Category: General News

The Swimmer’s Guide to Fast Jammers

The laps have been completed, you showed up to all those extra morning workouts (even in the dead of winter), you had your nutrition game on point, and know it’s time to pick out a racing suit to help you crush the competition and your personal best times on race day.

But what kind of suit should you get? What is the best swim jammer for the particular meet you are attending? In this quick buyer’s guide we are going to break down what to look for when picking the best swimming jammers.

1: Look for suits with silicone straps on the inside. Racing suits for swimmers are unbelievably delicate. And expensive. Combing those two things is generally a recipe for a depleted bank account, so look out for the suits that have silicone lining on the insides of the pant leg and waist of the suit. This gives you something to

2: Go 2-3 sizes too small. Tech suit sizing is basically a world of itself. As someone who wears a 34” training suit, but then wears a 29” racing suit, I can attest to the general confusion and lack of coherence that comes with buying a racing suit. Most swim companies do have sizing charts that makes this process a little easier, so make sure you consult them before picking one out. This piece of advice is especially critical for those of us (pretty much everyone, really) who buys their swim suits over the internet.

3: Rinse with cold water after use. Remember how I mentioned that these suits are unbelievably delicate and expensive? They only get a dozen or so wears before they start to fray and fade. You can easily lengthen the life of your suit by giving it a quick rinse in clean, cold water after each time you blister to a new best time in it. Note: If you are going to rinse off your suit in the shower, make sure you aren’t exposing the suit to shampoo or soap—just as chlorine degrades the suits, so do solvents and the chemicals that are in household soaps and shampoos.

4: Use older tech suits for prelims and in-season meets. Another way to extend the life of your jammer is to wear the older ones that have started to fade but are still wearable for the less critical and important races. For example, those early season duel meets, or the prelims sessions of meets where you should confidently advance to finals that night. By limiting the wear of your brand new suit you buy it a few more sessions worth of use in the long haul, and a heap more dollar bills in your checking account.

The Takeaway

The big thing to remember is that your jammer is not a substitute for hard work, consistency, good technique and a killer mindset in the water. It should be treated as a the final and smallest piece of your preparation—something that may help you swim a little faster, but ultimately you are leaning on your months of focused effort to bring you forth to that best time, not that fancy new jammer swimsuit.

How to Gear Up for Fast Swimming at the Pool

So you’ve made the decision to head down to your local aquatic centre and crush some laps. You’re sold on the benefits of the sport: you get a great upper and lower body workout, you get to exercise in a manner that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on your joints, and it’s also a great life skill to have for when you are down at the lake or the river.

But before you jump into the cold water of the lap pool and start doing your best Phelps impersonation, you gotta gear up with the proper swim equipment. Not only to look like you know what you are doing, but also to protect your hair and eyes, keep you safe while you are swimming, and even get stronger and faster in the water!

Here we go:

Swim goggles. First things first, you gotta protect your eyeballs! Swim goggles come in a variety of shapes, colors and materials, but the point of them is all the same: they protect your eyes from the chemicals that are used in swimming pools, they allow you to see the wall (and other swimmers!), and allow look like a badass. Pro tip: pick out a pair of goggles that have straps that are made of silicone, they are easily the most durable and long-lasting.

Swim cap. The swim cap is one of the more misunderstood pieces of swim gear out there. The reasons that we should wear them aren’t always apparent, especially if we haven’t mastered the subtle art of putting a cap on straight. (Don’t worry if you don’t always nail it—after three decades of swimming I still throw that cap on a little sideways.) The cap isn’t necessarily about hydrodynamics either (although at the highest levels of the sport having a smooth, wrinkle free cap can be a little helpful). The cap helps protect your hair from chlorine, keeps your hair out of your face while you are swimming, and also keeps your hair from littering the pool gutter and floor. Whether you pick out a latex cap, a silicone cap, pick out the best swim cap that suits your head and aspirations in the water.

Swim fins. One of the most popular pieces of equipment that litter the end of the lanes at our local pools are swim fins. The reasons are simple: they are hilariously fun to use as they send us flying across the length of the pool faster than we would otherwise. They help us develop more lower body power and speed with the added surface area on the flippers, and they also teach us better kicking mechanics. Working the up-kick of our kick is much easier when we have that extra foot surface area to properly feel out the water when we are kicking both up and down.

