Intrepid gym-goers at a leading north east retirement village have set out to swim or pool-walk 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 and not even setting foot outside the Spa.

Almost 50 Spa members and Middleton Hall residents have signed up to the challenges and are now busy tackling either swimming or pool-walking 3622 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, or to provide a new target for those already using the facilities on a regular basis.

Michael Hodgson, Middleton Hall’s Healthy Living Manager, explained that resolutions can easily tail off within a matter of weeks: “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.”

Michael said that residents are really enjoying the challenges: “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.”

Jack Wolstenholme has set himself the target of completing 99 lengths of the Spa pool before his 99th birthday on 16 February. He is cautiously optimistic but said: “I’ll believe it when I’ve done it!”

Middleton Hall’s Spa-goers are no strangers to challenging themselves. Last January, swimmers completed a ‘Swim the Channel’ initiative and a collective Spa challenge to mark last summer’s World Cup was also enthusiastically embraced.

Michael explained: “From 1st to 18th of June 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.”

Middleton Spa incorporates a gym, pool, jacuzzi, studio and therapy rooms.

Michael added: “By helping to maintain and enhance fitness, it supports Middleton Hall’s central philosophy of ‘Living Well’. This aims to enable residents to live active and fulfilling lives by giving them choices about keeping fit, eating a balanced diet and doing activities that are sociable and stimulating.”

Membership of the Spa is also available to local non-residents aged over 50 years old costing £38.00 per month. Some memberships are currently available. Further details