I haven’t been able to swim for the past couple days because I’m still getting over a nasty cold. But, besides that, I’ve been swimming a lot recently. I got a membership to the YMCA at the beginning of April when my orthopedic surgeon urged me to try more types of exercise that are easier to do with my foot problem. Before that appointment, I’d been only doing strength training and a little bit of the recumbent bike, but he thought that I would start losing weight faster if I was doing more intense cardio. So swimming it is!
Like I’ve said before, I’m a huge fan of swimming. I’d just never shelled out the money for the Y membership until I realized how necessary it was. I spent the majority of my childhood summers in swimming lessons, diving lessons, swim summer camp, and lifeguard training classes when I was older. I loved swimming and would’ve joined the swim team in high school if I didn’t have conflicting obligations like drama club and choir rehearsals.
In the past few weeks, I’ve come to love the ritualism in swimming laps. I love packing all my stuff together, driving to the gym, getting ready in the locker room, taking the pre-pool shower, gliding down the steps into the pool, stretching out my arms and back, sliding my goggles over my eyes, and pushing off full-speed into the refreshing chlorine-scented water.
From practicing this ritual over and over, I’ve put together a list of must-haves for swimming laps. Starting to swim for the first time can be very intimidating. It’s not like jumping on the treadmill with your headphones – it requires more planning and more equipment. In order to make the transition a little bit easier, here’s the beginner’s list of what you’ll need to bring with you to the pool.
6 Necessities for Lap Swimming:
- Membership to a gym with a pool – Obviously, this is the most important thing. I have a membership to the YMCA, which I like because it allows me to go to any Y in Rhode Island and they also have a gym, not just a pool. I’m not a huge fan of the Y because of their steep membership rates (I pay $40/month on the college plan) and, depending on the Y, they don’t always have group classes (or they make you pay for the group classes, which is even worse because you already pay for the membership).
- Bathing Suit – A common misconception when it comes to lap swimming is that you need fancy Olympics-worthy swimwear. This is just not true. While some people do choose to swim in those kinds of suits, it’s not necessary and you shouldn’t feel intimidated by them. I wear a regular one-piece that I bought at Target for $20 (which I made sure would cover me appropriately during exercise), and there are lots of other swimmers who do the same.
- Goggles – Goggles are definitely a necessity. If you don’t wear goggles, you will get water in your eyes, and you probably won’t be able to swim in a straight line. It’s distracting to have to concentrate on keeping your eyes chlorine-free when you should be concentrating on your breathing and strokes.
- Silicone Ear Plugs – While you don’t need to wear these, I highly recommend that you do. Public pools are notorious for harboring bacteria that will get in your ears and can cause ear infections. It’s very common, and silicone ear plugs not only keep your ears safe, they also help block out distracting background noises.
- Gym Bag & Padlock – When you go to the pool, there will be a locker room where you can change and put your stuff. You’ll need a good-sized gym bag to hold your towel, change of clothes, shower toiletries, etc. You’ll also need a padlock to keep your stuff safe in a locker while you’re swimming. Even if you go to a nice gym, locker rooms are notorious for being a place where stuff gets stolen. Better to be safe than sorry!
- Water Bottle – Don’t forget this!! I cannot stress this enough. Because you are exercising in the water, your body and your throat will not feel thirsty. But, your body really needs that water to recuperate from the exertion. Make sure to drink a bunch of water as soon as you get out of the pool (or even better, keep a water bottle by the side of the pool and take a drink between laps/sets).