Wednesday, February 24, 2016 Swim Social: Find out what makes Stirling Swimming Masters take the Plunge "It’s an ageless sport and it doesn’t matter what you look like. Masters swimmers don’t all look like Michael Phelps. They are all different shapes and sizes, and everybody is quiet happy with that" Stirling Swimming Masters Coach Gary Vandermeulen Swim Social: If you love swimming, but are fed up ploughing up and down lanes by yourself then Masters swimming may be just what you’re looking for. It is a great way to keep fit and improve your technique, with the added bonus of being incredibly sociable. We sent Scottish Swimming blogger Anne Kane to find out more: I’ve been enjoying improving my swimming technique at regular 'Skills and Drills' classes, but find there is a definite drop off in my performance when I practice on my own. Having the motivation of swimming under the eye of a coach, or simply swimming with other people, definitely helps and one great way to get that input is at your local Masters Club. I live in Stirling and so headed along to the Stirling Swimming Masters club to find out more. Coach Gary Vandermeulen says, "Fitness and training on your own can be boring. To motivate yourself it’s good to have other people around you. There’s a bit of camaraderie as well and it makes it easier to come and exercise. Everyone is at a different level - some are ex competitive swimmers, some are triathletes, and some are recreational swimmers wanting to learn. It’s my job to find where they are with their swimming and deliver an appropriate training session." Lots of Masters swimmers arrive at a club because they reach a point where their own training doesn’t seem to be delivering the results they want. Gary says, "Not all masters’ swimmers are amazing swimmers. But if you know the basics and you regularly train, your fitness really improves. After six months or a year you starting to put in training times which would be healthy racing times. Then you want to put in better times and striving to be faster keeps a lot of masters swimmers motivated." One of the members at Stirling is Kayrine. She was a competitive swimmer, but had to give it up due to illness when she was a teenager. Kayrine says "I am here at the club to try and get back to a good level of fitness. I do swimming at my local pool, but it is difficult to stay focused and motivated on my own. I do a fast length, but then I’ll stop. There’s no structure when you’re on your own. Here you get told what to do and you can’t really think about it, you just have to get on with it. There’s a good mix of people and everyone is just so passionate about their swimming. It helps get me out of the house as well." Andy is a triathlon swimmer and says "I am a little bit older then everyone here, probably about twice their age. I’ve been doing triathlon for 20 years so this is a new challenge for me. I’ve got a teenage son who swims and I want to keep up with him. I don’t necessarily want to take part in masters’ competitions, but just improve for triathlon. I was Scottish champion last year at over 40s, but it’s getting harder against the young guys. I am looking to improve my technique, so I can swim as fast, but not with as much effort and hopefully by the time I get out of the water during a triathlon I am not as tired for the next two disciplines as I was before." And the great thing about masters swimming Gary says "It’s an ageless sport and it doesn’t matter what you look like. Masters swimmers don’t all look like Michael Phelps. They are all different shapes and sizes, and everybody is quiet happy with that." Another member, Morven agrees. She says "I’ve been out of competitive swimming for 6 or 7 years now and being at the club is helping be get back to a level where I can compete again. There is such a range of abilities at the club and everyone encourages each other. I’d definitely suggest going to a Masters club to anybody who wants to be a better swimmer." If you would like more information check out the masters section of the Scottish Swimming website.