Before we even get to packing your swim bag I have two golden pieces of advice that will simplify the relationship between you and your swimming equipment. The first is to pack everything the night before. Trust me when I say that your brain will be far from fully functioning when you’re stumbling around in the early morning, heading out the door to your session! The second is to label everything. And I mean everything. Funnily enough the others you’re swimming with also have a swimming bag filled with equipment very similar to yours. It’s easy for things to get mixed up and to suddenly find yourself with two different sized fins or no paddles.
The most crucial piece of equipment you’ll need is your bathers. Now, I recognise that this may seem obvious but when it’s 5 am and you’ve opted for a two-piece, it can be extremely easy to put the top on, forget about the rest and show up at the pool still half in your pj’s. So while this may not be an item you pack in your swim bag, just make sure you’re paying attention when putting them on in the morning.
Second to your bathers would have to be your cap and goggles. Even if you forget everything else, if you’ve got these you can definitely complete a solid swim. It’s always a good idea to pack a spare of each as well. Caps and goggles are not the most reliable and will break on you at some point, so be prepared.
Next on the list is fins, and no I’m not referring to a fake (but realistic) shark fin. Fins are what most of us swim novices refer to as ‘flippers’. Contrary to popular beginner belief, fins do a lot more than just helping you swim faster. Using them in training allows you to work on specific areas of your technique, to make you move faster through the water even when you’re not wearing them. At TriChicks our coaches recommend the longer type. To understand why, check out Coach Amy’s video in the TriChicks Hub – ‘What fins should I choose?’
A relatively new addition to the swim bags at TriChicks is a Finis Tempo Trainer. If you’re yet to try one, we highly recommend! You’re likely to have a love hate relationship with this thing, as it’s sole purpose is to push you into the red zone, and help you maintain your target speed for longer. Using your 200m and 400m TT times you will generate your CSS pace and the tempo trainer will beep at 25 or 50m intervals to let you know if you’re going to fast, too slow or right on pace. While we do love them, this isn’t a crucial piece of equipment if you’re just starting out, it’s more of a nice-to have! If you’re new to swimming, tick off the other items listed first and grab a tempo trainer when you can.
Paddles are another must-have in your swim bag. These guys will set your shoulders on fire but they’ll also make you strong! The TriChicks approved paddles are branded Finis. These don’t have any hand straps and therefore force you into maintaining correct hand position as the paddle enters the water.
A pull buoy is either your best friend or your worst enemy. On the plus side, it keeps your bottom half afloat and makes the whole ‘correct body position’ thing a whole lot easier. However, using a pull buoy also means strictly NO kicking. If you’re a big fan of making a splash, this piece of equipment might be one you ‘accidentally’ forget every now and then.
If you are a big kicker and struggle to keep your feet still when you’re using a pull buoy, it’s good to have a band to tie around your ankles to pull you into line. You can buy these online or just cut an old inner tube from your bike wheel to the correct length.
Finally, throw in a kickboard. Whilst it may not be the most frequently called upon swim utensil, it definitely comes in handy for a few specific drills, often targeting your kick. (Note: you can also use your pull buoy as a kickboard).
Don’t forget to include a drink bottle as well! Despite the fact that you’ll be swimming in a body of water, you’ll need to BYO if you’d like a sip between sets.
And while it may not be of help when you’re in the water, as soon as you haul yourself out of the pool your towel will be the first thing on your mind. Make sure you’ve got a nice big one tucked away in your bag so you can celebrate smashing your session by getting warm and dry.
If you’ve got all of the above, your swim bag is locked, loaded and ready for whatever your coach may throw at you. Enjoy your swim, work hard and please do not forget to pick up all of your swim equipment once you’re finished. Leaving your stuff at the end of the pool is the fastest way to ensuring your swim bag is not equipped for your next session!