I started the ice bathing, a friend of mine showed me a video “Johanna under the ice” about freediver Johanna Norblad. She free dives underneath the ice and tells her story. She’s a world record freediver (50m without fins or wetsuit). She was the first woman I really admired for what she’s doing and how she’s doing it. She inspired me to follow my dreams. I want to inspire other as well, to lose their fear of nature, and to get back in control of their body and mind. To get to know themselves and to learn what our wonderful bodies can do.
I love swimming, especially diving. The moment I‘m underwater time runs slower and all my senses are awake. Being able to swim in any kind of water makes me feel strong. It makes me feel like anything is possible. Cold water has completely changed my perspective on life. It’s opened me up to the supernatural and made me start to believe in my own strength, as well as the strength of others.
Cold water make me feel reconnected to nature. It makes me feel European. Through connecting with cold water, I’m making the most of the place I live in. There’s no longer any need to travel elsewhere to enjoy life and nature. It makes me cherish and being grateful for the simple things that surround me.
4. Where are your favourite places to swim?
The river on my doorstep in Brienz, Switzerland. I spend so much time in so many different parts of it. It’s my cold friend, dipping to 0.6°C in January, with its warmest at 15°C in September.
My favorite spot is 30 minutes down the mountain following the river. There’s a big swimming hole with a huge waterfall coming down to it. On one side you can go underneath the waterfall and get a strong, cold neck massage. This is also where I go to train. The best thing about it is that I have to hike 30 minutes back up the hill afterwards, and that makes me warm up until I‘m home.
Another favourite place of mine to swim is lake Sonnanen in Finland. That’s where I first dove from icehole to icehole. The water is crystal clear. The ice is 50cm thick. It’s endless, shiny and clear. Wide and peaceful. The water directly underneath the ice is 1°C.
5. What advice would you give to other women who would like to try ice diving?
I attended the Wim Hof course by Linda Koeman and I think this is a great way to get into ice bathing. But even if you decide to start without course, don‘t do it alone. The other person doesn‘t need to be in the water as well. At the beginning I had friends standing at the waterfront waiting for me, holding my towel. But it’s a wonderful energy when you go together. Sometimes we go in groups of three woman, all bathing in the river. It feels so wild and free being in the cold water together. It doesn‘t matter how long you can do it, as long as you do it! Try to challenge yourself, but listen to you body at the same time.
To find out more about Mona and her latest ice dives, follow her on Instagram @ice.maid
(we highly recommend it - she has the most beautiful images below the ice, thanks to photographers Nanna Kreutzmann and Patricia Kühfuss!)
Their websites here: