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Fitness planner | The right gear for new, long-distance and competitive swimmers

How to pick the right swim suit, swimming cap and goggles, fins, kick boards, swimming snorkel, and other long-distance swimming gear.

July 31, 2022 / 08:01 PM IST
In case you swim outdoors while the sun is up, get yourself a pair of mirrored swim goggles and if you tend to do most of your swimming indoors, non-mirrored goggles will do just fine. (Representational image: Brian Matangelo via Unsplash)

In case you swim outdoors while the sun is up, get yourself a pair of mirrored swim goggles and if you tend to do most of your swimming indoors, non-mirrored goggles will do just fine. (Representational image: Brian Matangelo via Unsplash)

It might seem like you don’t need much to swim. After all, we could strip down to our bathing suits and jump in. Well, that approach might work for some fun in the water but if you want to swim serious distances, as in our Couch to 1km training plan, you will also need some accessories to master the art of swimming.

Also read: Fitness Planner | Swimming: How to go from zero to 1km: Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.

The accessories are needed for performing drills that ultimately make you a better swimmer and improve your technique. It’s not only beginners who use accessories but also professional swimmers who use them to become stronger swimmers and make the cut in competitions. Here is a list of everything you are likely to need to become an ace swimmer, no matter your current level:

1. Swimsuit: The most basic, but also the important need. You want to wear a swimsuit that not only suits you and fits you well but is also comfortable and doesn’t come in the way of your laps. Anything too big and it will create drag, slowing you down. Anything too tight, and you will end up with rashes and chafing while feeling uncomfortable for the entire duration of your swim. So pick the right size and right material. There are great offerings for men, women and children from Arena, Finis and Speedo at various price points and that gives you a lot of options.

If you are starting out and don’t want to spend too much right away, make your way to Decathlon which churns out good sports goods for beginners in almost all sports. Swimming is no exception. I have used their Nabaji swimming trunks. Speedo is synonymous with swimming the world over and you are unlikely to go wrong with those. Former Olympic swimmer and founder of the Nisha Millet Swimming Academy says Arena and Finis are also good options for people looking at something other than Decathlon and Speedo.

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Make sure the suit fits you well and is comfortable. (Image: Arisa Chattasa/Unsplash) Make sure the suit fits you well and is comfortable. (Image: Arisa Chattasa/Unsplash)

2. Cap: Most pools won’t let you jump in without a swim cap. The cap, apart from keeping the pool free of unwanted hair and protecting your hair from the unwanted chlorine, also serves a vital purpose in swimming. It streamlines you and reduces drag right from the top of your body so that you can glide better and swim faster. There are plenty of options to pick from and you don’t need to be too technical with a cap. Decathlon, Speedo have good caps at various price points and I also recommend swimming caps by the American brand TYR Sport.

3. Swimming goggles: Perhaps the most important piece of equipment you will ever buy when it comes to swimming. The worst feeling in this world is when your eyes are on fire from all the water splashing in. Swimming goggles let you see clearly in water and also protect your eyes from the chlorine, salt and other chemicals in the waters that you swim in.

In case you swim outdoors while the sun is up, get yourself a pair of mirrored swim goggles and if you tend to do most of your swimming indoors, non-mirrored goggles will do just fine. Training swim goggles are slightly bigger and more comfortable than the race goggle which tend to be sleeker, smaller and tighter.

As with most things swimming, take your pick from Speedo and Decathlon and I suggest giving TYR a look too. Swimming goggles start at a couple of hundred rupees and can go all the way up to Rs 5,000 and more.

Swimming goggles let you see clearly in water and also protect your eyes. (Image: Akshat Jain/Unsplash) Swimming goggles. (Image: Akshat Jain/Unsplash)

4. Kick board: One of the first accessories you will have to buy the minute you get serious about swimming. It is used for various kick drills as well as resistance and breathing drills. It is just a piece of foam board and you don’t really need to shell out too much or think too much before picking one. Get whatever kick board you find a good deal on, and hit the pool. They are readily available online and in sports stores across the country.

5. Fins: Fins, also called flippers, are not mere toys for kids to play with at the beach or essential accessory for those who go diving. Fins are important for swimmers too as they play a big role in improving your kicks and also strengthen your legs. Those who want to improve strength in their legs should opt for short fins, says Millet and advises using medium to long fins while going for middle distance or endurance swims. Again, Decathlon is a good spot to buy fins.

6. Pull buoy: This easily available piece of foam shaped like the number 8 is fantastic for drills that isolate the legs and use only arms. A pull buoy is placed between your thighs and you need to exert just enough pressure to keep it in place while you pull yourself with your arms along the water. This improves the pulls and strengthens your arms to swim strong and long.

7. Hand paddles: Paddles are used by swimmers to add resistance to their training, thereby strengthening the arms. They are easily available everywhere and you don’t need to be too brand conscious while buying these. However, one word of advice from Millet is to make sure you do not buy paddles that are too big. “Pick a pair that is slightly bigger than the size of your hand and that would work best. When you use paddles that are too big, you end up having to expend way more strength than needed to complete arm strokes and that could lead to shoulder injuries in the long run and would tire you out quickly in the short term,” explains Millet.

8. Swimming band: This is especially for those who cannot stop kicking despite using a pull buoy. A swimming band is put across your ankles and that hampers your ability to use your legs while swimming so that you can focus on your upper body movement.

9. Swimming snorkel: This is growing in popularity of late and is used by swimmers who like to train for long sessions. Unlike a normal snorkelling kit, the breathing tube is in the middle of the swimming snorkel and you can continue swimming without having to turn to breathe. You still get your oxygen while looking down at the floor of the pool, all the time focusing on your form and stroke, says Millet.

10. Stretch cords: Regular swimmers rarely use swimming stretch cords for training but professional swimmers and athletes use these in the pool for their resistance training. Like with all forms of resistance training, training with stretch cords adds load for you to swim against - which eventually increases strength, endurance and speed.

11. Drag suits: Though mostly used in competitive situations, more and more recreational athletes are turning to drag suits to improve their performance in the pool. The drag suit improves your buoyancy and also reduces resistance in water which ultimately ends up making you faster. These don’t come cheap, and you may have difficulty finding many choices in India.

12. Swimming parachutes: Another accessory for competitive swimmers who have to keep getting faster with every session, to stay in the fray. Just like a parachute that one uses for to improve speed while running, a swimming parachute is used in the pool to introduce greater resistance during speed training. It works on the same principle as the training parachutes used for running.

13. Hydration: People sweat buckets and lose plenty of salts while swimming, especially long distances, and you need to rehydrate with appropriate supplements before, during and after a swimming workout. Fast&Up has specific formulas for all three as well as other nutritional hydration supplements. Give them a try. If you want an international option, I recommend checking out Nuun Hydration.
Shrenik Avlani is an independent editor, writer and journalist, and co-author of 'The ShivFit Way', a book on functional fitness.
first published: Jul 31, 2022 07:47 pm
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