I often get asked by people who watch the Triathlon Taren videos, what I have in my swim bag. So today, we’re going to go through the bag item by item so you have a sense of some of the swimming essentials you should have when training.
ITEM #1: FINIS FREESTYLE SWIMMING SNORKEL
This is one of the most common tools I use in the pool, it’s a freestyle snorkel by Finis. Using a snorkel allows you to really concentrate on your stroke, your catch and a proper body roll while you’re in the pool, but takes worrying about breathing out of the equation. It helps with finding alignment and balance in the water. It’s a really important piece of gear.
ITEM #2: ROKA F2 FULL VIEW MIRRORED GOGGLES
There are a million different kinds of goggles at all sorts of price points. Fortunately, goggles are one of those things where you don’t have to break the bank to get something that works. I’ve tried and reviewed many different kinds of goggles over the past few years, and the one I like the best comes in at under $10. I like a Swedish goggle (aka Swedes, aka Socket Rockets), they’re super minimal with rubber on the inside of the eye piece so it doesn’t dig into your face. (AFFILIATE LINK HERE?) The ROKAs are mirrored so they’re great for an open water swim, though they’re more expensive.
ITEM #3: SWIM CAP
There isn’t much to say about a swim cap. It’s rubber, it’s tight, it keeps you streamlined in the water and it keeps your hair somewhat protected from the chlorine in the pool. Most triathlons provide you with a swim cap in a colour that matches your category so you’re easy to identify in the open water. You’ll probably end up with a nice little collection of caps after you’ve been swimming in triathlon races for a while.
ITEM #4: PULL BUOY
This is the be-all and end-all in swimming. Get to know it and get to love it. What the pull buoy does is gets you in the habit of pulling your legs up to the surface of the water without having to kick so hard. It allows you to remember that feeling while getting your core engaged at the same time. It’s a real treat to use in a set… but on that note, the pull buoy DOES allow you to be a little bit lazy so don’t allow yourself to get too reliant on the pull buoy, or you’ll find yourself really struggling to swim without it in a race.
ITEM #5: RUBBER BAND
If the pull buoy is a treat to use in the pool, the rubber band is like death during a set. Tying this around your ankles takes your legs entirely out of the swimming equation… and yes, that sucks. It lets you get used to allowing your legs to float up to the surface of the water. You have no choice but to engage your core and learn how to get your legs up to the water. This is the single best swim tool as far as really improving your stroke.
ITEM #6: ROKA SIM SHORTS (Neoprene Shorts aka Floaty Pants)
These are basically a wetsuit but shorts. These are a great alternative if you don’t want to become reliant on a pull buoy. Wearing floaty pants allows you to get used to that feeling of your legs being up at the surface of the water but you can still work on your kick (where you can’t kick with the pull buoy between your legs). However, like I warned you with the pull buoy, you don’t want to use these shorts too often or you might find yourself becoming reliant on them and you won’t build up proper technique and endurance in the water. Ultimately, you don’t want to rely on tools and toys to do the work that your body needs to do during a race.
ITEM #7: FINIS FREESTYLE HAND PADDLES
I use the Finis freestyle hand paddles. These aren’t typical paddles because of their shape, with a big scoop at the bottom. The reason you need that scoop is to be able to work on your catch in the water. And they do two things. Number one, the fin on the bottom makes your hand go straight as it enters the water and keeps your arm going in a straight line as you do the full pull. And number two, that scoop makes you start your stroke with a proper catch. I also use these for a standard paddle set. They’re not hard on the shoulder and they don’t offer a lot of drag, so you wont’ build a lot of strength using them. But you won’t tear your shoulders apart using them.
ITEM #7B: SPEEDO CONTOUR PADDLES
I have a pair of Speedo Contour Paddles, and you’ll see these more commonly. They’re contoured and fit around your hand and you get a cup, like you’re palming a basketball. The purpose of this paddle is NOT to work on your stroke — in fact, if you don’t have a good stroke, I don’t recommend using these at all. Even I don’t have a perfect stroke, and I find these rip apart my shoulders.
But if you do have a good stroke, what these are good for is building up strength in the whole body. That contour on the inside causes you to scoop in a ton of water, and as you’re working on your pull, it increases the resistance a lot. A lot of professional triathletes use these, they come in different sizes to fit your hand.
If you want an in-between, you can get a paddle that looks like this one but doesn’t have the deep contour, so there’s a lot less resistance so it’s easier on your shoulders.
ITEM #8: SWIMMING FINS
These are standard, cheap fins. They actually used to be longer but I cut them down. The purpose of fins is not to build speed or strength with the huge, highly resistant fin. It’s just to give yourself a small pop.
I had a very accomplished, All-American swimmer tell me that, in college, they’d start with full sized fins at the start of the year and slowly chop them down as the season went on. He said if he had to choose one length for everyone, it would be to chop it down about two or three inches longer than your toes, giving you a bit of propulsion but not so much that it’s messing with your stroke.
ITEM #9: FINIS TEMPO TRAINER
This is a little metronome that you put on the outside of your cap or attach to your goggles, and it gives you a little beep every time you should take a stroke. You can speed it up or slow it down, and it gets you into the habit of getting a rhythmic stroke. Towards the end of a swim session when you’re getting tired, it helps to keep you consistent and thrashing a lot less.
ITEM #10: ROKA MESH POOL BAG
You don’t want all of your wet stuff in a bag to sit and get moldy. A mesh bag allows air flow so your stuff dries out. Everyone needs a mesh bag.
BONUS ITEM: SPEEDO SWIM BACKPACK
This obviously isn’t in my mesh pool bag, but I adore this bag. It’s the gold standard of swim bags (and I found mine in camouflage which I love). It’s got mesh pockets on the sides and in the front, and loops all around to put your wet towel and swimsuit on the outside to dry. Inside there’s a pocket for my laptop and all of my camera gear, which I carry to work on my bike every day. Everything on the outside dries out throughout the day, which is important so your stuff doesn’t get moldy and fall apart. Plus, obviously keeping the wet things separate from my electronics is critical. But for the purpose of keeping your swim gear in the best shape possible, I would recommend getting a swim-specific bag that allows you to put your wet stuff on the outside to dry.
That’s everything I use in my swim bag!
- Speedo Backpack
- Roka F2 Goggles (awesome for cutting down glare in open water)
- Roka SIM Shorts (like a pull buoy, but you don’t ruin your kick)
- Socket Rocket Goggles (inexpensive and comfy goggles for the pool)
- Finis Swimmers Snorkel (great for focusing on arm stroke)
- Finis Freestyler Paddles (easy on shoulders, good for your catch)
- Finis Tempo Trainer (gets you a nice, rhythmic stroke)
- Finis Ankle Band (THE SINGLE BEST swim tool)
- Pull Buoy (if you swim and don’t use one of these, YOU HAVEN’T LIVED)
- Mesh Pool Bag (keep your swim gear mould-free)
- Splish Banana Hammocks (treat your junk well)
- XTerra Wetsuit (gold standard for beginners)
- Roka Maverick Pro Wetsuit (best wetsuit in the world, hands down)
If you’d like to SEE everything in my swim bag, check out the video.