It’s undeniable, the summer Olympics are awesome at making us care about sports we’ve never had any interest in for at least 2 weeks every 4 years. Weightlifting, synchronized diving, shot put, and handball? Obviously I have opinions about all 4 and I’m pretty sure I’d be elite at half of them :) It’s worth noting that According to the BBC’s Olympic body match up generator I’m built most like a female Russian shot putter… take note ladies that throw heavy objects, I’m coming for you in Rio!
Once interest in the more obscure and inaccessible sports shake out (what do you mean I can’t just pick up a pole vault at Sports Authority?), some that you can actually participate in almost anywhere see increases in participants. Swimming in particular gets a boost from the Olympics at the age group and masters level. If you’ve never really been involved in swimming that’s probably how you ended up here on a swimming blog. Well the good news is swimming is fun, great exercise, and full of a lot of nice people. It’s also hard at first and does require some basic equipment to get going.
Here’s my new swimmer starter list
First things first right? If you’re going to swim for exercise you need to dress the part. I know it feels awkward at first to step out in tight fitting swimsuits but you’re going to look sillier if you show up in board shorts or swim trunks. For the guys I’d recommend getting yourself a jammer if you feel you’re not quite ready for rocking a banana hammock. For the ladies the options available for you are numerous. Just make sure you go with something that has an athletic cut and fits you right. You can root around on SwimOutlet for plenty of men’s and women’s swimsuits, but I prefer to shop for suits with my friends at Splish who make some really fun and ridiculous swimsuits (including a RobAquatics suit!).
Goggles are a highly personal thing. Everyone likes something different for different reasons. Personally I like rubber gasket goggles with solid nose pieces. You’re probably going to go through a few pairs looking for what you like best. Once you find that magic goggle go buy a whole bunch of them! You never know when a manufacturer is going to drop a style and you don’t want to have to start all over again in your search for leak free goggley perfection.
A swim cap is pretty advisable for those of you with hair, this doesn’t apply to me so much :) They come in lycra, latex and silicone. Latex caps are the classic but personally I think silicon caps are much better and worth the couple extra bucks.
Swim fins are a regular piece of equipment in most swimmers bags. I like fins quite a bit and have an absurdly large collection between swimming and surfing. My favorites for swim workouts are the Finis Z2 Zoomers. If you’re going for more of a fitness swimmer sort of angle the Finis Zoomers Fit would be a better choice. When choosing fins make sure they fit snugly so that they won’t pop off your feet at speed!
Some teams/pools will have kickboards available for you, some won’t. It never hurts to have your own especially for when you’re travelling or if you do some of your workouts solo.
Personally I really dislike buoys but I seem to be in the minority on this one. These are wedged between your legs to stop you from kicking and focus just on your pull. Some triathletes also use them to mimic the flotation you get from wearing a wetsuit.
And now… a way to get all this stuff to the pool! Mesh gear bags are great to keep all your stuff contained while on the pool deck. If you’re sharing a lane with a bunch of other swimmers it’ll keep you from mixing up everyone’s swim gear.
Find a club to train with
I find this incredibly important. You can swim by yourself and you will get better and stronger to a point. Working out with a group takes it to a whole other level that is extremely difficult to achieve by yourself. If you’re over 18 check out US Masters Swimming. Don’t get intimidated by the word MASTERS mixed in there, this is an organization that encompasses all ability levels from beginners to current Olympians. I’ve swam against everything from 90 year old ladies to Olympic 50m Freestyle Silver Medalist Cullen Jones. USMS is an incredibly inclusive scene and I highly recommend finding a program in your area to jump start your swimming. If you’re under 18 there’s a whole other world of swimming run by USA Swimming which I’m not quite as hip to anymore seeing as I’m in my 30′s, but there are tons of programs out there for the kids if you go looking for them.
So with all that… go forth, get wet, have fun, and get faster in water!