- Competitive swimmers train with gear that, when used properly, can help improve their technique, strength, and endurance.
- As a recreational swimmer, I find certain items like my cap, a pair of goggles, and my waterproof iPod Shuffle essential to completing laps efficiently.
- Before jumping into the pool, grab a few or more of these 14 items to elevate your next swimming session.
If I arrive at the pool without a cap, a pair of goggles, or my waterproof iPod shuffle, my workout is doomed. These three items are essential to me completing any lap at a brisk pace. I know I’m not alone, too. So often I see recreational swimmers use other accessories to aid their workouts, but I didn’t always understand their purposes.
With several competitive (high school, club, collegiate, U.S. Masters) swimmers in my family, however, I learned about the advantages of different items. If used properly, gear like hand paddles, fins, and even snorkels can help any swimmer practice stroke mechanics and build strength and endurance.
Whether you’re training to improve your swim technique for competition or just like to hop in the pool for exercise, here are 14 pieces of gear designed to help boost your aquatic workouts.
Table of contents:
- Goggles to see underwater and protect your eyes
- Anti-fog spray to prevent fog build-up
- A swim cap to reduce drag
- A kickboard to build core and leg strength
- Hand paddles for arm strength and stroke technique
- A pull buoy to enhance upper body muscles
- An ankle band for upper body strength
- Fins to improve endurance and align your posture
- A snorkel to keep your body aligned
- A mesh bag for equipment
- A sport towel that’s more lightweight than cotton
- Hair towels for a convenient way to dry your hair
- A backpack that can be filled to the brim
- A waterproof iPod Shuffle to motivate you to keep going
Goggles to see underwater and protect your eyes
- Swim Outlet
Whether you’re swimming 20 or 200 laps, goggles are a vital piece of your swim kit. Besides allowing you to see clearly underwater, goggles protect your eyes from pool water, dirt, chlorine, and other cleaning chemicals. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, chlorine washes away your eyes’ protective layers of tears, leaving them vulnerable to irritating chemicals and harmful bacteria. Nobody wants anything to do with conjunctivitis – i.e. Pink eye.
I’ve worn the Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 Mirrored Swim Goggles for years. They’re streamlined, comfortable, effectively keep water out, and provide fine underwater visibility.
Anti-fog spray to prevent fog build-up
- Swim Outlet
Fogged-up goggle lenses are a nuisance. Even worse, clearing them up means having to full stop, only to see them fog up again by the next lap. As gross (and potentially conjunctivitis-causing) as is sounds, I used to spit in my goggles, spread saliva on the inner lenses, and rinse them to prevent fogging. Then my competitive swimmer daughter shared her hack of using baby shampoo. But who’s actually toting along baby shampoo and tissues (which you need to keep dry)?
Instead, opt for the JAWS Quick Spit Antifog Spray. Made in the USA with natural ingredients, this convenient spray is hypo-allergenic, alcohol-free, effective, easy to use, and much cleaner than actual saliva in preventing fogged-up lenses.
A swim cap to reduce drag
Even after pulling your hair back in a ponytail, stray strands always find a way to float into your face. Swimming like that is a drag – that also creates drag. Whether you have long or short hair, a cap creates a more streamlined head for better hydrodynamics.
Although a cap doesn’t keep hair dry, it is a barrier that prevents pool water from soaking it while offering protection from chlorine and keeping stray hair out of the pool (and filters). A cap also helps retain heat, which you lose quickly through your head. Some swimmers even wear two caps for extra warmth.
Whether you wear one or two caps, you’ll have a choice between going for silicone or latex. Silicone caps work well in avoiding pulling on your hair and are thicker than their latex counterparts. Though latex caps are thinner and more likely to pull your hair, they are more economical.
A kickboard to build core and leg strength
A kickboard is key for honing proper kicking. It keeps your upper body still and above water while you concentrate on core and leg muscles for building strength. You can also hold the kickboard vertically to provide increased resistance when pushing through the water.
Most people are used to the traditional tombstone-shaped kickboard, but that shape and size may be uncomfortable for some, particularly in the shoulders. The triangular FINIS Alignment Kickboard’s top strap allows swimmers to use it without having to grip the sides, thus taking pressure off their shoulders. This model is versatile for practicing standard kicking, side kicking, and one-arm drills.
Hand paddles for arm strength and stroke technique
When used properly, hand paddles are great for increasing power and speed as well as working on arm stroke mechanics. They also create resistance in the water which helps further develop arm strength.
There are a few caveats, however: Don’t use hand paddles that are more than 10% larger than your hand, don’t use them for more than a quarter of your workout, and don’t develop bad habits like spreading your fingers apart to hold the paddle. Using hand paddles that are too large and for too long can often strain arms and shoulders.
