AN intrepid group of fitness lovers are taking on the challenge of swimming or pool-walking the length of Loch Ness in the next few weeks – without having to stray too far from home.

Members of Middleton Spa at Middleton Hall Retirement Village, at Middleton St George, near Darlington, are also covering the distance of the Coast to Coast route – without leaving the building.

One of the first to sign up for the challenge was Jack Wolstenholme, who has set himself the target of completing 99 lengths of the Spa pool before his 99th birthday on February 16.

The brave pensioner is cautiously optimistic but said: “I’ll believe it when I’ve done it.”

Almost 50 members and residents are now tackling either swimming or pool-walking 3,622 lengths to cover the 36 kilometre length of Loch Ness, or clocking up the equivalent of the 210 kilometre route between Workington and Tynemouth using the Spa’s gym equipment.

The challenges have been created by the Spa to help members and residents to stick to any fitness resolutions they made at the start of the year.

Michael Hodgson, the Hall’s healthy living manager, said: “Tackling our challenges is giving residents and members the encouragement to keep going longer than maybe they would have without an added incentive.

“It is also giving them a bit longer to get into a regular routine. For those who use the facilities on a regular basis it is providing a challenge and sense of achievement to keep going and striving to improve.

“They love it. They make sure we are noting down their kilometres each session and often want to do a little extra to increase their distance.”

The Hall’s Spa-goers are no strangers to challenging themselves with members and residents taking on regular challenges to help them keep fit and healthy.

Last January, a team of swimmers completed a ‘Swim the Channel’ initiative and a collective challenge to mark last summer’s World Cup was also completed.

Mr Hodgson added: “From June 1 to 18 everyone travelled from Middleton Hall to Russia, around the grounds where England would be playing and back again in time for the kick off of the first game for England in the World Cup against Tunisia. A total of 9048 kilometres was completed with time to spare.”

Membership of the Spa is also available to local non-residents aged over 50 years old costing £38 per month.

Some membership places are currently available for non-residents.

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