I always took my swimming gear bag for granted. It became part of my “uniform” growing up swimming and I never had to think twice about what was in it. I grew up among swimmers, so I was never asked about the mesh bag filled with bits and pieces I towed around with me. These days my social circle is mostly CrossFitters. As I slowly make my return to the pool – primarily to recover from my CrossFit workouts – it has been amusing that everyone notices the bag I carry around, and is curious about what’s in it and what each piece of equipment is for.
So what do swimmers tow around with them? What do we use in our workouts? Here is a glimpse inside my bag and a look at some of the tools we use to become better swimmers:
First things first, there is the gear bag, or mesh bag. I currently use a black Tyr mesh mummy bag. These are roomy bags with mesh venting for increased dry time and drainage, since anything we use at the pool gets fairly wet. Over the shoulder straps allow for easy transport. It also has a side zipper pocket to allow for additional organization (I use mine for my asthma inhaler, tempo trainer, and FRS energy chews) and a built-in water bottle pocket. It’s the perfect solution to carry around swimming equipment.
Cap and Goggles
Two items in my bag are a given: cap and goggles. If you have hair you should be wearing a cap, in my book. I give preference to silicone caps, because they are gentler on the hair, and I try to avoid latex as much as possible.
As for goggles, if you have eyes, you should be wearing them. Growing up, I don’t know how my sister managed to swim most of her races without goggles, especially the long ones. As I wrote before, goggles are essential for vision under water. So unless you know your stroke count perfectly each time, goggles will help you orient in the pool. While Tyr Socket Rockets are my favorite goggles of all time, my last team was sponsored by Arena, so I have a bunch of Arena Drive 2 goggles to use.
I carry a handful of technical equipment, some of which is homemade. Two staples are the kickboard and pool buoy. Those are pretty standard. The kickboard is used for isolating legs, while the pool buoy looks like the figure eight and goes between the legs to isolate the pull (arm movement). Two others that go hand in hand with the former two are hand paddles and short blade fins.
I have fairly simple hand paddles, yellow Strokemakers paddles. These couple well with the pull buoy for swim pull sets, but I also use them on their own for full swims to get increased resistance and feel for the water. I use my Strokemakers with only the finger strap. I removed the wrist strap that comes with them as it helps me correct hand entry and exit and ensure the correct path of the pull. If your technique is rough, though, doing this will likely cause the paddle to be removed from your hand as you swim.
The issue of fins I discussed in depth recently. The ones I am currently using are the Tyr Crossblade. They are short blade fins that are perfect for kick sets and drill work. I also use them for sprint work so I can feel fast moving water and adjust my stroke to faster speeds.
So there you have it – a sneak peak at the inside of a swimmer’s bag. It’s not so mysterious after all. Like any gym bag it’s filled with the basic tools I need to do my work safely and efficiently. If you’re spending a lot of time in the pool I highly recommend you put together your own bag of essential swim gear.