Gym swimming logistics?
January 8, 2014 12:44 PM   Subscribe

I just joined a local gym with a lap pool and I'd like to start swimming regularly again. What's the usual logistics routine for people that swim at a gym? Obviously I'll be bringing a change of clothes and a towel, but how should I deal with the wet towel and wet swim trunks afterwards? Any general tips from experienced gym swimmers?
posted by kmz to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I always brought a plastic bag to put my trunks in. The towel is more damp than totally wet, so I don't bag that, but the trunks would drip all over anything else in the gym bag and through the gym bag if sitting too long.
posted by xingcat at 12:46 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Most public pools I've been to have a centrifuge in the locker room for drying bathing suits. It's fun to use and also very effective. As far as a wet towel goes (usually you are not allowed to put the towel in the centrifuge, but sometimes you are): it just has to go in your trunk, I'm afraid. If you are swimming on the way to work, perhaps you can find somewhere in your building to hang it to dry?

Also, there is an etiquette to lap swimming. If you go and find there are no lanes open, you will need to join someone else's. It is polite to wait until they are back at whatever side you are standing at, so that you can ask them if it is all right for you to join. No one ever says no, but it is rude to just jump in a lane with someone and start swimming without asking. You can ask if they want to divide the lane in half with you or if you want to swim in a circular fashion. Usually people split lanes. If there are 2 or more people in each lane, you will have to swim in a circular fashion.

Also, most pools have fast, medium and slow lanes. You should try to swim in a lane according to your ability if possible (I don't always do this, esp if there are a couple of totally open lanes and the lanes that are to my ability are full). But just be aware. You also want to shower BEFORE going into the pool as well as after. I get really irritated at the people that just jump in without showering first (there are signs all over the locker room that tell you to shower first, too). Finally, if you have an open gaping wound, do not swim that day.

Have fun! Swimming for exercise is a blast!
posted by corn_bread at 12:49 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

See whether your gym has suit-drying machines in the locker room. They don't get them dry dry, but they get them dry enough that you can toss them in your gym bag without worrying about it.
posted by Etrigan at 12:49 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a girl (so obviously use different swimsuits) but if you're using the Speedo-type trunks and not board shorts, many people just lock their suit onto their padlock so it can drip dry outside of the locker. (That should be pretty obvious if you go into the locker room.)

Ask if they have towel service, too -- you exchange a wet towel for a dry one at the end of use and put THAT one in your locker.
posted by Madamina at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If towel service is too expensive/unavailable at your gym, I'd highly recommend getting a fast drying towel from some camping supply store.
posted by tinymegalo at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Every gym I've been to has a spinner thing that will spin the wetness (mostly) off of your suit. You can pack that and a towel off in your gym bag, just be sure to get it out when you get home and hang it up. I have a locker at my gym and I can hang my not-that-wet suit and my towel and it's dry next time I'm there, a day or two. Gym locker rooms are kept not-too-warm specifically to discourage mold on drying stuff. Those swimmer towels are great too because they can really dry you off and are small. You might also want to consider special swimmer shampoo (expensive, worth it) and bring some sort of moisturizer with you because you sweat in the pool and unlike a lot of other sports, you're usually not drinking as much so drink water and hydrate your skin afterwards. Don't swim on a full stomach, obviously, and if you might be a little hungry have something afterwards, swimming can make you starving.

Also each lap pool has slightly different etiquette as far as lap swimming. Often the lanes, if there are more people than lanes, are split by how fast people are swimming. In some places people split lanes (i.e. you and a person go up and back next to each other) and in others people swim in circles (i.e. you and the other person are basically following each other and go up the same side and back the other side) and some places that are busy have the lanes also split by how fast you swim (i.e. fast swimmers here, pokey swimmers here) and you tap the feet of the person in front of you if you are catching up to them and they pull over and let you pass. My place is rarely that full so I'll let someone else speak to that whole deal who knows more than I do.
posted by jessamyn at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've only ever swam at one gym, so YMMV. My gym provides clean towels, I just pick a couple up at the front desk on the way to the locker room and drop them in the laundry bin on the way out.

They also provide plastic bags in the locker room for wet clothes, so I rinse out my suit, put it in a plastic bag and stash it in my car for the day.

For a fee my gym also offers laundry service, and when I used it I put my suit in a mesh bag provided by the gym with my locker number on it, and threw it in the bin with the towels on the way out.

