Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Swimming Tips

Yesterday while I was watching my beloved Tennessee Vols blow away Western Kentucky (hey, I have to enjoy these wins before we get to the SEC matchups), I spent the commercials perusing a plethora of running/fitness blogs.
This is a picture from Fall 2012, but I'm missing Knoxville this weekend
While reading all of the great content out there on running and yoga and healthy recipes, I began to wonder if there was actually a place for my blog.  I started this blog primarily as a journal to document my fitness goals and chronicle my athletic endeavors.  Also, my photo roll on my iPhone was getting full and I needed to put the pics somewhere that I could look at them in context.  I jest, mostly.  However, by my nature, I'm a person that likes to help others; I love helping and sharing my triumphs and my much more frequent defeats to help others in similar situations in the future.

Ok, I'll get to my point...

In the world of fitness, my area of expertise is unequivocally swimming.  Whether you're primarily a runner looking to incorporating more cross-training, a runner sidelined by injury, or an aspiring triathlete that might be intimidated by the swim, tune in on Sunday for my Sunday Swimming Tips.  
Today I want to talk about what you should take with you when you head to the pool for a swim.  
I'm going to be providing links to products that I recommend either on or Amazon.  I do NOT receive any compensation if you follow these links and make purchases.  My goals for this blog are not related to making money.

**The first three are admittedly obvious (swimsuit, goggles, swim cap).  The final two suggestions may come be more surprising, but I think you'll really thank me if you take my advice**

#1 - Swimsuits (Kind of the most important, no?)
Just like when you're running, you're going to want to wear something that feels like it is keeping everything in place and isn't going to fall off if you make one wrong move.  I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending that you wear something racer-backed.  When it comes to training suits, I'm not really a brand loyalist.  I tend to buy whatever is cheapest.  I think I normally gravitate towards Speedo or Nike, but I've definitely worn TYR, Hind, and Dolphin before too.  I will tell you, though, that polyester suits will last waaaaaaaaayy longer than lycra - so I pretty much only swim in polyester.
A few of my favorite suits - all polyester (i like color)
(1) Nike; (2) Nike; (3) Dolphin; and (4) Dolphin
If you already know your size, you can usually find some great deals online at places like or  If you haven't been tried on fitness swimsuits yet, I recommend going to Sports Authority, Dick's Sporting Goods, REI, etc. to make sure you get the size that is snug, yet comfortable. Swim suit sizes are weird - their even numbers and a size 24 is the size I wore when I was 8 years old.  Through high school and college, I wore something in the range of 26 to 28 for competition and a 28 to 30 for practice.  I know wear a size 32 for my workouts.  Oh, and if you take my advice on the polyester suits (which you totally should), they run a bit smaller.

Here's a great polyester suit on sale for less than $35 with lots of sizes still available.

#2 - Goggles
This one is tricky because everyone's face is different, so you may have to play around until you find the ones that are most comfortable and the most reliably leak-proof.  Fortunately, goggles aren't that expensive.  I use these for most of my workouts ("swedish goggles"), but I don't recommend them for beginners; they don't have pads and can feel uncomfortable/painful if you're not used to them.  The Speedo Sprint goggles are a solid, inexpensive option ($5.80).  A more expensive option, but, in my opinion, the most reliably leak-proof are these Speedo Vanquisher goggles ($17.99).
The purple goggles are the "swedish goggles" that I swear by, but don't recommend for newbies.  Elsewhere in that pile are a pair of mirrored speedo vanquishers (sort of on the bottom) and a pair of black/smoke Speedo sprint goggles.
One other consideration is whether you'll be swimming outside in the sun.  If so, you'll want to consider purchasing a version of these goggles, or whichever you choose, that are "mirrored"; they have more of a sunglasses affect, so you won't be swimming and squinting.  I wear these mirrored Speedo Vanquisher goggles when I swim outside, primarily for open water swimming and triathlons.  

By the way, you don't necessarily need to order these online unless you live in an area without a sporting goods store or you're already placing an order with and want to avail yourself of the free shipping on purchases over $64.

#3 - Swimcap
Basically, my recommendation here is that you wear one.  I really wouldn't recommend going without.  Having hair in your face when you're trying to do a swim workout is more annoying than hair in your face when you're running.  

Really, there aren't many considerations that go into choosing a swimcap other than, which color goes best with your skin tone.  I mean, there are silicone swim caps (~$6-12) and latex swimcaps (~$2-5).  Silicone caps are more durable, but I've never felt the need for anything more than a latex cap (and I'm usually prone to buying the more expensive gear because if it costs more, it must be better, right?)
Random assortment of swim caps
Odd that I have one from my brother's alma mater, but not my own?
If you start doing any competitive events that involve swimming (open water swim races, triathlons, etc.), they usually give you a swim cap, so you'll start accumulating them.  But, starting out, there is truly no reason to spend any more than $3 on a plain, latex swim cap that will be perfectly adequate. You can check out a bunch of caps here.

#4 - Zoomers or "Training" Fins
My recommending these may come as a surprise for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I think these are critical for anyone who is getting in swimming shape after any hiatus, whether it be your whole life or even a few months.  Second, I want to be very clear that I'm not recommending the huge, floppy, Scuba Steve flippers that you use for snorkeling or scuba diving.  These are shorter and make it MUCH easier to push off the walls.  
Pictured are Zoomers by Finis; I use these. ($27.95)
Kiefer also offers its own version that looks similar, here, but I've never used them. ($22.95)
So, basically, when most people swim, they kick a lot to help them keep afloat and that takes so much energy that their concentration on the remaining parts of your stroke isn't there.  By wearing zoomers, you get a lot more propulsion out of less effort with your kicking, so that frees up some energy to focus on what you're doing with your core and upper body.  This will especially help if you're currently at a stage where you're uncomfortable swimming even one or two lengths of the pool.  

Now giving swimming a shot and let me know how it goes! 

I look forward to your questions, comments, and suggestions.  Either comment below or feel free to contact me at MerryMarathoner26.2(at)gmail(dot)com


  1. Thank you for this post. I am a a weak swimmer (one of those working at actually swimming freestyle for two pool lengths and calling it success) and began again after a leg injury forced me to cut back on running (temporarily, of course). These tips are great.

  2. I love the idea of Sunday Swimming Tips! I definitely look forward to reading these. I love to swim as well, and it's great cross-training for running. After I finish the Hansons plan I intend to pick up with it again! Question for you on the Goggles - do you use an anti-fog spray? I used to wear the sweedish goggles back in my swimming days, but just wear the normal ones now. They fog up after about 300 yards, and I have to constantly wipe them between sets. If you have any tips for preventing that let me know!

    1. So, I don't have a lot of trouble with goggles fogging. I have used anti-fog spray before, a long time ago, and I think that I thought then that it made my eyes sting. (I was probably overreacting)

      I also don't use my fingers to clear out the fog because I perceive that it makes it wrong. When I do get fogging, I just rinse my goggles out in pool water really quickly between sets. That being said, I've heard that somehow you can use toothpaste to help prevent fogging. I haven't tried it, but my quick google searching doesn't make me immediately reject the idea. This website ( says to fog proof your goggles, just "[r]ub some toothpaste on the inside of goggles and then rinse to have fog free goggles for swimming." Sounds like it is worth a shot to me!