The Finis Agility Paddles are a great choice for swimmers because they don’t require straps, which helps reduce unwanted pressure on your hands.
A pull buoy to enhance upper body muscles
- Swim Outlet
If you want to focus on upper body muscles and stroke mechanics, hold a pull buoy between your legs and don’t kick. Made of foam, a pull buoy keeps your legs afloat and your body in alignment. Pull buoys are sometimes used in conjunction with hand paddles, as well.
The soft yet durable Speedo Team Pull Buoy supports your legs and hips so you can concentrate on building upper body strength and technique.
An ankle band for upper body strength
- Swim Outlet
Another way to strengthen your upper body is to wear an ankle band. To prevent kicking during pull sets, strap a band around your ankles to keep your feet together. An ankle band can be used with a pull buoy to keep the body in alignment, or without a pull buoy to really work our abdominal muscles by forcing you to prevent your legs from sinking on your own.
Fins to improve endurance and align your posture
- Swim Outlet
A proper pair of fins help propel you through the water with increased power and speed, while also keeping your feet elevated for an aligned posture. My niece, who swims in college, notes that her coach has her teammates wear longer fins for power and shorter fins for endurance while training.
The Bettertimes Tritan Floating Swim Fins are great for a variety of training sessions with their long-blade fins and a closed-ankle design for support.
A snorkel to keep your body aligned
- Swim Outlet
You may think it’s unnecessary to throw on a snorkel while swimming laps but wearing one allows you to practice streamlining your strokes while continuously staying face-down in the water. You’re able to better focus on freestyle and breaststroke technique without having to turn or raise your head to breathe.
The FINIS Swimmer’s Swim Snorkel helps keep your body aligned and head properly positioned, and also stays on during flip turns.
A mesh bag for equipment
- Swim Outlet
If you use fins, hand paddles, a buoy, and really any variety of gear from this list, you’ll need a large bag to lug everything to the pool and back. Your best option is to invest in a reliable mesh bag that’s capable of not just fitting everything you need, but allowing wet gear to air dry when you’re done.
At 18 inches by 29.5 inches, the Sporti Mesh Bag with Zipper Pocket fits plenty in its main compartment and even has corner zip pockets for carrying smaller items like keys or a wallet.
A sport towel that’s more lightweight than cotton
- Swim Outlet
Despite a big, comfy cotton towel likely being your dry off method of choice while at home, they’re often too bulky to transport to and from the pool. If you want to avoid lugging around a heavy bag of gear, try a sport towel, instead. Sport towels won’t take up as much room in your bag and tend to be made of quick-drying synthetic material.
Designed for swimmers, the 17-inch x 13-inch TYR Dry Off Sport Towel is soft and extra absorbent, and is capable of drying you off quickly without getting heavy. It even comes with its own dedicated carrying case, too.
Hair towels for a convenient way to dry your hair
- Bed Bath and Beyond
This is an essential after swim item for anyone with long hair. You may look like you’re at a spa rather than a pool, but its convenience and dryness trump appearance. You’ll also be able to avoid excessively dripping water while toweling off and changing into dry clothes. Plus, if you need to run to your car in cold weather while your hair is still wet, a hair towel can be a lifesaver.
These absorbent microfiber Turbie Twist Hair Towels in neutral white give off of a vibe much more akin to “I-just-swam-a-mile” than “I-just-had-my-hair-done.”
A backpack that can be filled to the brim
When I started swimming, I realized the value of a backpack designed specifically for the sport. Where the mesh bag excels with a minimal amount of gear, a proper backpack helps when you have more than just the basics.
Speedo’s Teamster Backpack fits everything from goggles and towels to spare suits and hand paddles. It has plenty of convenient storage space, including a front mesh pocket perfect for toting a wet bathing suit and flip-flops. This backpack also has a wide, rubber-like water-resistant bottom that keeps it standing upright on a wet pool deck and keeps interior items dry.
A waterproof iPod Shuffle to motivate you to keep going
This waterproof iPod shuffle was a complete game-changer for me. Instead of taking breaks between laps and staring at the wall, I now swim continuously without stopping – much. While listening to podcasts or my favorite playlists, I swim harder and longer, ultimately completing more laps in a shorter amount of time. It allows me to avoid getting bored or driving myself crazy overthinking while staring at the bottom of the pool – or ceiling during backstroke.
The Underwater Audio Waterproof iPod Shuffle bundle comes not just with the music player but also with a set of waterproof earbuds of various sizes. Just load up it with music, audiobooks, and/or podcasts and enjoy your swim.