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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

Growing Old, Going Cold

Notes on Swimming, Aging, and Finishing Last

by (author) Kathleen McDonnell

Second Story Press
Initial publish date
May 2022
Personal Memoirs, Women's Health, Swimming & Diving
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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What is it about freezing cold water that draws people in? Throughout history, humans have gravitated to cold water swimming and celebrated its healing properties, calling it the secret to good health and serenity. Today, cold water swimmers gather in groups from Galway to Georgian Bay to jump into frigid waters for fun, competition, and even as a form of activism and protest.

Kathleen McDonnell started swimming in Lake Ontario, infamous for its chilly depths, because it was close to home. As time went on she began to rely on a daily dip, even breaking through winter ice to raise her spirits and refresh her body. In this wide-ranging memoir, McDonnell shares her love of cold water swimming and the lessons she has learned from a slow and steady commitment to the waves.

About the author

Kathleen McDonnell grew up in Chicago, but has lived in Canada for all of her adult life and graduated with a BA from the University of Toronto. She is the author of nine books of non-fiction and YA fiction. She's also written more than a dozen plays, many of which have had award-winning productions in Canada and the United States. As befits a passionate swimmer, McDonnell lives on Toronto Island; a unique, vibrant, mostly car-free community a ten-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto where she and her life partner Alec raised their two daughters, Martha and Ivy.


Kathleen McDonnell's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Playwright McDonnell revisits her passion for 'cold-water swimming' in this gorgeous work that muses on the environment, love, and self-acceptance... Readers will find themselves taken by McDonnell’s vivid recollections."

Publishers Weekly

"McDonnell's reflections on the troubling treatment of the natural environment are very insightful. Take a dive into this warm and pleasing read — there’s nothing cold about it!"


"Far easier to get into than a cold lake, Growing Old, Getting Cold is somehow both mellow and energizing... [McDonnell] models commitment to one’s own wellbeing, both physical and mental. Taking time every day to do something she loves, she reminds us of the power of the things we choose to do: of habits that keep us healthy but that also make us happy."

Winnipeg Free Press

"[McDonnell's] book is breezy, full of links and information about swimming clubs and venues and replete with encouraging tips... Reading Growing Old, Going Cold made me wonder."

Literary Review of Canada

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