Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Swim Gear

Warmer weather has arrived and finally looks to be staying. Even for the most reluctant seasonal swimmer, the winter hiatus from the water is over: it's time to work on your inner fish.

Unlike fish, however, you'll probably need to stock up on some equipment to get the job done. We asked ATC owner and avid swimmer Missy Ruthven for tips about what we should have on our shopping list.    


GogglesATC has many different styles, brands, lens colors, and prescriptions (yes, prescription goggles at ATC!), with samples to try on in store. Most are of a one-piece construction, but some have different-sized nose bridges in the package to change out for the perfect fit. A few goggle manufacturers, such as TYR Special Ops and Zoggs, now offer polarized lenses. Some swimmers prefer the mask-style "goggle" for open waterATC also has a variety of these, including AquaSphere, Zoggs, and more.

Tips: A good fit is a goggle that sticks to the face (you'll feel a little suction) without the strap. DO NOT rub the inside of the goggles. All new goggles come with anti-fog on or embedded in the lens, and rubbing the lens smears it and/or makes the anti-fog ineffective.

Caps: Though not necessary or preferred for some swimmers, caps are required in triathlon. Silicone caps are the most popular because they don't pull the hair as much and are very durable. ATC also carries thermal caps for the cold water (50s to low 60s). Lycra caps are a good choice for swimmers who don't like as tight of a fit in their cap and mostly just want to keep the hair out of their face. None of the caps keep your hair dry.

Swimsuits: ATC just got a big shipment of new swimsuits in, offering many different styles to choose from: for men, brief, square leg, and jammers; for women, one-piece, two-piece, full back coverage, and one piece with shorts. Brands include TYR, Speedo, AquaSphere, Rocket Science Sports, Sugoi, and Nike. Almost all the suits are made of chlorine-resistant fabric, so they last much longer than the typical Lycra suit.

Wetsuits:  A wetsuit is a must when the water is cold, and it's a marked performance advantage when a race allows them. Look for an in-depth wetsuit article to come soon. Wetsuits are available for rent and purchase at ATC  year-round.


Swim training equipment can have many benefits:
  • Improve swim specific strength
  • Improve body position/technique
  • Add variety to swim workouts
  • Help you get an idea of what if feels like to swim fast

Hand paddles: These are the rigid plastic “hands” athletes use to build swim-specific strength. Using them can also help teach proper technique. Missy says her personal favorite is the Agility Paddle from Finis (check out Brandon Marsh's review), but ATC carries several different options in all sizes.

Tips: Paddle size is dependent on hand size (ideally, the paddle should be a little bigger than your hand) and experience level in swimming. Beginners should get smaller paddles to avoid the risk of hurting their shoulders.

Pull Buoy: These are often paired with the use of hand paddles. A pull buoy is worn between the legs (near the crotch) to elevate the legs and hips, resulting in better body position in the water. Try to copy this position when not using the pull buoy.

Tip: Don’t kick while using the pull buoy. 

Fins: There are basically two kinds of swim fins: traditional “long” fins and the newer, very popular “short” fins. Missy prefers the shorter fin, as she feels the blade allows for a more natural kick. The purpose of fins is to a) keep speed up while doing swim drills,  b) build strength in kick-specific muscles, and c) feel what faster swimming is like.

Tip: You can use a kickboard while kicking (most people do), but Missy prefers not to use the board, instead kicking on her side with her bottom arm extended. She switches sides when she needs to take a breath.


Snorkels:  Many swimmers are using these to work on their technique and body position without the interruption of turning the head to breathe. Finis makes a couple of different models.

Dry Land “Stretch Cords”:  Can’t get to the pool?  The name gives you a good indication of what the cords dothey're stretchy bands with handles that are anchored on something solid in front of you; you bend at the waist and practice your swim technique. They're a surprisingly effective way to build strength.

Water Radios / MP3 Players: Listen to motivating tunes while you swim.

Swimovate:  These watches will calculate distance (by counting your laps; they don't use GPS).  The watch will even tell you what stroke was swum (and the time, distance in each stroke). More elaborate levels of the watch have the ability to upload information to your home computer for analysis.

ATC's full inventory isn't listed online, so check out the swim center at Barton Springs or ATC 360 in person for more products!  


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