Saturday, April 2, 2016

Beneath The Surface of Masters: Janet McLean (Carnegie Masters)

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

Enjoy our next interview with Masters swimmer Janet McLean. Janet is a 42 year old Psychology Lecturer with Abertay University and the Open University. Janet swims with Carnegie.

How did you start swimming?

When I was eight, one of my best friends at school started swimming and I guess I just wanted to do the same things as her.  I was already a proficient swimmer because my mum and dad would take my brother and I swimming most weeks.  I had a trial with Warrender, joined the club and progressed through the squads and then went to Newcastle University and joined the swim team there.  I also joined the Newcastle Swim Team Masters section, which was the first time I’d been involved with Masters and found them really welcoming.

Many of the Masters swimmers I’ve spoken to stopped while they were at university – why did you keep going?

I had a lot of friends in swimming at school and I had a lot of friends in swimming at university.  My dad always laughed when his friends complained that their kids were out at parties – he said all I wanted to do was swim.  My social life revolved around swimming and people who swam, so there was never a time when it got in the way of other things.  I was lucky in that I spent seven years at university, first as an undergraduate and then to do a PHD – until I was in my mid-twenties  I was always studying and always swimming in a team.  It literally is a way of life for me.  I still train in the mornings, just like I did when I was ten years old.  I swam while I was pregnant and I somehow manage to fit swimming in with raising my children.  I would find it incredibly difficult to stop swimming – although I realise that there are very few of us who have managed to keep going without a break.

I suspect I might know the answer, but how do you spend your time when you’re not in the pool?

I’m always in the pool!  I coach swimming now at my club; I coach from beginners through to the first two club squads.

What are your favourite competitions and events?

I have been to the European masters a few times now and I’ve won two titles; the first one was in Ukraine where I won in the 400 metres freestyle and then in Eindhoven and I won the 200 butterfly. I’m really looking forward to the Europeans in London this year.  I also like open water swimming as well.  I got into that through Masters and really enjoy the discipline.  I started open water swimming when I was 27, back when nobody else was really doing it, so I got so swim for Scotland in an event in 2001.

You’re a psychology teacher, so please don’t critique this question, but how much do you compete with your younger self?

I was very clear with myself after I had my kids that, just because I was never going to have the time to train as much, I was never going to be as fast as I was when I was younger.  So I have my personal bests since I had children and my personal bests before I had children.  I hope that sounds like a sensible way of judging where I am.  Women will lose muscle mass as we get older, but I think I’ve got another five to ten years of trying to maintain similar times to what I’m managing now. 

What do you love about swimming?

Swimming is a real part of my identity; if people outside were asking about me they would know swimming is a big part of who I am. I think if I didn’t do swimming I would lose a part of my identity. Then there is obviously something about being in the water. It just clears your mind, you just get on with a set and you don’t have to think about anything else, which makes you feel so much better.

What do you hate about it?

There’s not much I don’t like. I’ve put my own children into swimming lessons and I don’t think I would have done that if there was something I didn’t like about it. I like the team aspect of it, the physical aspect of it. I like the fact that you can change your stroke if you get a bit bored of one, so I don’t think there’s much I don’t like about it.

What would you say to recreational swimmers who are thinking about masters swimming?

Don’t be fearful that you are not going to be good enough. A good friend of mine took up masters swimming in her 30's.  She’d never been a swimmer but she had been a smoker.  But she set her own targets and didn’t worry about what everybody else was doing.  There will be athletes that take it seriously, but there are plenty of people there just for enjoyment. If you take something like the Great Scottish Swim, Masters’ swimming is just an extension of that with a few more rules.

Give us your 3 top tips for becoming a better swimmer?

You need to have good technique and that means you need to have a good body position. With many swimmers their head is in the wrong position and their whole body position is wrong. So work on your body position, because if you want to be fast you need to get that right. Second, if you want to be a better swimmer you need to be coming at least once or twice a week so your muscles remember what you expect of them. Third, set realistic goals; don’t get too distracted by what other people are doing. Everybody’s got a different background so think what is relevant to your life. 


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