I will start with a head to toe look at what can be worn for swimming and how selecting the right equipment can help make swimming comfortable. It is all about personal choice, and so there are no right or wrong answers, just suggestions. While the average swimmer may be able to pack light, just a swimsuit and towel, for some swimmers with additional needs, more equipment may be useful.
The first thing to consider is the swimsuit or base layer for the trunk. For swimmers with continence issues, the last decade has seen an explosion in the range of swimming nappies available in all sizes, and it may be a matter of trail and error to find the right one for your needs. It is also worth discreetly asking the pool(s) you intend to use what their policy is on continence. Swimming nappies in larger sizes have been a revolution that enables so many people previously barred from swimming to enter the water with confidence.
After a swimming nappy, speedos, trunks and/or swimsuit, some swimmers may consider some kind of top or bodysuit for warmth and comfort. While in the past, wearing anything more than a swimsuit and maybe a hat was a no, no, now fashion trends mean the public pool etiquette is far more relaxed. There is plenty of clothing to choose from including a simple T-Shirt to, rash vests or lycra bodysuits to even a shorty wetsuit. You may want a range of options available depending on the time of year and how you are feeling. Many disabled people can be prone to getting cold in the average indoor swimming pool and this can be very uncomfortable, so just taking the chill off the trunk area can ensure people can spend longer in the water and be more comfortable.
- Wear items that are comfortable (and warm if required)
- Swimming nappies are essential for people with continence issues
- Don’t be too worried with everyone else is wearing
The Little Things To Consider
- Consider items that are easy to put on if you do not have someone to assist you
- An all in one suit if you are worried about tops riding up or bottoms sliding down
- Have a strong waterproof sports bag for your swimming kit
Next on the list is a hat, which is a personal choice although they are often compulsory in public pools in many European countries. I have worn a swimming hat since my late teens, mainly for warmth but also so I am easily identifiable to the lifeguard and anyone supporting me as I like to go off and swim lengths at my own pace. There is broadly three styles of hats; cloth, latex and silicone. Cloth hats simply get hair out of people’s eyes and pool filters, and tend to only be worn by those forced to wear them. Latex hats are cheap and can be quite uncomfortable to wear as well as hard to put on, but they keep hair dry and they help with keeping warm. Silicone hats are more expensive and thicker, making them easier to put on and more comfortable, and the preferred choice for most serious swimmers. If the cold is a real issue, you could consider a neoprene skull cap or even full wetsuit hood.
- Use a silicone hat if you want warmth and comfort
- Consider a bright hat if you want to be clearly visible to the lifeguard for any reason, like a specific medical condition
- Always allow a latex/silicone hat to naturally dry, never leave on a radiator or put in a washing machine or dryer.
The Little Things To Consider
- Check with the pool to see if a swimming hat is compulsory for casual swimming or for swimming lessons.
- If you need to wear a latex hat, consider lightly sprinkling talc inside the cap before putting to off.
- Consider ear bands if cold ears are a particular concern
In terms of footwear, if you are prone to foot infections then you may want to consider wearing latex verruca socks. I have worn them for years as before I often got terrible athlete’s foot. They are a nightmare to put on and I strongly recommend putting a decent amount of talc in them before slipping them on. If you have sensitive feet or worry about grazing them on the bottom of the pool, you may want to consider wearing neoprene socks, shoes or slippers, although it is best to avoid full wetsuit booties as this will increase drag.
Other Items To Consider
Other items to consider at this stage includes goggles or masks, webbed gloves, flippers and whatever else takes your fancy. It is about what makes you feel comfortable and secure, and looking the part if that’s important to you. While at this stage the equipment selection is finished for most swimmers, some, including myself, may be unable to swim without the assistance of a floatation device.
This is a complex decision as there is a wide range of devices available for adults, as well as children. Large size arm bands may be a easy solution for splashing about on holiday but they have their limitations and they are not helpful for many serious swimmers. While it appears to be a common habit of day care services to put their less able swimmers in large rubber rings, it is probably the worst floatation device available as it significantly restricts movement.
There is a range of ‘handheld’ floats, including woggles, which can help many swimmers but there may provide less security. The best option for security and comfort would be a lifejacket or a purpose built swimming jacket, like the Konfidence Jacket. When using any type of jacket for swimming, it is strongly recommended that you have a crotch strap fitted and use it to stop the jacket from riding up in the water, which is uncomfortable and dangerous. Another device available to consider is a floatation helmet.