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Starting a swim program or routine can be intimidating to the newbie. Besides the logistics of getting to the pool itself, you also need to make sure you have the proper equipment, know the proper swimming etiquette, and have a training plan in place before you start. Here we will be tackling the swimming equipment – including what you need, what to expect at the pool, and what can be optional.
The Must Have Swim Equipment
Three simple items are all you need to start swimming. It’s recommended that you bring additional equipment, but if you’re just starting out and trying to swim then this is all that is required.
1. Swim Suit
For the swimsuit anything will do for the beginners. Even trunks for guys or bikinis for women if that’s all you have… but it’s highly recommended that you get jammers or a speedo for the guys and one piece for women. This not only helps with aerodynamics in the water but is also much more comfortable if you’re going to be swimming laps for an extended amount of time.
Goggles should be pretty straightforward. There are a bunch to choose from and you may need to try a few before you find the best that fits. Some of the most important considerations about goggles is they are comfortable, leakproof, and don’t fog up. Check out our top goggles here. Our choice for top goggles is the Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 (be sure to get the clear ones since it will be much easher to see in a pool).
3. Quick Drying Towel
Some pools also provide towels, especially at higher end health clubs. Most public pools and fitness centers don’t, so a quick drying microfiber towel that is compatible works best. I use and recommend the Flow Hydro Sports Towel.
That’s it! Although this is the basic three, you will obviously need a swimsuit to wear, goggles to protect your eyes and so you can see clearly, and a towel in case the pool does not provide this for you (check or call beforehand).
Swim Equipment You Should Have
There is also swimming equipment you should have. These are pieces of equipment that you will likely see mose swimmers using at the pool and are essential if you are serious about starting a swim program, those include:
4. Hand Paddles
Hand paddles are pieces of plastic (usually) that attach to your hands and increase the surface area when you pull while doing the freestyle/front crawl.
They are usually worn with pull buoys and help build arm and shoulder strength and help swimmers get a better feel for the water. I usually wear these during warm ups and sometimes during main sets.
Sometimes hand paddles are provided by the pool, but they’re inexpensive to buy and easy to carry around, plus you need to find ones that fit well, so I highly suggest bringing your own regardless. I use the Speedo Nemesis which you can get for less than $20 on Amazon.com.
5. Pull Buoy
Pull buoys are pieces of foam or soft plastic that fit between the thighs while swimming. These usually work to limit leg movements and focus all your propulsion on the arms and upper body. They are meant to be buoyant (hence buoy) and support your legs in the water allowing you to not kick.
Sometimes pull buoys are provided by the pool, but I prefer to bring my own primarily because I find it a bit gross to think about how many thighs those have been in. Find one that is a good quality and fits well and they will last a long time. I recommend the Speedo Swim Training Pull Buoy for less than $15 on Amazon.com.
You’ll likely see kickboards at any pool. They are one of the main tools swimmers use to help build leg strength and technique. As a tip, be sure to grip the kickboard on the top (not the bottom) so you can rest your wrists and elbows on the board itself.
I generally don’t own a kickboard for myself. Pools usually provide this at the very least plus they’re large and clunky to carry around. If you find yourself without a kickboard you can always do some sculling or kick on your back without the kickboard.
If you must buy a kickboard for a home pool or elsewhere, I would suggest something very simple like the TYR Kickboard for around 15 bucks.
7. Swim Cap
Swim caps are a must for people with longer hair. They help keep everything in place and prevent long hair from clogging pool drains (not fun to clean out!). Others wear them for warmth or just for comfort, but generally they are only required if your hair is below your shoulders.
Speedo makes the best standard silicone swim cap with a wide range of colors that are high quality and extremely inexpensive.
8. Swim Watch
Gone are the days of manually counting your laps and calculating yards in your head. This is thanks to accurate and easy to use swim watches. You can buy watches specific for swimming such as the Garmin Swim 2, but I would recommend a multi-sport or triathlon watch that can track multiple activities like running and biking.
Overall though, any swim watch can give you a good sense of how many yards you are swimming, current pace, and even things like stroke count. Just be sure to properly calibrate the setting to the correct pool length (for example 25 yards, 50 meters, etc).
9. Soap and Shampoo
The one thing I’ve learned from 30+ years of swimming is that you need to immediately wash the chlorine off your body and hair after swimming in a pool. Regular soap works just fine and is usually available at the pool. For the shampoo and conditioner, I recommend using a special swimmers formula, especially if you are swimming multiple days per week.
UltraSwim has been around for decades and has always been the best shampoo and conditioner. It removes chlorine and helps hair that drys out from the pool’s chemicals.
10. Anti-Fog Spray
Although anti-fog spray is not required, its usually a good idea if your goggles are more than a few months old. Over time your goggles will naturally start to lose their anti-fog. I use Quick Spit and squirt it in the inside lens a few times, then rinse before swimming. Alternatively, actual spit also works pretty well.
These ten items should set you up pretty well for swimming and cover everything you need. There are some additional luxury items which we’ll cover in future articles. Have fun swimming and be sure to check out our swim workouts!