If I didn't have these amenities I'd probably just bring my own plastic bags and stash everything in a water-resistant gym bag in my car until I got home to throw my stuff in the washer.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:52 PM on January 8, 2014

I use a large wetbag (normally used to hold cloth diapers that need to be washed) to shove all my wet stuff in anytime we go to the pool, beach, etc. It's lined with water resistant material, but you're going to want to dump it all in the washer by the end of the day or you'll get a pretty gross smell going.
posted by chiababe at 1:20 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wash your body with soap after the swim. Wash your hair after, and use conditioner; then wash & conditioner again before bed. Chlorine DESTROYS hair.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:24 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to help stop chlorine from drying out your hair, you should wet it thoroughly with fresh water prior to going into the pool and then put on a swim cap. Then rinse and shampoo immediately after getting out. I also add conditioner to my hair before putting on the swim cap, but I have long hair so YMMV.
posted by corn_bread at 1:33 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was working and swimming on a college campus, I brought the wet swimsuit (although mostly dried by the centrifuge thingie) back to my office, where I had hung a tension-closet rod under my desk. I hung the suit and towel there and they dried completely before the next day's workout-lunchbreak.
posted by u2604ab at 1:48 PM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have a plastic shower caddy in my smallish duffle bag (something like this in something like this) in which to keep things like swim cap, goggles, earplugs, swimmers ear drops, etc. I wrap my centrifuged suit in my wet towel and cram that in the top of the shower caddy, which goes in my duffel (along with my combination lock and my water bottle and my q-tips and spares of everything).

Then when I get back to work (I swim at lunch) I hang my wet towel and suit in our coatroom to dry out. Is there anywhere at your work to hang a towel? They really dry much better and don't develop mildew if they can hang dry.

During the summer when my car gets really warm, or if I've got a meeting offsite to go to directly after lunch, I hang my towel on my steering wheel and my bathing suit on the rearview mirror so they can dry in my car.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:00 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I swim before work and have to tote my swimming stuff around all day, without the benefit of towel service, a swimsuit-spinny-thing, or anywhere to stash my stuff. Here's how I cope:

- I have a microfiber towel; it's lighter and more absorbent than standard bath towels. If I had it to do over again, I'd get one of those super-lightweight camping towels.
- I rinse my swimsuit out really well in the shower after swimming, hang it up to drip while I wash myself, and then squeeze it out as best I can. Sometimes I'll swing it around centrifuge-style and squeeze the ends out a second time.
- I carry my towel and swimsuit in a waterproof open-top tote bag. I figure the open top helps them dry out a little and prevents them from getting mildewy and gross. The instant I get home, I put my swimsuit and towel on a clothes-drying rack.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:04 PM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I guess I should add, since it's a logistic thing, that the reason I have my swim equipment in a shower basket is so I can tote it with me to the side of the pool, and I take it out of the duffel when I get to my car, so the stuff inside can dry out.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:12 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

My gym has a drying machine and plastic baggies for wet swimsuits. To use the machine you put your suit in, press down on the lid for about 20 seconds while it spins your suit around ridiculously fast, and then you take it out (mostly) dry. If your gym doesn't have that, just bring a plastic bag to throw your suit into and immediately take it out when you get home.

Also, gyms with pools may offer towel service - look into that. I wouldn't want to carry a heavy wet towel home with me.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:56 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a hanger in my swim gym bag and after I shower I roll my suit in my towel to squeeze out excess water. When I get to my car, I hang both my towel and swimsuit on the hanger and hang it on the little hook behind my drivers seat. It gets dry-ish during the day. In summer, I crack my sunroof to let some air circulate. At the end of the day, I bring it in the house to finish drying.
posted by amanda at 4:10 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to swim after work. I would roll my wet suit in my damp towel, pop it in my nylon gym bag, and head home. Home, I would rinse the suit and throw towel and suit over the shower rod to dry. When it was dry next morning, I would pack it back in the gym bag. Worked fine for me.
posted by Miko at 6:14 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just seconding what was said above about needing to know the specifics for etiquette at your pool. The pool I swim at is very, very busy and there is definitely a pattern to the lanes and times that are busier/slower then others. I want to speak particularly to the touching feet thing if you want to pass, I once saw that technique go horribly wrong when a man tried it to do it to a woman. There were screams and tears and bad feelings all around. It can also be a great way to get kicked in the face. In general if I want to pass someone in a lane I try to time for the end when I'm turning or sometimes just go a little off pace to put more distance between us. The other thing to try and avoid is speeding up when someone is trying to pass you, I think it's mainly unconscious but it seems like almost everyone speeds up a bit when being passed; you want to maintain your speed and stay in your lane space or tuck over beside the rope a bit more.

Are there lifeguards watching the lap swims? Or a front desk at the gym? They would be able to tell you specifics for your pool. Also, towel service is totally and completely worth the star expense if it's offered. Not having to lug a wet, chloriney towel around is great.
posted by five_cents at 6:27 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Towel service + centrifuge.
posted by devnull at 12:46 AM on January 9, 2014

Routine: I have a 25L dry sack that was gifted to me that I love. So much better than plastic bags which tear. Also great when your anti-chlorine shampoo spills. When I get home I hang my towel, cap and swimsuit and put the rest (goggles, shower scrubby, paddles, etc.) on a small mat in my bathroom and turn the dry bag inside out and drape it over the bathtub. Everything is perfectly dry and odor-free by morning.

