After I finished taking a year of swimming lessons a few years ago, and started trying to swim for fitness, I only managed to do it a couple of times a month. Part of doing it more frequently has been developing a well-stocked, ready-to-go swim bag.
I started with the bare bones. My bag had
- one lap suit from the local sporting goods store
- one ugly old beach towel (I wanted one I wouldn't miss if I kept it in my bag), big enough to wrap up in
- ordinary Speedo swim goggles from the local sporting goods store
- one ordinary black latex cap from the local sporting goods store
- my YMCA membership card
This is, I think, the minimum that anyone needs to swim for fitness. About 2 minutes into my first swimming lesson, I discovered that the swimsuit I bought a few years back mainly because it flattered my figure was no good for lap swimming; it wouldn't stay put. So I bought a proper lap suit on sale for about $45. It took a few more lessons before I finally admitted that I would be more comfortable with goggles and a swim cap (if your hair is very short, a swim cap is optional). The towel goes without saying. My "Y" card represents, of course, access to a pool or body of water in which to swim.
As I decided I needed them, I acquired a few more things to stuff in my bag. Much would be good for any exerciser, not just swimmers. Let me stress, though, that none of this is necessary -- I could get a good workout with nothing more than suit, goggles, and towel.
- A pair of "flip flop" sandals to get me from the locker room to the pool to the shower. It's safer to navigate the stairs (yes, there are stairs at my Y between the locker rooms and the pool) and shower room with something on your feet. Also, I can slip them on to pick up a child from swimming lessons without breaking the no-street-shoes-on-the-pool-deck rule.
- A second towel, one of those super-thirsty super-compact PackTowls, to help get my hair dry faster (or even to wear on my head out of the locker room in a winter hurry). I still use the ugly old beach towel too.
- A mesh hanging bag, full of all the stuff I need to shower and get presentable in the morning: shampoo and conditioner, facial cleanser, moisturizer, anti-perspirant, razor and extra blades, toothbrush and toothpaste, comb, and a handful of hair clips and a bandana for tying my hair up or back if necessary. If I was a makeup wearer, I'd have that too. None of this is actually necessary for most workouts -- a good rinse in the shower is enough to get most of the chlorine out -- but it's extremely convenient to have it, especially for early morning. Who wants to get ready twice when once will do? (A nice bonus: with all this stuff pre-packed, it's a snap to prepare an overnight bag on short notice.)
- A waterproofed workout plan:
- The plan. It's a piece of paper on which I've written out the drills and laps I want to do in the order I want to do them. Ideally I would make a new one for each session, but it's good to have a sort of "default" plan ready to go. Mine is pretty simple and fits on a 3x5 piece of paper. Having a plan makes the workout more interesting, and more beneficial than just "oh, I'll swim for 40 minutes and stop."
- The waterproofing. You can laminate the plan -- very effective but perhaps time consuming if you don't own a laminator. You can put it in a page protector -- not too bad but bigger than I need. You can put it in a Ziploc bag -- an excellent and easy solution. Or (my favorite solution) you can recycle old Tyvek envelopes: Cut them up and write on the scraps, wet or dry, with a #2 pencil.
- A one-touch lap counter. This little toy was a bit of a splurge, but I love it for timed workouts. I always lose count and then I don't know how far I swam.
- A combination lock.
All these things live permanently in the bag. When I get home from swimming, I take the bag right to the laundry room, where I either put the towels and suit into the next basket of laundry waiting to be washed or hang them up to dry and be re-used; the bag stays in the laundry room until the towels and suit are dry and I can repack it.
There are a few other things I would like to put in the bag. Here is my wish list:
- A set of workout clothes, with sports bra and running shoes, kept dry and separate from the swim gear, so I could substitute a treadmill workout for a swim workout -- for instance, if the pool turns out to be crowded or closed.
- A set of spare clothes and a diaper for my toddler.
- Hand paddles and swim fins, a great way to increase resistance and also to develop stroke. One of these days.
But to put anything else in there, first I am going to need a bigger bag...