Relax and Swim

Swim Gear

Swimming requires some special equipment besides a decent pool.

The very basics include:

  • A swimsuit
  • A cap for long hair
  • Goggles
  • and a towel.

Other handy items would be:

  • A good shampoo and conditioner (look for the Ultraswim or Tri-Swim brand, and for cruelty-free products (Yay!), look to the sidebar, under “Recommendations“)
  • A bottle of alcohol and white wine vinegar (50/50) solution to dry out leftover water from your ear canal, preventing the “swimmers ear” that some people develop after being in the water. Dribble the solution into the ear canal (intact eardrums only, please) with a rubber baby ear syringe and leave in for a full 5 minutes
  • Silicone ear plugs (Mack’s brand is good) and
  • Rubber sandals for shower and poolside.

Containers near a pool or shower should be plastic.


Suits are often made of a combination of Lycra Spandex and nylon. These suits eventually fall apart from continual wearings in chlorine pools. I usually have to replace mine every 6 months or so if I swim 3 or more times a week.
Some suits are made of 100% polyester, which lasts longer than spandex. These and suits made from other specially-treated fabrics, plus certain special washes for your suit, will help it last longer. See the sidebar on the right for specific solutions for longer-lasting suits.

Keep your Lycra suit longer by:

  • Rinsing in the shower before entering pool, to saturate the fabric with fresh water
  • Rinsing the suit in cool water after swimming, by not wringing it out (just squeeze the water out instead) and hanging it to dry as soon as possible. A crumpled, soggy Lycra suit can fall apart before your eyes.


Caps come in either rubber, silicone rubber or Lycra spandex. If you really want to protect your hair from chlorine, bear in mind that rubber or silicone are effective barriers. Silicone is thicker and makes the best seal round your head. Porous Lycra caps keep your hair contained but will eventually fall apart, the same as a suit.

Hairdressers recommend putting conditioner on your hair under your rubber cap for protection while you swim. Every pool has rules regarding the use of caps, as you’ll find out as you arrange for lessons.


Goggles are a highly individual matter. Most important, the goggles need to fit your face, between your brow ridge and your cheekbone. They come in different styles depending on your face shape. Oversized mask-like goggles can offer lots of visibility and could help you relax.

Some goggle tips:

  • If your nose has a high bridge, for example, try goggles with an adjustable bridge. Feel for the goggle’s seal near the nosepiece
  • High cheekbones need a narrow and oval, not round, shape
  • Smaller faces might be comfortable with a Junior size
  • Goggles come with either foam or silicone rubber “gaskets” or seals attached, which help keep water from leaking in. Be aware of allergies you may have to certain foams. You can also choose goggles without gaskets (“Swedes”) if you prefer. But usually only competitive swimmers wear them. Whenever I wear them, they leak. But maybe that’s just me
  • Some students prefer the comfort of an oversized or wide-angle style goggle with a clear lens for maximum visibility in the water. Oversized, mask-like goggles require the most attention to fit around your cheekbones, the eye and the bridge of your nose
  • Try the suction of the goggle on your face before you use it out underwater. Without undo force, press and hold the goggles over your eyes. If you feel poor suction, if the goggles don’t stay in place for a few seconds before falling off, you have a poor seal. Try a different style. Don’t torture your skin looking for the tightest fit. Unless you want to. (Silicone gaskets seal the best)
  • Goggles can be ground as prescription lenses. Ask any optometrist who makes glasses. Speedo also offers an optical goggle. Contact their customer service about this at (888) 477-3336.

The strap fits tightest at the upper back of your head. Most new swimmers have to try on different styles before being satisfied with the fit. Unfortunately, unless you can try out a friend’s pair while you’re at the pool or a store pair, you’ll have to buy your goggles first before checking the fit.
Many swimmers use (their own) spit to rub into each eyepiece, and then quickly dunk into the pool to rinse, to keep them defogged.

Swim gear can be found at the following or at your local sports store:

  • Speedo  A biggie with everything you need, from suits to goggles to kickboards
  • The Finals  Mail order and now online. Great prices
  • Kiefer  All gear, online and in retail stores
  • Swim 2000  Order anything you need online. Some discounts offered. Check back often
  • Junonia  For the active woman size 14 and up


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You’ll find something to keep almost any kind of iPod dry at h2OAudio.

Waterproof your iPod! Visit SwimMan to learn more.

Cyle Sage, head swim coach at St. Leo University in Florida, specializes in the developmental swimmer and has experience in working with those with extreme fear of the water. He recommends the following gear:

“Goggles — Finis’ line of goggles provide exceptional fit and eye socket comfort, UV protection and wide field of vision. Their snorkel-type swim masks fit and look like a snorkel mask. I find that people with a fear of the open water are calmed by a goggle that fits a larger portion of the face compared to a smaller goggle.

“I have had a lot of success with the front-mounted snorkel in teaching people to learn the proper freestyle pull pattern, as they are able to swim with their face in the water and not worry about the breathing timing with the stroke cycle.

“A swimmer with a fear of water will keep his/her face and head out of the water, causing the hips and legs to sink, struggling and essentially swimming ” uphill.” I have also found that the ‘shaky’ swimmer and new swimmer really benefit from learning how to swim, keeping the face in the water with the snorkel first, then transferring that learned stroke to swimming without the snorkel, lastly adding the breath timing.

“The SWIMP3 gives one music; I feel this is one way to get a ‘shaky’ or nonswimmer into the water, as they can take their music with them.

“The Z2 Zoomer fins also help a novice swimmer with their body position and correct kicking technique.” Thanks, Cyl.

Swim fins are used as learning and training aids by swimmers of all levels. The style varies but the idea is the same — correct kicking is maintained by wearing fins for part of your workout. TYR makes a split fin, which balances the resistance of both the “up” and the “down” portion of the kick, allowing smoother forward propulsion. TYR also makes a swim mask for new swimmers.

Find Ultra Swim, Tri-Swim, Aquia, and Malibu shampoo and conditioners plus lots of other gear at or call (800) 214-6823.

Read about these excellent products by Aubrey Organics, Tri-Swim, California Baby and Abba:

Aubrey Organics Normalizing Special Care Stressed shampoo/conditioner; California Baby; and Paul Mitchell Three (Clarifying) are all cruelty-free. All can be found at

H2O Wear makes suits out of “ChloroGuard” for all sizes of swimmer. Rinse in the shower before entering pool to saturate the fabric with fresh water. Pop suits into the washing machine; there’s a 1-year prorated warranty. And try Solmar Suit Saver to rinse your suit and remove residual chlorine. Find everything at or call (800) 321-7848.

Try Aqua-Gear’s rinse-free washes, called “Activewear Mate” and “Swim Mate” to neutralize chlorine in your suit. Treat your suit after each swim with a capful of this rinse, found at or call (888) 426-4327.

For larger-sized swimmers, Juno Active by Junonia makes an all-polyester suit, their most popular ever, from AquaSport fabric. Visit or call (800) 586-6642 (JUNONIA).

The Finals (my brand of choice!) has an affordable polyester-blend Endurotech suit. Find it at or call (800) 345-3485.

The people at Kiefer offer a wide selection of nylon and polyester suits, including their own Kiefer nylon brand. Read about different fibers here. Visit
or call (800) 323-4071.

Speedo makes polyester mesh training suits for women and men; look for them at