- Bands – Not the musical variety: more like the rubber variety. Bands allow you to tie your legs together to focus on your arm pull only. Be careful not to pull too far off the centre line (the central axis) when using bands. A wide or narrow pull can result in “snaking” as your legs are not able to kick and balance your stroke.
- Cap – An essential item to keep your hair tidy! Caps are usually made from rubber or plastic. The better ones are made from silicon. Keep your caps in good condition by drying them thoroughly after training and racing. Turning them inside out and sprinkling them with talcum powder or baby powder also keeps them in good order.
- Cossies – Buy ones that are comfortable and durable. As they start to wear out, wear two old pairs (one on top of the other) to stretch out their useful life. Wearing three old pairs at once turns old cossies into “drag suits” as the extra thickness makes for extra resistance. When wearing in new cossies, keep a tube of Vaseline handy in case the new stitching causes chafing.
- Drink Bottles – 750ml drink bottles with water or sports drink should be as much a part of your swim kit as goggles and a towel.
- Fins – Fins are usually worn when working on stroke (stroke development and stroke correction) and when doing over-speed work. Most drills are done at kicking speed, and swimmers with weaker kicks can often benefit from wearing fins during drill work to keep up a reasonable momentum. Fins can also help you get the feel of swimming fast through the water, but it is important to maintain good control of your stroke at the faster speed. Fins come in various shapes and sizes (including cut down ones called “zoomers”). Buy fins that are not too firm as it limits the natural movement of the leg. Avoid really long ones as they make life a little too easy and are of limited value as conditioning tools.
- Goggles – Goggles should be comfortable and not let in any water. If fogging up is a problem, spit (yuk) in them or lick the inside of the goggle before you start swimming. If diving in with goggles on, keep your head fairly relaxed, eyes fixed straight ahead. Looking up or down when you dive can cause the goggles to come off or end up around your neck. Also most goggles have a split band on the back. Spread the band evenly across the back of your head to keep your goggles in place while swimming. Buy goggles that fit your eye sockets and not necessarily the ones worn and advertised by the top swimmers. If possible, try them on before you buy them. (Don’t spit in them until AFTER you pay for them though!).
- Kickboard – A good tool to help you develop your kick. A great idea (if you can afford it) is to buy one and do a 200 metre kick time-trial. Repeat the time-trial monthly. Every time you improve by 10 seconds, cut 10mm off the kickboard with a sharp knife. In this way, as your kick improves, you learn to rely less on the added buoyancy of the board. A good way to save money is to buy a pull buoy and use that as a kick board (and as a pull buoy!).
- Paddles – The smaller the better. One trap that many new swimmers fall into is the “small paddle-small improvement: bigger paddles-bigger improvements”. The bigger the paddles the greater the load on your shoulders and upper back. Use paddles that overload your muscles, but don’t overload the joint to the point where your technique is compromised and you risk injury. The short cuts you take this year, will be the ones you pay for next year.
- Pull Buoy – A piece of equipment designed to keep your legs afloat while working your arms. Shaped a little like a dog biscuit and usually made of foam rubber, the pull buoy fits snugly between your legs, just above your knees and stays there with a little gentle pressure applied from your inner thigh muscles.
Some do it yourself ideas:
- For something to tow and add resistance to your swimming try tying a 2-metre length of rope to a one metre by 50 cms sponge. Tie the rope to your waist and trail the sponge behind you. It will get heavy after it soaks up some water and give you something to tow up and down the lane. The great thing is that when you have finished, you can simply wring it out and put it in the bottom of your swim bag for another day.
- Get an old inner tube (the inside of a car tyre). Using a strong pair of scissors, make two cuts 10 cms apart to form a loop. This is a great way to make swim bands. One old inner tube can make enough bands for your whole swim-squad.
Thanks for reading!