One tip I wish someone had told me: Polyester is your friend when it comes to swimsuits. I found that anything that wasn't 100% polyester (e.g., if it had any spandex or cotton) would eventually fall apart. Took me three suits before I finally read that, maybe even here. I've had these for about a year and they're holding up great.
posted by funkiwan at 1:14 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

My gym is a very large chain and has neither a swimsuit-drying centrifuge nor towel service, and now I feel ripped off (though not overly surprised, I suppose.)

I typically exit the pool for the showers and WRING my trunks out in there. Once I'm dressed, I roll the shorts up into the towel and put that into my canvas gym-bag until I'm home, then out and hung up to dry. I've had zero problems with mildew, mold, or anything of the sort.

like others above, I definitely recommend a microfiber towel - I purchased this one in the beach/pool size and it is worth every penny (it was one of the few I could find that was the size of a normal towel, but microfiber.)

Along with your aforementioned change of clothes and a towel, don't forget flip-flops or some other foot covering and I find goggles and earplugs a must for laps (apologies if those are too obvious).
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:16 AM on January 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another thing to scout out is the logistics of what goes in your locker and what comes out to the pool with you. You might need to be totally showered and dry before you go back to your locker. I've been at pools that required walking in public between the pool and shower or the shower and locker room, which might mean you'd bring a better cover-up.
posted by SandiBeech at 6:23 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you're also interested in pool-to-shower logistics, what I do is hang my towel near the shower area (I have an old ratty towel that no one is likely to steal in the space of half an hour) and keep my soap in a travel soapdish in my shower bucket that I take with me to the pool, so I can go straight from the pool to the shower without having to swing back to my locker first.

I also have one of those three-number combination locks (the one with the row of individual numbers) and I lock it by mixing it up the same way every time, so that unlocking it is also the same muscle-memory motion every time. You can set them with your own combination so it's easier to remember, and they're so much faster than those dial locks. (I am into efficiency!)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:35 AM on January 9, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers! Not everything is applicable to my particular situation but hopefully they'll help others.

I didn't see a centrifuge but I might need to look harder. The wringing method worked pretty well. Bought a big microfiber towel as well as a drysack. Yeah, I have goggles already, though I've never really felt like I needed earplugs.

I think I have my pool/shower routine down OK, though it's not super ideal since I'm sorta shy about my body. I actually bring my regular clothes and the towel with me so I can change right in the shower stall afterwards.

Now I just need to figure out when the gym's going to be less busy. I shared a lane last night but I'm slow and have bad form and there were a bunch of people waiting so I didn't swim quite as long as I wanted to.
posted by kmz at 8:51 AM on January 9, 2014

Can you go in the middle of the day? At my gym, the pool is crowded early in the morning (6:30-8:30) and also after work (5-7) but at lunchtime I almost always have a lane to myself (12-1).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:11 AM on January 9, 2014

I would encourage you to swim for as long as you like whether or not there are people waiting, regardless of your form. If people want to wait to avoid sharing a lane, that's their prerogative but I don't think it's on you to cut your swim short to accommodate them. I started out a slow swimmer and am now a faster swimmer so I've been on both sides of the fence. As long as you're a considerate lane-mate by staying flexible on the type of workout you do (e.g., sprints vs. drills) sharing a lane doesn't have to be a bummer.
posted by funkiwan at 3:56 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

New swimmer here and here's what I've learned from trial thus far, as well as AskMetafilter and random helpful people in the locker room who spontaneously gave me advice. Difficulty level: city pool (great facilities, but no paid gym type amenities)
agree that towel service is nice if they offer it!
* Now using a peshmetal (sp?) instead of a terry type towel. Lightweight absorbent covers me completely but takes up less space in my bag
*wrote on a ziploc bag the things that need to be in my gym bag like a swimsuit and the aforementioned towel. Ziploc contains shampoo soap etc
*before swim take ziploc and towel and put on top of my stuff in the locker.
*swim! Yay! I Only bring flipflops and what I'm wearing in the pool as we can't bring bags out there
*post swim: run to locker for toiletry ziploc and towel then to showers
*in showers: rinse out suit etc. Shower.
*we do have the suit centrifuge which helps
*swimsuit goes in plastic bag then in 'sneaker' compartment of gym bag with flops
*pesmetal towel is so big I can hang it on my shoulders and practically be tented as I dress. Increased body confidence comes with time. Ok not necessarily confidence just I'm getting closer to realizing that no one there cares, then that I don't care if they care.
*make sure I have my lock etc before leaving.

I realize this is a bit in depth / over detailed and might be more than you needed, but also posting in case it's helpful to anyone else like me who sometimes gets overwhelmed w logistics :)
posted by NikitaNikita at 2:13 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I was swimming a lot I found that the early part of the evening adult swim was busy, but not the latte half. So we had adult swim 7-9, but the bulk of the people were in there 7-8, and clearing out by 8. I had a schedule where I could swim 8-9 and it was fine. Maybe try the latter half of evening hours.
posted by Miko at 6:25 AM on February 1, 2014

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