What's In My Swim Bag?

Ever wonder why some swimmers seem to tote around mesh bags filled with "toys" to swim with?  Wonder what's in those bags?  Wonder why it looks like a garage sale at the end of some lanes?  Here is what I carry to the pool with me.

This is what happens when Jason and I
share a lane.  Stuff everywhere.

The kick board isn't mine, I pick those up at the pool.  Pretty much every pool, everywhere, has them.  I did go to one pool - the Palm Desert Aquatic Center - that rented them.  So I didn't use one that day.

Most of the time I use a pre-written workout.  I have a notebook with a bunch of workouts from Noa, and I also have a book of "swim workouts for triathletes".  I prefer Noa's - they are really challenging!  Some days I do my own workout, but that's not the norm.

Something I use all the time: my pull buoy.  I do a few hundred meters of pull in my warm up.  I also occasionally use my pull buoy when I use my snorkel (which admittedly I don't use often, but I should use it more).  I see a lot of triathletes over-relying on a pull buoy to compensate for poor body position, so don't use it as a crutch.  Use it as a tool to focus on your pull, not to fix dragging your legs (if you're carrying your legs really low in the water, work on recruiting your abs more.  See band swimming below).

Jason using his front-mounted snorkel.
Great for really concentrating on form, and
some hypoxic training to boot!

Some of my warm ups also include some "band only" 50's, where I use a band around my ankles to prevent me from kicking.  The band is simply a strip of tire inner tube.  Used without a pull buoy is really difficult, and forces you to recruit your abs and have a strong pull if you want to get anywhere.

Ankle band = no kicking!

One of my favourite things that I include in almost every main set I do is some "full gear" work: pull buoy, paddles, and band.  Really helps me focus on my stroke.

When I do kick sets, I often use fins.  Especially if I'm swimming with Jason, as then we can kick side-by-side and chat.  Swimming is not a particularly social workout, so sometimes it's nice to be able to talk while training!

You don't need all of this stuff to get a good swim workout in.  However, all of these toys really are great tools to help improve your swimming.  Good luck!


  1. What's the benefit of using fins? I always see people at the pool using them and can't understand how they help.

    1. There are a few reasons to use fins. Honestly for me, I mostly using them when kicking to keep up with Jason so we can talk. :) However, the "real" reasons include to help with building leg strength for a stronger kick, to do some faster swimming than normal, for the feel of swimming faster. They can increase your ankle flexibility, which will help with your kick as well.

      I think they're best used sparingly. I have to be careful when trying some fast sets with them on, as I have a tendency to get calf cramps that way, especially if I'm swimming after a run. Like pull buoys, some people rely on fins too much.

      I'd say if in an hour I'm doing 2800-3000 meters, about maybe 1000m of that will be with tools of some sort (kick board, fins, pull buoy, band, paddles etc). Not all at the same time, believe or not I once saw someone swimming with a kick board and pull buoy simultaneously - obviously not understanding how to use either.


  2. Hah, someone told me to bring my swim bag and I was like 'what's in a bag, why would I have a bag, lap pools have everything there.'

    Also, I'm curious if you'll like the Stages Power Meter. It sounds interesting

    1. For some reason all the pull buoys at our pool here all have bite marks in them. Weirds me out a bit so I got my own, and then my collection just snowballed from there.

      So far I like the Stages power meter. It's inexpensive and easy to use, which works well for me as I tend to be cheap (sometimes) and impatient. I haven't done an FTP test yet and set up zones and all that mumbo-jumbo. That's scheduled for next week. But at this point I've liked watching the numbers, and it's made me ride harder to try to get the numbers higher. Hopefully that's a good thing, I've always thought I didn't ride hard enough so now I can quantify that.