As all of you swimmers know, the gear matters just as much if not more than your performance! (half-joking)
Best Swim Earbuds
- Swimbuds $40 [Amazon]
- Swimbuds Sport $70 (includes many styles of earbuds) [Amazon]
- Swimbuds HydroActive (wrap-around band, includes the many earbuds) $90 [Amazon]
Note: We are planning to test whether the regular Swimbuds are more or less reliable than the HydroActive. HydroActives may be better or worse for some people, they may stay on better than regular earbuds under the swim cap, but may be more uncomfortable.
Don’t get: Swimbuds Fit or Flex (these have the stiff cord over the ear, but don’t seem as great of quality), Swimpod USA’s SwimPod (not as durable), Dacom (doesn’t last long), Bragi Dash Pro (expensive, not durable)
Best Swim Waterproof MP3 Player
Note – Bluetooth is not possible underwater, because water blocks the BT frequency.
- Waterproof iPod Shuffle $210 [Amazon]
- Substitutes: Underwater Audio SYRYN (comes with $60+ headphone purchase)
Don’t get: Finis Duo (charging issues), Waterfi Swimcast (a kickstarter campaign for a headphone and streaming player combo, unstable connection), Tayogo (not durable), Mighty Spotify Player (bad quality, bad battery), Delphin (only decent option for Spotify but still not great of a connection, better to stick with mp3), Speedo Aquabeat (doesn’t last long), Sony Waterproof Walkman (hard to get a seal and bad sound quality underwater)
Both (Best Combo of Earbuds and MP3 Player)
- Waterproof iPod Shuffle and Swimbuds Sport $260 (includes many styles of earbuds) [Amazon] OR BEST DEAL $205 (refurbished iPod) [UnderWater Audio]
- 8GB SYRYN Waterproof MP3 Player and Swimbuds Sport $90 (includes many styles of earbuds) [Amazon]
- 8GB SYRYN Waterproof MP3 Player and Swimbuds Sport $60 (does not include lots of earbuds) [Amazon]
Best Fitness Tracker for Swimming
None of the fitness trackers seem accurate for open water swimming. Please see videos such as:
- Youtube: Fenix 5 Plus vs Suunto 9: Openwater Swim Shootout (Failboat) by DC Rainmaker
- Youtube: Openwater Swim Mega GPS Test // Garmin, Suunto, Polar, Apple, COROS by DC Rainmaker
Best budget for lap swimming – Fitbit Versa ~$140 [Amazon]
(slightly better and can find better deals than the Garmin Vivoactive HR). The high end watches (as below) are not necessary for lap swimming only, but we prefer the Fenix 5 Plus for its functionality over the Suunto, although hoping that Suunto catches up in functionality because their watch looks way cooler!
Best for open water swimming – There is currently no high-end watch that is accurate for GPS open water swimming. The best ones are still inaccurate, which include the Fenix 5 Plus and the Suunto 9 (i.e. Baro). The Fenix tracks HR better than the Suunto 9, and has way more functionality. Suunto is slightly cheaper ($200 cheaper), and more rugged, durable, looks cooler, and better topographic maps. However, the Fenix 5 Plus is overall the better tracker with its interface and accuracy.
Always get goggles where others cannot see your eyes: for the intimidation factor. These goggles in polarized version are amazing, also recommended as the top goggle brand and model by Wirecutter.
Aqua Sphere Kayenne Swim Goggles Anti Fog Polarized, example color: polarized, yellow, black $40 [Amazon]
Two options – Brief or Jammers
Recommended Brief – Speedo Men’s PowerFLEX Eco Solid Brief Swimsuit, example color: Navy $25 [Amazon]
Recommended Jammer – Speedo Men’s PowerFLEX Eco Revolve Splice Jammer Swimsuit $25 [Amazon], or for more stylish but expensive get the Speedo Reigning Light Jammer $45 [Amazon]
Protect your hair from the harsh chlorine and other chemicals in pools, reduce drag, prevent hair from entering the pool’s filtration system, and if you have long hair, prevent it from knotting as much.
Differences between Silicone and Latex –
- Silicone is easier to take on and off (won’t snag hair)
- Silicone does not stretch and fit as tight as Latex, would need to try harder to get a good fit putting it on for Silicone. Some people say Silicone caps slip right off.
- Silicone hold their shape better over time, with fewer wrinkles. Latex stretches out and gets less tight over time.
- Silicone lasts longer (Latex is more likely to tear), but more expensive and Latex is cheaper
Recommended: Silicone seems to have more pros, especially for medium to long hair. Latex would be fine for short to no hair,
Recommended Silicone Caps for Long Hair – TYR Sport Long Hair Silicone Swim Cap $12 [Amazon] (TYR gets better reviews than the Speedo for long hair), or substitute Speedo Silicone Long Hair Swim Cap $11 [Amazon]
Silicone stylish with American Flag – Speedo Silicone ‘Flag’ Swim Cap $10 [Amazon]
Best Swim Snorkel
Would recommend against using a snorkel – one may be able to use it temporarily to help focus on technique instead of breathing, but in the end it becomes a crutch. It will hold you back from improving your water breathing.