Swim snorkel. Lastly, we have the swimmer’s snorkel. It’s become super popular over the past decade, and rightfully so: picking out the best swim snorkel you can find will help you balance out your stroke (and help you avoid some of the common muscle imbalances that happen from breathing to the same side over and over again), will help you maintain better body position in the water (which will actually even help you swim faster by reducing frontal drag of your body in the water), and can reinforce better head position in the water.

How to Buy an Awesome Swimming Cap

Alrighty, so you are in the market for a new swim cap. Perhaps you are taking to the world of swimming for the first time, and are wondering why you would need to wear one (you will learn that too), and what kind of swim cap you should get.

Here’s what you need to know about picking out a swim cap so that you can crush the laps at your local swimming pool.

1: Don’t freak out that they aren’t waterproof. Swim caps look like they oughta keep your hair dry. That is not the case, however. Which probably sounds kind of goofy, right? What’s the point of wearing a swim cap if our hair is still going to get wet? Well, there are a few reasons. The first one is that keeping your bundled up and out of your eyes will keep them out of your goggles and allow you to see what you are doing. So that’s important. The other is that it helps to mostly keep your hair from interacting with the world-class solvent which is chlorine. So while a swim cap might not keep your hair totally dry, it does have some very important uses.

2: Latex, spandex or silicone?

Most swim caps are latex, and this is because they are super cheap and are breathable. But swim caps also come in silicone (more popular with high end competitive swimmers when racing), and Spandex (more for light water activity such as water jogging).

Here is a quick rundown on each type of cap:

  • The most popular swim caps, these things are dirt cheap and are more breathable than their silicone counter-parts. This is handy in really hot pools (like my local YMCA pool), helping your head to steam off some of the heat that you are generating while working your brains off in the fast lane.
  • Silicone is softer, more durable, but more expensive than latex caps. Because they don’t bunch up like latex caps they are also more hydrodynamic than latex. These are the kind of caps you most generally see elite-level swimmers wearing when racing. Because they are so thick they do get quite warm when worn for extended periods of time.
  • Spandex caps, or lycra, are best worn during water-bound exercise that doesn’t involve your head being submerged. Spandex caps are more fragile to the corrosive qualities of chlorine, so be extra sure

3: Caring for your cap.

Buying new swim gear every few weeks or months can cause the bank account some misery. Because chlorine degrades the fabric that our swim suits and swim caps are made of, it’s imperative that you rinse them out with cold water after use.

Latex caps in particular are quick to bunch up, melt together and get mouldy when left unattended for extended bouts of time at the bottom of our swim bag. Take your swim cap out of the bag after each swim, give it a rinse, and hang dry to give its shelf life a dramatic boost.

To take your latex and silicone cap care to the next level, place a little baby or talcum powder into the cap to eliminate any residue moisture that will cause mold and bacterial growth.

So there ya go—everything ya need to know about picking out the perfect swim cap. Happy swimming!

What Kind of Swimming Equipment Do Swimmers Need for Training?

There is a ton of different swim equipment out there for both the novice and competitive swimmer. From paddles to pull buoys to swim fins there is a never-ending pile of equipment to choose from when we hop in the water.

As a long-time competitive swimmer I have had a chance to play around with most of them. Here are the three essential tools swimmers need in order to swim faster:

1. Tempo Trainer Pro.

One of the coolest pieces of swim gear out there is the FINIS Tempo Trainer Pro. Simple in design and water-proof (obviously), this little device clips onto your goggles. There are two main uses that you can use the Tempo Trainer for:

First, it can be used as a way to track intervals. Set it for :30 seconds, for instance, and it will give you a quick beep every time thirty seconds elapses. This is helpful for pools that don’t have pace clocks, or for open water fartlek swimming.

Secondly, it can be used to help you maintain a specific stroke rate. As a sprinter I have found this especially helpful as hitting those high stroke rates is difficult.

Similarly, you can use the Tempo Trainer to help lengthen out your strokes during long course swimming to help you improve your distance per stroke.

For beginner swimmers pick a stroke rate you want, attach it to your goggle strap, and simulate some arm pulls on dryland to help you develop the motor patterns that you want to achieve in the water.

