Swimming Gadgets for the new triathlete

English: A young girl taking a break in a swim...
English: A young girl taking a break in a swimming pool, grabbing on to a rainbow-coloured styrofoam flotation device. Français : Jeune fille s’offrant une pause dans une piscine, s’accrochant à une planche de polystirène expansé aux couleurs de l’arc en ciel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The great thing with adding new sports to your repertoire is that you get to buy ‘essential’ new kit. Hence the casual parkrunner will soon find himself cross training into cycling and then before you know it the pool or the lake will beckon.

But what to buy for the swim training? The great thing is that most swimming kit is pretty cheap; the main cost of swimming is in the use of the water (excepting wetsuits).

So if your partner is heading off to the lake there are a variety of cheap (and often useful) birthday presents to be had for them. Here’s my list:

  • Ear plugs (up to £5) – help in cold lakes and also to stop painful pool based ear infections.
  • Swim cap (a couple of quid) – makes you a bit faster or warmer I guess. You might need two (including a bright one) for an open water swim or race to help keep your goggles on.
  • Goggles! £20 should be more than enough for a good pair. Look for two separate straps to go over the rear of the head.  I guess you could go for polarised or darkened goggles for sunny days outside. Important to get a good fit. A pair would probably last a year or so.
  • Kit bag. a tenner should be ample to sort you out with a simple shoulder bag which has netting somewhere to let all the stuff dry out when you forget to empty it on returning home.
  • Nose clip (£5) especially useful if you are getting a snorkel but otherwise I think of limited benefit
  • Snorkel – £25 for a Finis Freestyle Snorkel. Takes the problem with breathing out of the equation. Let’s you focus on your stroke mechanics without having to turn (read LIFT) your head. Also gives you more freedom to fill  your lungs if your timing is normally out. You’ll look a bit of a prat with one but they do work and they are best used with nose clips.
  • Hand paddles – £20 should be more than enough. Speedo are as good as any. they can be a bit bigger than a hand with holes in and quite rigid or bigger still and a bit more flexible. Most will have some sort of ‘essential’ and unique design feature that probably makes little difference. Helps build a bit of muscle also, if you’re rubbish, you can usually pop these on at the end of a session to eeek out a few  more lengths.
  • Kick board – you know the ones the kids have! Get a suitable one for your weight/size. Let’s you focus on kicking funnily enough.
  • Flippers/fins – good for simulating the (more correct) position you will get with a wetsuit if you are not a great swimmer and also probably provide quite a bit more forward momentum akin to what a wetsuit will provide to a poor swimmer. You would use in the pool but I guess you could also in a lake – I’ve seen it done. Flippers are a longer version of fins. The swimsmooth.com site favour the longer ones as they probably give a beginner sufficient forward motion to be able to properly complete drills.
  • Pull buoy – a tenner should be more than enough for one of these true essentials. Get one that is a different colour to the ones at your local pool (as it will otherwise get lost). These put the beginner in the right position to focus on arm technique, similarly for the better swimmer they disengage the legs from the action whilst also making rotation a little trickier. Great all round gadget and, other than goggles+trunks, is one of the most useful.
  • Watch – You could spend a couple of hundred quid on a top-of-the-range watch – here is a review of the Garmin 910Xt triathlon watch.
  • Wetsuit – if you are a good swimmer you will err towards a neutral buoyancy suit and for the less competent swimmer you would get a more buoyant suit. Both will make you faster. There are many good makes; blueseventy, hub, orca, foor, speedo, 2xu – to name a few. You are probably talking £200 for a ‘proper’ entry level suit or £100 if you are not sure or £400 if you have cash to burn.
  • Wetronome/Metronome – an audio device to beep to tell you how frequent your stroke should be. An important component to ultimately get you faster/more efficient. £30+
  • Trunks – baggy beach shorts will cause more leg drag and make you slower. You decide if you want to look cooler.
  • Lessons are always a good buy and a tri club membership could well be the way to keep swimming costs down
  • Towel – this list is getting ridiculous now! Time to go.

Missing gadget: What I would like is something like knuckle dusters that opens/separates your fingers to the optimum position. I’m sure it’s already been invented – let me know.

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