Tell people you begin the day with a swim and they’re bound to reply with a look that’s equal parts envy, bewilderment and awe. Who swims, for exercise, in the morning? Who risks certain athlete’s foot and doesn’t mind going to work with goggle eyes? How many people pee in the pool? Old people and triathletes, that’s who. And everyone. But the reality is that swimming is the perfect impact-free sport for long-term fitness and short-term ripped abs, and while you can do it with nothing but a pair of Speedos and a smile, having a stocked duffel can make the experience more fulfilling than a philosophical conversation with Ryan Lochte — much more.
Speedo Endurance+ Square Leg
The boxers or briefs debate is a timeless one, a question that digs down through the underwear drawer all the way to a person’s id. The same debate exists for swimmers — except you’ve got jammers, briefs and square trunks (not to mention body skins and drag suits). The idea of jammers for racing is nice, but they’re expensive and frankly a little too conservative. Briefs? Talk to the Italian guy doing squats between sets. We’re firmly in the square trunks corner. Speedo’s Square Leg suit is a solid answer to the debate, and with a chlorine-resistant polyester construction should remain intact for the entire swim season. Maybe more.
Arena Swedix Mirror
Elsewhere we’ve praised the soft gaskets and overall quality of TYR Special Ops goggles, but it’s important to acknowledge that with most goggles, including the TYR option, the swimmer exchanges a little bit of customizability for this comfort. These Swedish-style goggles are the ideal alternative — based on user-assembled, gasket-free Malmsten goggles launched in the 1970s and consisting of two eye cups attached with a string over the nose bridge and a rubber strap in back (both adjustable). If you don’t mind the feeling of your eyes popping out, the Malmstens are great; otherwise, the Swedish-style goggle from Arena provides elite cred with a little bit of comfort for us aquatic mortals.
Finis’s line of underwater MP3 players has just gotten an update with the new Duo. Replacing the old Neptune, the design goes from three pieces to two, with controls moved from the back of the head to the side, making it easier to use. The Duo still uses the Neptune’s Bone Conduction audio transmission for clear audio under the water and has 4GB of memory along with a battery life of seven hours, and it’s compatible with iTunes.
Finis Agility Paddles
Hand paddles are a surprisingly controversial tool among swimmers, mainly because there’s potential for shoulder strain or injury in people with mechanically unsound strokes. But appropriately sized paddles can help encourage a longer stroke, correct palm position and potentially increase strength. What sets these paddles apart is their lack of a strap: swim with correct palm position and they stay attached to your hands, swim with incorrect form and they don’t, pissing off whoever’s been sneaking your draft the last few laps.
Aqua Sphere AlphaFin
Kicking your feet for swimming seems like a pretty intuitive motion; in fact, it takes a lot of practice to build the muscle memory for a good kick, and one way to do that is by using fins. The AlphaFin is light and flexible, as it’s made of closed-cell EVA foam — thus it requires a bit of extra work on the down kick and encourages ankle flexibility. Because the fins are right- and left-foot specific, the fit is comfortable and secure.