2. A swimmer’s snorkel.

My next favorite tool in my swim bag? Your front-mounted swim snorkel. This thing has become a bit of a crutch in my training in recent months, and with good reason.

They are wildly effective at helping you to balance out muscle imbalances in your back and shoulders, allow you to simulate bilateral breathing, allow you to focus on technique and stroke corrections, and force you to kick with a fuller .

Perhaps my favorite reason for using a is that you can get a really good rhythm going when swimming freestyle. As a result of breathing relentlessly to one side over the years I developed a gallop in my stroke which left my freestyle unbalanced.

Putting on a snorkel, having your face to the bottom of the pool, gives you the opportunity to swim with a balanced, rhythmic freestyle, which is especially enjoyable when doing laps in the long course pool.

3. A log book.

Journaling out your workouts has many benefits, not the least of which is that it will help you perform more consistently over the long term in the pool. Tracking your workouts will help you to pinpoint connections between training and lifestyle (sleep, for instance).

You will be able to better plot your training, by setting training goals, both for the week and for the session in the pages of your log book. And you will provide your swim coach with a wealth of information that will better inform their training of you (something in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics where she won a gold medal in the 800m freestyle).

Writing out your swim practices is a bit of a lost art these days, with swimmers looking to stick to the apps and web-based software to track their workout data.

There is something about pen and paper that helps swimmers connect and reflect on their performance in the water.

Why Swimmers Should Warm Up with Swim Fins

Like you need an added excuse to wear fins—Here’s why wearing fins on during warm-up will help ease shoulder pain and prepare you for faster swimming later in practice.

When it comes to pieces of swimming gear, nothing gets swimmers excited quite like getting to wear swim fins.

After all, the joys of ripping across the pool at Mach-1 are universal. It doesn’t matter what stroke you specialize in, getting to strap up the fins ranks as a highlight during those long swim practices.

Besides getting to go super duper fast, wearing fins also helps to serve some other sneaky little benefits. Although a lot of swimmers use them as a crutch, or lean on them to make the intervals during tough kick sets, using fins during warm-up will:

  1. Loosen up your hips and ankles. Your legs, those big, muscular and oxygen-thirsty stems that they are tend to take longer to warm-up. There are lots of benefits to wearing swim fins beyond the ability to go really, really fast: they help to increase ankle flexibility, develop overall leg power and capacity, and teach you how to kick efficiently. Added speed means your body is more sensitive to drag and resistance in the water.
  2. Takes it easy on your shoulders. As a competitive swimmer one of the “perks” of the hilarious amounts of mileage done during training is the wear and tear on our shoulders. At some point, we all run head-on into the dreaded swimmer’s shoulder. For some it’s a career-long epidemic, while for others it’s the random acute injury. Whatever the case, it sucks. And one of the ways that you can help to lessen the load on your money makers is to warm up with fins on. When you consider that most warm-ups are in the 1-1.5k range, and that they often involve cold muscles in your shoulders, chest and back, strapping fins on can be an easy to get things warmed up while slowly introducing your shoulders to the workout.
  3. Gives your breakouts some TLC. The break-out makes up a stunning proportion of short course races. It’s your baseline speed—at no point (except for the dive) are you going faster when swimming than in the moments that you are pushing off the wall and breaking out. Wearing fins, and getting your target number of underwater dolphin kicks, will help reinforce a more streamlined, drag-free breakout experience.
  4. Leg endurance + warm-up. Most swimmers, when swimming, don’t kick. Okay, maybe they are freestyle kicking, but let’s be honest, a 1-beat kick isn’t really kicking. Sure, the same could happen when putting on fins, but whole fun in wearing fins is going fast, and the only way you can do that is with some measure of kick.

What Swimmers Need to Know About Swim Paddles

Looking to level up your power and strength in the pool? Strap on a pair of swim paddles and give your shoulders a workout that will leave you a faster, stronger swimmer.

When it comes to your swim workouts there is no shortage of different ways that you can tweak your training. Whether it’s focusing on the upper body with pulling sets, or hammering away at your legs with kick sets, there are an endless number of ways to train.

