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.