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How Andi, 49, quickly went from struggling to swim 50m to doing 21kms in open water




Eight months ago Andi Woolley couldn’t manage to swim 50 metres without stopping.

Yet last Sunday the 49-year-old grandad completed the annual 21km (13-mile) open water swim from Denver to Lynn.

And, all being well, he will celebrate his 50th birthday in October by travelling to Greece to compete in his first-ever triathlon.

Ready for the challenge: Andi Woolley before the Denver to Lynn swim (41298486)
Ready for the challenge: Andi Woolley before the Denver to Lynn swim (41298486)

He puts his incredible transformation down to hard work and perseverance.

When lockdown forced public pools to close and threatened to scupper his training, he managed to continue by tethering himself to the side of an £80 pool he bought for the back garden.

Andi, head of business at Inchcape Land Rover in Lynn, said: “I hadn’t swum properly since I was about 13 or 14. Apart from messing about with the kids on holiday, I hadn’t been in a pool for over 30 years.

“So I started going two or three times a week and just made myself do one kilometre. By the time lockdown came around I was managing two kilometres and come August time I was up to four-and-a-half.”

Andi in the 21km swim from Denver to Lynn (41277362)
Andi in the 21km swim from Denver to Lynn (41277362)

The original inspiration for his fitness drive came from his wife Lisa, who had joined Three Counties Running Club. Andi started too last October and realised that he enjoyed it and was fairly competent.

When a fellow member suggested the possibility of taking part in triathlons and an Ironman event, Andi, from Emneth, challenged himself to get into shape.

“I surprised myself at how fast I’ve improved, particularly for somebody who never went in a gym until they were in their 40s,” he said. “I’m not the fastest in the races I compete in but I’m often in the top ten for my age group, which I’m happy with.

“I’m incredibly competitive for myself. I look at something and think ‘I can do that’.

“You can find excuses not to do things, such as you haven’t got the time. But I push myself to find the time. I have to because I run a household and a business and make sure I have time for my four children and one-year-old grandchild.

“I get up at 5am every morning and I’ll have done a two or three kilometre run or cycled 25 miles before I get in the shower.”

Andi Woolley training during lockdown - tethered to the side of an £80 pool in his back garden (41277381)
Andi Woolley training during lockdown - tethered to the side of an £80 pool in his back garden (41277381)

Having never swum for longer than 90 minutes before, last weekend’s swim in the River Great Ouse proved to be a tough ask for Andi.

“It was more difficult than I was expecting, Because of the tide and the current we knew we would be swimming fast but we had to keep going for over three hours.

“I had pain in my shoulder at the halfway point but I just had to keep going. When Palm Paper factory appeared on the horizon it was a great moment becase we were nearly there and the cheering and support from the 100 or so people on the quayside was fantastic.”

Andi Woolley taking a breather during training in the £80 pool in his back garden (41277386)
Andi Woolley taking a breather during training in the £80 pool in his back garden (41277386)

Andi’s next focus is the Ironman UK event in Bolton next July - a 3.9km swim, 180km cycling and 42km run.



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