Jane took part in the Aspire Channel Swim five times between 2006 and 2016, raising over £1,300 in total.  Since then she has become an avid open water swimmer.

I have always loved swimming and have always been a regular (although not very serious) pool swimmer.  By 2006, I had become a bit bored in the pool just going up and down and I wouldn’t push myself at all.  I also use trips to the pool to get some head space - which we all need when we lead busy lives - and I always gave myself a reward of coffee, cake, breakfast or something like that. 

So, there I was putting all this pool time in, with little focus, when the Aspire Channel Swim challenge presented itself to me.  It sounded like a win-win, and I thought people might donate as it was quite a novel idea to clock up the distance, even though I had to explain to a few people that I wasn't actually swimming the channel.  Generous to a fault, they sponsored me and even offered to come along and throw flotsam and jetsam into the pool to keep it authentic, yuk!

Jane swimming

I enjoy swimming because it is non weight bearing and a great way to cool down after a work out, or just when you want some head space. I had tended to suffer some dodgy back and neck type pain, probably from too much time at work in those days, so it was certainly helping me in that regard too. You'd expect me to say all that but, above all, I have just always loved being in water.

Jane wading in the sea

I swim at Nuffield Health in Gosforth, Newcastle, a friendly club where I’ve been a member for about 13 years.  It’s become a home from home and I have forged some good friendships, not least our little breakfast club (back to the food and drink theme again – swimmers always need refuelling!).

The first time I took on the Aspire Channel Swim I found fundraising quite easy, as people knew it presented me a real challenge to complete the 22 miles.  That first year I raised over £600.   In later years, it got harder to find donations, or to feel that I could ask, so a couple of times I just donated to Aspire myself and swam for the fun of it.  

The Aspire Channel Swim has made me a much better swimmer, as practice makes perfect (or at least better) and the challenge really pushed me on.  

To anyone thinking of taking on the Aspire Channel Swim, I say just do it!  Don't fret about the distance, just swim as often as you can and enjoy it. If you start with 10 lengths, then next time try 12, then 16 etc.  Make up sets and gradually you will enter the water with a plan already in mind, then you can start the longer plan.  I tended to do a set distance twice a week and add a longer swim at the weekend to make sure I could hit the miles needed by the end date, but you can always do more if you feel like it!

If you want to improve your stroke there are some great videos on YouTube. Don't be afraid to try improving your stroke or your breathing – no one will laugh at you if you get it wrong.  However, do check out the lane discipline, such as which way is up and down, whether there is a leisure lane and a fast lane. Don't try your new floaty back stroke thing going the wrong way in the fast lane - it doesn't go down too well - but for the most part you will find a nod and a hello when you get in a lane will go a long way in sharing the lane nicely, and perhaps getting a chum for coffee after.

I have signed up to do the Swim again this year.  I turned 60 this year, and I'm celebrating by doing things I enjoy, while just marking the fact that I can!  As it’s the 20th year of the Aspire Channel Swim, it feels right that I join in again this year.

Jane by the sea

Open water swimming

I began open water swimming around 2015/2016 when I took part in a Newcastle Active Programme as part of This Girl Can.  I had always fancied trying open water swimming as I live near the coast and love it.  It seemed natural to want to push myself and I was also planning to retire early and wanted to stay out of my comfort zone when that time came. 

The Aspire Channel Swim played a big part in my moving on to open water swimming because it made swimming become a habit.  My nearest and dearest friends know that when I have not had my watery fix I become a shark not a dolphin.  

The Aspire Channel Swim also gave me confidence in my own ability.  I became a stronger swimmer than ever before and so felt a bit more confident to dip into open water.

I love open water swimming because, once you get into it, the joy of the outdoors and the freedom it gives you is quite addictive. Once you get involved you find it is very inclusive, friendly and informal.  You swim at your own risk and it's better not to do it alone, but once you get to know other swimmers and swimming groups, it becomes easy to just meet up with others. 

Jane on the beach

In winter, I go open water swimming at least once a week.  It’s a joy to swim all year round, but it’s not for everyone. The main thing is to do what you are comfortable with and enjoy it.  In summer, I swim outdoors several times a week, as there is nothing like a dip in the sea when it is heading for 18 degrees, even up north!

I’ve swum all over, from the sea along the Northumberland coast and the Lake District, to the Outer Hebrides, Spain, Portugal and Gran Canaria.  Basically, if there is water I'll swim in it.

Jane swimming in the sea

Sign up for the Aspire Channel Swim

Swimming events

How we help