My father was in the RAF and a keen scuba diver. As a youngster I lived in the Mediterranean so swimming was a natural part of growing up. I moved back to the UK when I was nine.  The cold water wasn't everyone's cup of tea but I still loved sea swimming although it became more of a summer pastime.  

Sandras dad in the RAF  Sandra as a child with her mum

Years later when I moved to Canvey I saw an organised swim from Chalkwell to Southend pier and thought "I'd love to do that!" and it rekindled my love of open water swimming.  Then a random Facebook request from a lady looking for a winter swim buddy to help with her Ironman challenge saw me take it to a whole new level.  I have now swum at least once a week, every week, all year round for the last four years with Audrey, now my best friend and Ironman. I have also done the Great East 5k swim and several smaller swims including a few sprint Triathlons.

I love open water swimming because of the feeling of freedom; no lanes, no limits as they say.  Every swim is different - the choppier the water the more fun the swim - it's like being in a washing machine!  Living on Canvey I’m lucky to have the beach (well the Thames estuary) on my doorstep, but it's a mud bottom - we call it the Canvey beard when you get out – so training definitely isn't glamorous! You feel invigorated after a swim, whether 5k or 500m you feel better, even in the cold water.  I even enjoy the shivering, it burns a huge amount of calories!

Sandra on the beach in a wetsuit

I found out about Aspire’s Solent Swim as I follow several open water Facebook pages and it popped up on my feed.  Suddenly I had a bucket list moment. Moving back to the UK I lived in Locks Heath and spent the rest of my childhood looking across at the Isle of Wight or going out with my dad's diving crew to the Isle of Wight, so to realise I could swim it was a) a challenge and b) a must-do bucket list. 

My swim is on 10th August, significant for me as it’s the anniversary of my mum's passing in 2015. I know both her and my dad, who unfortunately has also passed away, will be virtually with me as I take on this challenge - probably arguing or praying (another childhood memory!) - but definitely one I will be channelling to help push me through.

My training hasn’t been too bad. I put in some extra pool work over the winter to increase my distance, as I hadn't swum 5k for a while. I am now enjoying the slightly warmer water of 9° allowing me to swim just over a mile in the sea.  Roll on Spring!

Sandra scuba diving

I’m aiming to raise £1,000 and have already raised £935 from my incredible clients.  I am a fitness instructor for over 55s and they have been fantastic at sponsoring me.  They think I'm mad, but they are my inspiration – if they can workout with me every week, I have no excuses.  Lillian is my oldest client at 93!  She is incredible and I have no chance of retiring because if she can do it, then I have to keep going.  They are always up for a laugh and we do love a dress up! 

Sandra with her class dressed up  Sandras seated exercise class

All charities do incredible work so to be able to raise money to help provide practical help to people paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury and support them from injury to independence is fantastic.

I'm booked to do the "Sandman" triathlon in Wales with my daughter in September and I’m hoping to finish somewhere close behind her or to beat her!

Sponsor Sandra

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