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So you’ve committed to swimming as a part of your fitness routine? Fantastic! Swimming is a great way to get in shape, it’s a non-impact sport and it can be a great aerobic workout. You’ll have all sorts of options when it comes to pool workouts, like water aerobics classes, pool running (it’s a thing!), and of course swimming laps. Once you set foot onto that pool deck you’ll likely encounter all sorts of odd habits, aquatic enigmas and interesting characters – maybe even mermaids! Don’t be alarmed, most of these mysteries can be explained. Here are some answers to the questions you may have as a newbie to this aquatic world.
1. Why is everyone wearing flip flops? Is it OK for me to go barefoot?
Let’s get this one out of the way because the answer will make you squirm. This is a Public Service Announcement… Please do not go barefoot! There is a reason everyone is sporting flip flops. It’s because they don’t want to get athlete’s foot. There, I said it! No matter how clean you and your gym are, fungus thrives in damp places. Your gym is likely full of damp places like the locker room, shower and especially pool deck. So spare your feet and grab a cheap pair of flip flops at the drugstore! And while you’re at it…
2. How do I get the chlorine smell out of my hair? I wear a swim cap, but it still smells.
The best way to get the chlorine out of your hair is to pick up some chlorine-removal shampoo at the drugstore. And trust me, you want to get the chlorine out! Sure it might lighten your locks, but that’s because chlorine is a bleach. The bleach makes your hair lighter, but it will also get drier, dull and will damage your hair if you don’t take some steps to remove it.
Wearing a swim cap can definitely reduce snarls, keep hair out of your mouth and eliminate some drag, helping you knock a few seconds off your laps. So keep wearing that cap. But no matter how short or long your mane, you won’t be rid of that chlorine smell until you use a shampoo that is made to break the chemical bond the chlorine molecules have on your hair. Look for a shampoo that explicitly says “removes chlorine” for it to do the trick. If the inexpensive brands seem harsh or pungent, consider splurging a little on an organic shampoo that uses citric acid from fruit or rice extract to remove the chlorine.
3. How do I get water out of my ears?!
As a swimmer I struggled with this one for years, and suffered from some pretty nasty ear infections as a result. You’ve probably seen a fellow swimmer hopping on one leg while bobbing their head to one side on the pool deck? Well, this is not some new Zumba move as you assumed. That swimmer is trying to get the water out of their ear. If that doesn’t work for you, grab the hair dryer and turn it on warm (not HOT). Hold the dryer about a foot away from your ear and the warm dry air will turn the water to vapor. This or a hot compress usually work for me. Except when it doesn’t…
And then I reach my secret weapon – Apple Cider vinegar. The antibacterial properties of ACV help to kill the germs that cause ear infections like Swimmers ear. Some people mix 1 teaspoon of the vinegar with 1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol and put a few drops in their ear using a dropper. I find that 1 or 2 drops of the vinegar alone will do the trick! Keep your head tilted for a minute or two, and then drain the vinegar out. Or put a cotton ball in the affected ear to keep the ACV from dripping out. If a few days go by with no change, see your doctor!
To prevent water in your ear in the first place, you can throw some ear plugs in your shopping cart on your drugstore run! Make sure the ear plugs say “water protection” or “aqua block” on them, since your standard noise reduction ear plug won’t cut it. My personal preference is to keep the tunes in and the water out by swimming with my Waterfi Shuffle and headphones since the silicone earbuds work and fit just like earplugs!
4. How can I stop my goggles from fogging up?
You’ve figured out that opening your eyes underwater hurts like nobody’s business and besides that your vision is blurry. So you invested in a colorful pair of goggles. Goggles that seem to constantly fog so you can’t see anyway! I’m a triathlete, not a scientist, but I can tell you that fog happens because your face under those goggles is warmer than the water outside of the goggles. Before you decide to ice your face down, try saliva! But not on your face. A teeny, tiny layer of spit on the inside lens of your goggles will prevent bothersome condensation. Saliva is free and also not as gross as it seems! But if you’d prefer more civilized methods, there are anti-fog sprays on the market. You can also try putting a drop or two of baby shampoo in each lens and leaving it there for 15 minutes. Rinse the foggy goggles out with water, and it will leave behind a transparent layer on the lenses. Gone are the days of foggles! Now you can see clearly and observe other poolside puzzles, such as…
5. Why do some people wear two swimsuits? Is it because one suit has holes?
Swimsuits do get thin after repeated encounters with chlorine. Tears and holes happen! Just today, my husband tapped me on the shoulder mid-workout to show me a new hole in his jammers. He just kept swimming and hoped the ladies in the water aerobics class wouldn’t notice!
If we were serious swimmers, we would hang onto that worn out swimsuit and use it for drag. The theory is that a second suit worn over your normal suit will create extra resistance from the water and make you work harder. On race day or in a meet, you’ll swim with only one layer, feel much lighter, and be faster. So yes, swimmers get holes in our suits on occasion, and we make the most of it!
6. What the heck is a circle swim anyway?!
You’re minding your business swimming laps when two other swimmers get in your lane and ask to “circle swim” with you. Is this some synchronized swimming dance that you are being invited to join? A trendy new swim stroke? Not quite. Circle swimming is when you swim on the right side of the lane going down the pool, move to what is now your right side coming back,, thus moving in a counterclockwise circle. Much like cars on the road. Typically circle swims are requested when 3 or more swimmers share a lane or there’s lots of pool traffic. This keeps everyone moving! Observe who the faster swimmers are, and let them leave the wall first. If you catch the swimmer in front of you, gently tap their foot and they should let you pass. Circle swims may sound stressful, but I have had some of my fastest days when I swam in a circle. Maybe it’s the thought of my lane mates catching up to me… Or it could just be the whirlpool effect! Either way, it’s good pool etiquette!
Now that you’re an expert on how to navigate the wild world of pool swimming, you can strut onto the pool deck with confidence…and maybe an extra swimsuit or two for drag! Enjoy!