Start Swimming: What you need to know and a kit guide

Swimming is a great way to get exercise and stay healthy for people of all ages.

Swimming can help you lose weight, improve your cardiovascular health, and help you tone your muscles. It provides a full-body workout, and it’s gentle on your joints.

But if you’re new to swimming, you might be wondering what kind of equipment you need to get started, and the things you might need to be aware of.

We’ve got you covered with our list of all the things you’ll need to consider when you start swimming.

Make sure you can swim confidently and independently

Before you decide to start swimming for exercise, you should be able to swim without any assistance, and be able to easily and confidently navigate your way around the pool.

If you’re not confident in the water, you’re not on your own. It’s estimated that 30% of adults in the UK are unable to swim a full length of a pool.

Luckily, there are plenty of swimming lessons available that can help you to build up your confidence and learn the basics of swimming.

Swim England has a programme called the “Adult Swimming Framework” which helps you find adult swimming lessons near you.

What do I need to get started swimming

Find your nearest suitable pool

If you’re looking to get started swimming, you’ll need to find a suitable pool in your area.

You should start by considering the length of the pool – ideally you want to look for one that is 25m or 50m. They will be best for helping with lap swimming (or length swimming), which is what you want for a good swim workout.

Poolfinder is a great resource to locate different swimming facilities across the UK, and even has a filter where you can look at only 25m or 50m pools.

It’s worth checking to see if your local pool has timed sessions or not. Some pools let you come and go at your leisure, and allow you as long as you need to complete your swim workout. Others have fixed time swimming sessions of 40 minutes to an hour.

When you arrive, some pools will have designated swimming lanes for different levels of swimmer, so it’s important to make sure you’re in the lane that is right for your ability. 

Choosing the right basic kit

The good news is, the kit you need to enjoy the benefits of swimming isn’t expensive.

For most beginner swimmers, you just need some basic essentials:

Suitable swimwear

If you’re swimming for exercise, your swimwear will be different than if you were on holiday, or sunbathing on the beach.

When you’re in your zone during your swimming workouts, you don’t want to be worrying about readjusting your clothing every few minutes.

For women, a one-piece swimming costume will stay in place much better than a two-piece, giving you more freedom to enjoy your swim.

For men, it’s recommended that you avoid baggy shorts, or shorts that aren’t specifically designed for swimming as they can weigh you down.

Swimming cap

If you have long hair and are considering getting started swimming, it is essential to invest in a good swimming cap.

A swim cap will help keep your hair dry, which is important not only for comfort but also for performance.

Wet hair can slow you down when swimming, whereas a swimming cap will reduce drag to allow you to move more quickly through the water.

Additionally, swimming caps can help to protect your hair from chlorine and other damaging chemicals commonly found in most swimming pools.

So if you want to be able to swim faster and keep your hair looking great, a good swimming cap is a must-have accessory!

Swimming goggles

There are two key benefits to investing in a good pair of swimming goggles.

Firstly, goggles help to protect your eyes from chlorine in the pool. This is crucial for avoiding irritation or discomfort.

Goggles also help you to see clearly while swimming. When you’re swimming laps to stay in shape, being able to see is critical for making sure your stroke is perfect and preventing collisions with other swimmers.

A high-quality bath sheet or beach towel

A good towel is an essential item for any swimmer.

It needs to be soft so that it doesn’t irritate your skin, and it needs to be absorbent with a large surface area so that it can quickly soak up the water from your body.

Optional kit if you’re taking swimming more seriously

If you’re taking swimming more seriously or using it as a way to train specific areas of your body, you might also need additional equipment.

Pull buoy

Pull buoys are a great way to improve your swimming technique and help you focus on specific muscle groups in your swim training.

Pull buoys are contoured pieces of foam that you place between your legs, which stops your legs from moving as you swim – helping you to isolate your upper body when you’re swimming.

This can be really helpful if you’re trying to work on muscles in your arms and upper body.

Kick board

A kick board is a foam board that you hold on to while you swim, which stops your arms from moving.

When you use a kick board, it means that you are reliant on your legs to move through the water, which can be a great way to tone your leg muscles and lower body, or focus on your leg technique.

Water bottle

If you’re using swimming as a serious workout, it’s important to remember to stay hydrated.

In your swim workouts, you’re still working up a sweat and losing fluids – even if it’s hard to notice. So it’s important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your swim.

A good way to make sure you’re drinking enough is to carry a water bottle with you to the pool. This way, you can sip on water throughout your swim session.

Plan a suitable workout for your swimming ability

As with any exercise routine, the key to achieving your fitness goals with swimming is consistent, regular training.

It’s important that you keep swimming fun, and train at your own pace – but also make sure you’re pushing yourself hard enough to get the benefit out of each training session.

If you’re going into the pool without a clear idea of what you’re going to do, you’re probably not going to get optimal benefit from your training.

Have a good idea in your mind about how many lengths you’re planning to swim. Are you going to just swim a leisurely breaststroke today? Or alternate between breaststroke, backstroke and front crawl? Is it a distance workout to build stamina? Or are you going to do some 50m sprints, with 30 seconds rest in between. Have a plan!

If you need some help in planning your swimming session, the site MySwimPro has some great swim training plans, including a “Couch to 1k Swim Plan” which helps beginners stay motivated and on track as they take their first steps into swimming.

Before you start swimming laps at full pace, it’s a good idea to warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of swimming at an easy effort. Try and make sure you include each of the strokes you’re going to be training with in your warm up – as they all use slightly different muscles.

To see more blogs on fitness and exercise tips, head over to our main blog here.  

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