I'm taking a brief break from telling about my European travels to talk about my favorite form of exercise: swimming!
Even though swimming is a lot of fun and extremely safe sport (great for injuries), it can be really intimidating too. I've had a lot of questions from friends in real life about getting into it, so I figured it might be useful to put some of my answers in a blog posts.
What equipment do I need to get started swimming?
You need a sports bathing suit. I recommend Swim Outlet, I got my Nike one for $30. You can also get some good sale bathing suits at Athleta, especially at this time of the year. You will also need goggles and a bathing cap, which you can find at most sports stores and often are on sale at pools. That's really all you need. A towel is good of course!
Where do I find a place to swim?
This is usually much harder than getting the equipment together. Most people start swimming a pool, so you'll need to find one near you. First look to see if there are any YMCA's near you, because they always have pools and it's usually not too crazy to get a membership. Also, cities and towns may have an indoor aquatic center. I found a great one in Jackson Hole, Wyoming when I was visiting last summer. That is a SMALL town, so if they have one, you should be able to find a pool near you :)
What is the etiquette of swimming in a public lap pool?
First, check the schedule to see when lap lanes will be available. The busiest times seems to be weeknights and weekend mornings, so maybe avoid those at first so it won't be a crazy intimidating situation. When you arrive at the pool, maybe you'll be super lucky and a whole lane will be open. If so, just hop right in. If not, check for a lane with only one person swimming. Try to get the swimmers attention, and ask if you can share the lane. With only two people, most people will just stick to one side. Occasionally people don't want to interrupt their precious workout to talk to you (absurd), so they will just move over and give you a side, this means they realize you are going to come in and it's okay to not ask them. If you are on the left side of the lane, just swim up and back, both on that side. Same with if you are on the right, just stay on the right (which will now be the left on your way back, yikes). Things get more complicated if every lap lane already has two people in it. Then you will need to do something called circle swimming. This means, you and the other 2+ people will all swim up on the right side, and back on the left (which will now be your right because you will turn around) in a circle motion. If you need to pass someone, it's best to just do it at the end. I've heard people say you should tap them on the foot to warn them you are passing, but I've never seen anyone do this and I think it's weird, so either just swim fast past them, or do it on the end when they will likely stop for a second. Some pools have a slow, medium and fast circle swim lane. My pool does not, so if I have to start a circle swim I just look for people who look nice and ask them. Some people will say no (not that you are allowed to, people are just rude) and then just ignore them and ask someone else.
What should I do when I get in the pool?
This all depends on what your goal is. Most people who ask me about swimming are either recovering from an injury or doing a sprint triathlon. Either way, I think the first time you swim, you should just focus on getting in and swimming 10 laps or so, if you can. Swimming is hard if you haven't been practicing, so just do what you can the first day. After that you will probably want a plan to keep yourself from getting super bored swimming back and forth. Here is an example workout:
What if I am doing an open water triathlon?
I would still recommend starting in the pool if you have access to one, just because it's easier. When you are ready to try out open water swimming, you'll need to find an ocean, lake or pond where you can do this. I recommend searching where local triathlon clubs do their swims. They will often have maps with distance online so you can actually do the exact distance you will have to do in a race. If they don't have this, you'll just have to ballpark. I think with open water swimming it's more about the mental battle anyway, so if you don't practice the exact distance, it's not a big deal. You will need the same equipment for open water swimming, but I would recommend taking a friend if at all possible or meeting up with a triathlon group. I've been open water swimming for two years now, but I still don't go alone. Even if you can't find someone who actually wants to swim, at least bring someone with you who can watch and make sure all goes well :) Open water swimming is intimidating at first, but I love it SO much more than lap swimming now.
Do you swim for exercise? If so, did I forget anything that someone new to the sport needs to know? If you don't swim for exercise, would you ever consider it?