Whatever you are doing in practice the end goal should be the same—to become a faster overall swimmer. Here is what you need to know about picking up a pair of swimming paddles.

1. Pick a paddle that is just larger than your hand. The first instinct swimmers have when it comes to paddle selection is to grab the biggest one available. As a young age grouper I remember scrambling for the dinner plate-sized paddles anytime our coach scribbled a “paddles + PB” set up on the white board. The excess surface area helps you create some serious propulsion—you are able to pull much more water than you otherwise would, after all—but it also drastically slows down your stroke rate. Therein lies the major drawback in paddle usage. When swimmers take extra large paddles (in comparison to the size of their hands) it’s almost impossible to maintain a normal stroke rate. For sprinters this strength building workout becomes counter-productive—fast swimming means being able to generate lots of power very quickly. With super large paddles you train yourself to be able to pull with more force, but at a much slower tempo. When choosing your weapon of choice, select a set of paddles that are just larger than your hands. This will help balance out the power work with a stroke tempo that is still relatively close to your regular pull rate.

2. If you have shoulder issues, avoid paddles. Swimmer’s shoulder is a common, and some would say, prerequisite part, of the swimming experience. I don’t think I can name a single swimmer I ever trained with who at some point didn’t fall victim to some sort of shoulder impingement injury over the course of their swim career. Swim paddle usage is akin to resistance training. Which means: If you have shoddy technique with your regular swimming adding paddles will only magnify them. In short bursts this might be helpful to help you fully absorb and address technical shortcomings you have in your swimming, but sustained use of swimming with paddles with poor technique (and all that entails, including compromised hand placement, poor posture, and so on) sets you up perfectly for further injury.

3. Use paddles for your goals in the water. As mentioned at the outset, any swim equipment you use in your training should be in service for your goals. When you use paddles you will get a little stronger. Your bicep tendon will get a good workout. Your lats and chest will feel it. But as research on elite college swimmers has shown your distance per stroke will go up, your stroke rate will go down. While swimmers will readily admit that they love using paddles—and I am one of them who does as well!—prolonged use will actually be detrimental to your swimming technique and speed if your goal is to strictly get faster.

In Sum

One of the joys of the sport of swimming is the near endless variety of ways that we can train. Whether it is strapping on a pair of swim fins, a pull buoy, doing vertical kicking, or in this case, using swim paddles, there is no limit to the ways we can aspire to being faster swimmers. However, all the fancy gear and equipment, as shiny and as cool as it looks, should always be in service of your goals in the water, and swim paddles are no different.

How to Take Care of Your Swim Snorkel

The swim snorkel is one of the most popular pieces of swimming gear in the mesh bag of your local aquatic athlete.

And for good reason:

It helps balance out your stroke, promotes even musculature, can help you better perform drill work, and so on.

But, if you put some serious time on the mouth-end of your snorkel it’s gonna get dirty.

Even though we might be tempted into thinking that dipping it into the pool for a quick rinse at the end of our swim practice is enough to keep it clean, your snorkel needs an actual cleaning once in a while.

And while your snorkel isn’t as fragile as say, your tech suit, or those fancy-pants new swim goggles you don’t want to scratch up, it’s not indestructible.

The thing that will give out eventually is the piece that stretches out across your forehead, and the clips that keep the straps attached to the snorkel.

How to Clean Your Snorkel

There are two basic ways to keep your snorkel in relatively pristine condition:

1. Put in the washing machine.

Seriously. I know the manufacturers will cringe upon reading this, but I have put my FINIS freestyle snorkel in the dish washer every couple weeks to a couple months since I bought that bad boy a few years ago.

Sometimes a couple times in a row because it had been so long and the mildew had really started to accumulate. I’m no space scientist, but breathing through a mildewed tube is not healthy for you. And it looks nasty.

2. Hand wash it.

If you are hesitant to throw it in the dishwasher—and I don’t blame you for feeling this way—you can always wash out the snorkel with warm, soapy water and a skinny brush.

Make sure to get as far up and down the tube as you can, and paying particular attention to the mouth piece, which you can remove for easier cleaning.

Soaking it will help “loosen” up any nasties that are hanging out inside.

Take care of your swim snorkel, and it will take care of your swimming and your lungs.

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