Saturday, March 05, 2016

Beneath The Surface of Masters: Fiona McEwen (Swim West Lothian Masters)

We are looking deeper into the lives and personalities at the heart of the Scottish Masters community through our ‘Beneath The Surface’ feature. 

Here's our second of several interviews with Masters swimmers, as well as some fantastic underwater photos courtesy of GBswimstars.

Fiona McEwen (45) was brought up in Edinburgh and is now a GP living in West Lothian.  She is a member of Swim West Lothian Masters. 

Tell us about your swimming journey?

My big sister Anne started swimming at school and I followed her into it out of sibling competitiveness.  I joined Warrander and also swam competitively at school. Then I got to fifteen and a combination of thinking swimming was bad for my hair and studying to get into medical school meant I had to make a choice. Back in the 1970s, we weren’t as aware of the need for an active lifestyle or that there was an obesity issue so swimming was much more of a sport than a leisure activity, meaning it was all or nothing.  Now clubs have things like fun squads where you do less training and that is great because it keeps you swimming longer.  

How did you get into Masters?

My sister is now a coach at Warrander and I went to support her at the Scottish Masters in 2007.  It brought back memories and I decided to give it a go.  There wasn’t a club where I lived at the time, but then Swim West Lothian Masters came along and I’ve been masters swimming ever since.  

What Masters training do you do?

I try and train three times a week with the club.  If I’m on my own, I’ll do freestyle, but at the club I’m pushed to do more IM and shorter distances and sprint work and really build up a range of things that I can do.  There are things all swimmers need to improve on that only somebody watching you can see – which is why I love a coached session at a Masters Club.  

What is the highest level you’ve competed at?

A good friend and fellow swimmer was very honest with me when I started and said “your tumble turns are pathetic – you should try long course (50m) rather than short course (25M).  So I trained and went to the British Masters in Manchester and won the 400m and 800m freestyle and got silver in the 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke.  I was really chuffed as I didn’t expect to do that well at all.  I’m going to the British and the European Masters this year and really looking forward to it

What do you love about swimming?

That it is my time.  I can be busy at work, or busy at home, but when I’m swimming it is my time and that is both relaxing, challenging and rewarding. 

What do you hate about swimming?

Fitting it into an already busy life!  There are so many other things happening at 7pm on a weekday. I do sometimes stand on the side of the pool and think about the hassle of getting in and out, but I instantly forget all of that when I’m in the water.  I like getting up in the morning and going swimming before the kids get up – there is nothing else competing for my time in the early morning.  

What are you most proud of in your swimming?

That my fitness levels have gone up enormously.  When first got into Masters I tried a 400m freestyle and thought my lungs were going to burst out of my mouth.  You have to accept that it will take a few months to get your fitness levels up and that it will be hard to start with, but gradually the water will become your home again.   

What Masters training do you do?

I try and train three times a week with the club.  If I’m on my own, I’ll do freestyle, but at the club I’m pushed to do more IM and shorter distances and sprint work and really build up a range of things that I can do.  There are things all swimmers need to improve on that only somebody watching you can see – which is why I love a coached session at a Masters Club.  

What is the highest level you’ve competed at?

A good friend and fellow swimmer was very honest with me when I started and said “your tumble turns are pathetic – you should try long course (50m) rather than short course (25M).  So I trained and went to the British Masters in Manchester and won the 400m and 800m freestyle and got silver in the 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke.  I was really chuffed as I didn’t expect to do that well at all.  I’m going to the British and the European Masters this year and really looking forward to it

That my fitness levels have gone up enormously.  When first got into Masters I tried a 400m freestyle and thought my lungs were going to burst out of my mouth.  You have to accept that it will take a few months to get your fitness levels up and that it will be hard to start with, but gradually the water will become your home again.  

GPs are always telling us to be fit and active. You’re a GP – how does swimming shape up as a fitness tool?

I see people with so many aches and pains from sports other than swimming.  Swimming is much more forgiving and I think as you get older it is one of the best activities you can do.  It works on your core which makes you steadier on your feet and from a medical perspective swimming ticks both mental and physical health boxes.  However, it only works if you’re really swimming.  There are a lot of swimmers who, if they were being honest, aren’t swimming as much as giving gravity a rest for a while.  That’s social swimming rather than fitness swimming.  You need to get your heart rate up to get fitter.  

What would you say to recreational swimmers thinking about Masters?

Don’t feel intimidated.  At every club there is space for everybody of every age and every ability.  Don’t ever feel you’re not good enough or experienced enough.  You’ll be there with other like-mindedpeople who are going through, or have gone through, exactly the same steps as you.  It’s also incredibly social.  Recreational swimmers spend a lot of time in their own head.  At Masters, you stop at the end of each set and can have a chat and talk about how your day as been or what you’re thinking about your swimming technique.  You bounce ideas and thoughts off your teammates and the team spirit is wonderful.  

Give us some top tips on becoming a better swimmer.

Your life is full of “I’ve not got enough time” moments – don’t let swimming be one of them.  If you want to get better, you need to do it regularly.  Half an hour at lunchtime is better than nothing.  When you’re in the pool, try to relax; you’re less likely to splash about the pool, less likely to hold your breath and more likely to become more streamlined and catch the water better.    

 

Fiona was interviewed by Chris Kane.  Read more Swim Social Blogs/Interviews here

 

 

comments powered by Disqus