Monday, 21 February 2011

Favourite bits of kit

One of the only things I've always slightly regretted about swimming is the relative paucity of gadgets and kit that come along with it. I have quite a weakness for small electronic gadgets, and when I was running more and doing some triathlon, I always enjoyed using heart rate monitors and GPS trackers, as well as the technical clothing, nutritional supplements etc. Triathlon, of course, is perfect for this, with three sports' worth of toys and gadgets to play with, and multiple charts and graphs to download to the computer. The ridiculous thing about all this is that I'm not at all technically minded - I have no idea how most of this stuff works, and to be honest, have very little interest in that side of it....but still I love the gadgetry of sport.

And so...to swimming, which, of course, is largely (and disappointingly) gadget-free, but nevertheless, over the last few years of training, I've refined my kit preferences and thought I'd introduce my absolute favourites. Kit for long distance swimming is very personal - what suits one person perfectly just doesn't sit right with another, especially over several hours of swimming, when even the slightest imperfection of fit can lead to problems (a hat sliding off, or a costume chafing). Most swimmers I know have a strong loyalty to particular brands of costumes, goggles and caps, honed through trial and error. It's definitely quite reassuring when swim day comes around to slide on familiar suits, caps and goggles - one less thing to worry about.

For me, I especially love my pink Swimtrek cap, or the Zoggs one - both a perfect fit, staying firmly put without clamping around the forehead and causing headaches. And, after a great deal of searching, trial and error, I have finally settled on the fabulous Blueseventy Element mirrored goggles. They don't leak, even if they are kept fairly loose (which is more comfortable over long periods); I had them on for 10 hours straight during my Channel swim and didn't have to adjust them once. I only wish they made a clear version - I still haven't found the perfect pair for night swimming yet.


But there is one piece of proper gadgetry that I wouldn't be without - my Poolmate watch.

I never used to use this so much when I was training in the 50m pool, and it wasn't really necessary when swimming with the club, when lane counting is a collective affair. But swimming on my own in a 25m pool has exposed my quite pathetic inability to keep count when swimming - my mind wanders when I swim, and even over 100m sets I can't always be 100% sure whether I've done 2 or 4 lengths a lot of the time. In the past, I've tried various watches and devices that you have to tap at the end of a lap, but I found this to be too much of an interruption, and I would forget to do it as often as I would remember anyway. So this is perfect - using accelerometer technology, it senses the turn and counts for you. My only complaint about it is that it's quite big but that's not a problem in the water. I understand that the new one has a mechanism for downloading swim data onto your computer and draws charts and graphs of your progress (be still my inner gadget fiend) .... but for now, I'm resisting....

So, if anyone knows of a waterproof heart rate monitor for swim training, or a good, waterproof, small GPS system for open water swimming, then let me know. In the mean time, I think I should probably just be grateful, for the sake of my finances, that there aren't more gadgets around.

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