Best Swim Fins
FINIS Z2 Gold Zoomers – Training Swim Fins $30 [Amazon] – Slightly longer than the regular Gold Zoomers, better for longer swimming (1 hr + instead of 30 minutes), and for training your muscles and endurance. Helps you swim longer in training and teaches you to be more conscious of your kicks. Also, the regular zoomers are heavier and more rigid, less comfortable.
Swim Technique Tips
- Swim 3+ times per week to improve, focusing on training frequency (often), instead of duration (time length), for example 30 minutes everyday instead of 1 hour every other day. And don’t get discouraged by getting tired or having trouble breathing, swimming is hard. Swimming frequently will add to your fine muscle gains and prevent them from disappearing; and these help you balance your body in the water so you can glide instead of be thrashing.
- Get technique advice (get lessons or ask for help)
- Try to keep rest times below 30 seconds, using the clock
- Try to breath bilaterally in a 1:3 rhythm (both sides equally). This will improve your symmetry and balance in the water, reduce drag, have you swim straighter and reduce the chance of shoulder injury.
- Stay in the water for longer periods instead of getting out to rest, in order to build your core abdomen muscles that will help with breathing. You will get less anxious about breathing as you improve, and in turn getting more relaxed (using less energy) and gain more endurance.
- You will swallow water and get it in your nose, be patient. You will improve at preventing this.
- Learn to relax as you swim, instead of being tense to nail the technique. However, this advice might not be useful, only possible once competency is achieved.
- Keep records of your starting point so that later you can gauge how you’ve improved – Weight, resting heart rate, your swim distance and speed (but try to focus on distance). Alternatively, could get the Fitbit Versa above.
Weight loss can be difficult to achieve with swimming. Being out of breathe does not always equate to swimming hard and burning lots of calories. In addition, swimming, unlike most other sports, is also an appetite stimulant, so one must be careful not to overeat, especially right after swimming.
Pool lane etiquette:
Join the lane with least number of people. If there is only one other person in the lane, the lane can be split with each person taking half the lane. Assume lane/circle swimming, unless you agree to splitting or it seems like they start splitting. Once a third person joins, circle swimming must start. Swimmers resting at lane end should stay as far to either side of the lane as possible.
Technique Tips and Tips by Stroke Type
Note: People all have different issues to troubleshoot, but this is a general progression guide of tips. Generally, mostly focus on one issue at a time until it feels comfortable and natural. And don’t think that only drills and easy practices are for working on technique; work on technique in every set, all of the time. Solid technique is harder to keep in the middle of big routines, and especially on race day!
Firstly, learn to Breathe – The key is exhaling underwater continuously. Exhaling continuously lets your abdomen stay relaxed, in turn allowing your other muscles to stay relaxed instead of tense. Very important.
Tips by Stroke Type
- Focus first on rotating in order to breath, and don’t lift your head up out of the water, keep one goggle still in water and one out to get air. The head should stay in line with the body, 30-45 degree angle forward, only rotated to the side. The wake created by rotating the head creates a pocket of low water, allowing a breath.
- Rotate your whole body at the waist (30 degrees), not just the torso. Even your legs should be paddling slightly sideways while your body is sideways, perpendicular to the pool floor. You could even do a drill where you only kick with your legs (hands at your sides), and you rotate on each side.
- Stretch your arm as far out forward as possible on each stroke. Don’t worry about strength or speed too early, just get used to stretching and rotating your body.
- After you’re comfortable stretching and rotating your body, focus on keeping your elbow high in the water, freezing the water and torquing your body past your arm, instead of just pulling the water behind you. This will let you focus on exerting more power.
- Explanation: Once your arm goes out front of your body, your elbow should stay at the surface of the water while lowering your forearm and hand into the water and anchor it in place. Then pull your body past that anchored forearm and accelerate down the pool. The entire forearm and hand must be used as a single unit to provide the most propulsion. The surface area of your hand + your forearm, is more than just your hand. Using the entire forearm and hand as a paddle minimizes wrist flexion, and when maintaining a “high elbow” pull, this utilizes the lats and upper back large muscles, and places less stress on the rotator cuff and deltoids. This pulling motion also coincides in nicely with the rotation of the hips. When your arm is in the water anchored and pulling, that same side hip is rotating up as the arm pulls back. Always pull with your forearm and hand leading the motion, never dropping your elbow or leading the pull elbow-first.
Minor Freestyle troubleshooting tips:
- Don’t squeeze your hands tight to make super taut paddles or cup your hands
- Don’t tense hands to make sure you place them in the perfect spot in the water, instead extend your arm forward and let it drop
- Don’t let the hands wander and wiggle around out front (either right after entry or right after the catch) because it delays things and leads to gliding and coasting instead of constant thrust down the pool. Also goes for pushing downward too far in the pull.
- Once your hands reach your waist, again, pull your arms up by the elbows.
- To improve kicking, try making fists with the toes. This helps many people not kick as much, consequently moving more smoothly. Not intended to be a permanent change. Alternatively, use zoomer fins.
- Sprinter pulls deeper with their hands than a distance swimmer – but generally not different form
Video Tips – Auburn University: Swimming Faster Freestyle
Example Routine for a week:
200 (adding an extra 200 for each next concurrent week, up until 1600 for 1 mile. this would take 8 weeks)
4 x 100 (rest for 8 breaths between each)
4 x 50 (rest for 4 breaths between each)