Thursday, August 31, 2017

Stephen Milne's Open Water Adventure

"Everyone is different, but there’s no reason why you can’t combine both Open Water and indoor swimming if you practice the right skills."

Here, World Championship Gold Medalist and Olympic Silver Medalist Stephen Milne writes candidly for Scottish Swimming about his recent adventures in the open waters of Scotland.

I’ve done a bit of Open Water in the past and I always enjoy the chance to try out some wild swimming. I remember being on the island of Rum for the Duke of Edinburgh Award silver expedition a few years ago. The beach looked fantastic and I just had to get in even though it was freezing. The rest of my group thought I was crazy. The sea and the lochs are often pretty cold in Scotland and a wetsuit can make a real difference. It’s more buoyant than being in a regular suit too and it gives an extra sense of security if you’re a little apprehensive about taking the plunge. I didn’t have any kit with me in Rum and had to go in my boxers, but it didn’t put me off!

The indoor pool is very much my competitive focus now. I enjoy the challenge of pacing the laps and getting the turns up to speed. Everyone is different, but there’s no reason why you can’t combine both if you practice the right skills. I’m not much good at sighting – it’s pretty easy when you can just follow the line along the bottom of the pool – and getting a good line round those buoys needs a bit of determination when you’re in the pack. Even though most folks will be concentrating on front crawl for open water training, it’s good to mix up the strokes and work in a bit of kick. I train on all four strokes to help me to avoid injury and strong legs is always helpful when you need a bit of a push at the finish or when your arms start to tire. Scottish Swimming’s skills and drills sessions can help to give some ideas on ways to keep things fresh while you’re ticking off the laps in the pool.

It was good to kick off the new season with something a bit different as I was just about to go back into training after the World Championships. The Great Scottish Swim is really well supported and there were so many people there enjoying everything Loch Lomond has to offer. It was nice to know I hadn’t lost my stamina too much over the break. My older brother’s partner came up from Manchester for the Aquathlon, and my younger brother is thinking of taking part in the swim next year. It’s good fun and a great way to find a fitness goal. In the end, whatever level you are aiming to compete at or train for, it’s all about improving from where you’ve been before.

Next year will be another big one for swimming in Scotland. For those who make the team, the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast isn’t too far off as it’s in April, then there’s the Europeans in Glasgow in August. The 2014 Games in Glasgow was such a fantastic experience to be part of. It was my first senior Games and I was so proud to represent TeamScotland with so many Scots there to support us. There’s nothing quite like a home crowd cheering you on to get things going. I’d love to be part of that again and represent my country in Australia next year. Next summer’s goal will be the Europeans, but I’ll have to earn my place when the time comes alongside everyone else. British Swimming has a strong track record right now and Glasgow 2018 will be another very exciting time for the team when the home nations come back together to take on Europe’s best at Tollcross.