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NIa's Story

One of the biggest barriers has been myself.

I’ve been in situations where strangers have made direct comments about my body and my appearance, and as someone who’s always struggled with body image from an early teen, they have seriously affected my self-esteem and confidence over the years, particularly when wanting to attend classes and learn new activities, or when going into a gym environment.

This, coupled with being a young single parent trying to balance working and university, meant some activities were never financially affordable or accessible, along with timings of classes and the pressure of relying on childcare. 

Although I’m on the smaller end of plus size, I’ve had the odd one or two occasions where kit/equipment hasn’t been available in my size which meant I either didn’t take part or the activity had to be completely adjusted.

I do feel as though in more recent years, manufacturers are beginning to recognise that bigger bodies are also active bodies, and with the support of various groups advocating for inclusivity, kit, equipment and accessibility for bigger bodies are slowly being considered and produced, but we still have a long way to go.

Nia with her back turned and facing away, wearing an orange swimming costume, standing in a river with her arms raised in the air.

My biggest motivator has always been my son. I’ve always tried setting a good example and be a role model to him, as well as others in bigger bodies.

I want to show him, and others, that bigger bodies can be fit, active and healthy, and that exercise and the outdoors is for every body.

I started wild swimming in 2021 after joining a sea swim club. I made some incredible friends who I regularly go hiking and paddle boarding with, and swim in rivers, lakes and waterfalls.

Meeting this group has encouraged me to push myself out of my comfort zone and I’ve since learnt to climb indoors, boulder, and more recently tried kayaking with a local club. 

I started my Instagram page as a way of documenting my activities, hoping to encourage others of any size to get outdoors. Receiving comments and messages saying that someone has tried something for the first time after watching me do it, is the best feeling in the world and definitely encourages me to continue.

Nia hiking outside.

try and structure my day so that I exercise first thing in the morning. I like to start early and know that I can get on with the rest of my day and focus on work or my family, without worrying about feeling too exhausted at the end of a working day.

I’m lucky enough that my son is now at an age where he can be left unsupervised, or join me on an activity- if he’s interested. Having regular contact with his father is also helpful because it means that all of my outdoor activities can be arranged for a day when he isn’t in my care.

This was a struggle when he was younger. Finding classes that fitted around childcare/ university/ work was a nightmare as a single parent, but I have so much more freedom now that he’s older.

Nia on a stand-up paddleboard in the middle of a lake on a sunny day.

With that said, routines can often go out the window as I struggle with bouts of low mood and poor sleep, particularly when I’m feeling stressed.

Juggling studying for my Masters, being a single parent and working full-time has taken its toll and has led to burnout in the past, so I try to be kinder to myself and listen to my body. I’ve stopped feeling guilty for the days I haven’t made it to the gym and set a goal to do something as small as a coastal walk on a day where things feel more manageable, and that’s ok.


My biggest motivator has always been my son. I’ve always tried setting a good example and be a role model to him, as well as others in bigger bodies. I want to show him, and others, that bigger bodies can be fit, active and healthy, and that exercise and the outdoors is for every body."

Being active teaches me every day that I am capable of so much more than what I give myself credit for. It gives me the confidence to try new things and often leads to meeting new people, making new friends and discovering some amazing places. 

Being active in nature always makes me feel happy. I feel like I can truly escape and have a moment to just ‘be’.

It’s a chance to disconnect from the busyness of normal life and the weight that comes with being a parent and an employee etc. It’s an opportunity to recharge and re-connect with myself, so I can return home a better version of myself.

Getting outdoors and trying something new, discovering a new swim spot or climbing a mountain, gives me a massive sense of achievement and encourages me to continue to test myself and push through boundaries.

Being active during the pandemic was something I struggled with. Working in the NHS meant the anxiety around cross-contamination was high, particularly when working with extremely vulnerable children and having to come home to my own family.

The pandemic interrupted access to social and sports settings, but also the amount of time we were able to connect with other people. My mental health declined rapidly during the first lockdown because of the pressure attached to my job, the social disruptions and deprivations that came with facilities being unavailable.

With the restrictions we were given around exercising and social exposure, I started walking and would explore the local coastal path, and I started looking into wild swimming. It was at this time that I came across a local sea swim club and decided to reach out and join them.

I managed to re-build my routine and started swimming at sunrise most mornings before work, which helped get me through some incredibly challenging days.