Wild swimmers take on winter challenges to boost mental health - with three dips a week at Eastney

A pair of Waterlooville wild swimmers are taking the plunge to complete three swims a week at Eastney for the invigorating benefits it has on their mental health.

Purbrook and Waterlooville Slimming World consultant Mel Knibbs, and group member Jan Lathem, will complete a set of sea challenges including Chilly 40 - where participants complete 40 outdoor cold water swims between October 2021 and March 2022, The Solent Blue Tits Winter ‘30 swims’ Challenge and the Polar Bear and Penguin Challenges.

The Polar Bear and Penguin Challenges run from November to March and the aim is to finish a set number of outdoor swims and distances during winter.

Mel, 50, says she was introduced to open water swimming through Jan in July after the difficulties of the pandemic took a toll on her mental health.

Mel Knibbs and Jan Lathem Picture: Habibur Rahman

And the calming effects it has had on their wellbeing gave them both that sense of hope, a ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude that sets them up for the day – even while enduring the freezing conditions in the middle of winter.

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Mel said: ‘It’s so great for our mental health. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

‘I love the sea. I'm not a massively strong swimmer but I I love swimming.

Jan Lathem and Mel Knibbs Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘Although some people think me and my friend are a little bit mad swimming in the middle of winter, I really look forward to it and I miss it if I miss a session because it's what I love.’

Mel echoes that through sea swimming she is able to see the health benefits happening within her own body and because of the cold water shock, her contact with the water is the only thing she can think about - which takes her away from a distracting ‘swamp’ of busy thoughts.

For Mel and Jan wild swimming is not just about measuring their distances to meet challenge goals, it’s about feeling good.

‘It makes you feel energised,’ Mel said.

Friends Mel Knibbs and Jan Lathem Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘Some days it's calm and it's just lovely to swim. I feel great because you don't think of anything else.

‘Sometimes I think about what I'm going to be doing that day and there's a lot going on in my head.

‘If you've had a tough day it really does calm you. It's just while being with all of the natural elements of the world.’

Taking part in sea swimming is just one part of Jen and Mel’s exercise routine for Body Magic, a programme set up through Slimming World which supports an active lifestyle.

Friends Jan Lathem and Mel Knibbs in the sea at Southsea Picture: Habibur Rahman

Members are encouraged to build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activities on five days of the week.

‘It is as simple as getting started and doing a five minute walk everyday. You might do that for four weeks and then go up to 10 minutes. It's all about gradual and doing it at your own pace’ said Mel.

‘There are some people who go to the gym everyday and run and do marathons but for lots of us, it's just starting at your own pace and being proud of what you do.’

Mel has a number of other members eager to get involved with sea swimming but says spring is a better time to get started then the weather is warmer as it could be a ‘real shock to the system’.

To get involved with Waterlooville Slimming World or wild sea swimming at Eastney contact Mel Knibbs on 0770 263 3420

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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