MYOPIC BRETHREN please help me swim
April 21, 2016 2:11 PM   Subscribe

How do you, my fellow glasses/contacts wearers, handle swimming in pools?

My vision is not good enough to get from the locker room area to the pool area without hands on guided assistance the entire way. I refuse to even consider this option.

I guess that leaves me with these potential choices:

01) wear goggles over contacts
02) wear prescription goggles
03) idk hold my glasses in my hand while im swimming? this sounds so stupid
04) get some kind of special waterproof case i can wear around my neck to hold my glasses while i swim
05) lay facedown on the floor and cry

When I swam in school I did 01 and I lost on average 1 contact lens a month, which my mom angrily replaced at what was no doubt an obnoxious cost. I don't really want to deal with that again although I guess some kind of super fancy special high tech goggles might prevent this from happening? what are these magic goggles tell me now

I would like to consider 02 as it seems the most logical but I don't have an extra pair of glasses to spare for the making of the goggles, so it seems like it would be super expensive? Idk?

03 is too stupid to contemplate and would certainly damage my glasses from water exposure or me dropping them or whatever, do not want.

I did some cursory googling for 04 and ended up almost buying a waterproof ipod which I DON'T EVEN NEED STOP IT SELF YOU ARE BAD. but surely this kind of thing exists? help me

as for 05 this is what i will be doing until further notice

Please someone just solve this stupid problem for me so I can go swimming.

The pool is saltwater, if that makes any kind of difference.
posted by poffin boffin to Health & Fitness (51 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I have a pair of prescription goggles for swimming, and then I wear my glasses out to the pool and put them in a hard case that is then wrapped up in my towel and left by the side of the pool with my flip-flops. If I'm worried about them getting damaged or stolen, I wear an older pair of glasses.

Wearing prescription goggles outside of the water gives me a headache. My friends with contacts just wear regular goggles over their contacts and seem to not have a problem, but there are probably finer details I'm unaware of.
posted by umwhat at 2:15 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have swum with contacts in many times and never lost a lens, so I'm not sure why you did so many. in a chlorine pool I would definitely wear goggles but in salt water I would just wear the contacts and close my eyes.

as far as my own gym (chlorine) I would either wear contacts and goggles, or wear my glasses and just leave them with my towel near the pool. that always worked fine for me.
posted by supermedusa at 2:16 PM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh, and you can buy prescription goggles that are off the shelf. They're not perfect, but cheaper than having them made. My eyes have different strengths, so I just pick the one in the middle. Mine are by TYR - you can buy them from Amazon.
posted by umwhat at 2:19 PM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have prescription goggles. One thing to remember is that if you get a pair, you won't need to frequently replace them like you do your regular prescription, since you just need to see well enough to walk around the pool - not to drive or to read.
posted by FencingGal at 2:20 PM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


oh no they don't go high enough i think
posted by poffin boffin at 2:21 PM on April 21, 2016

1) People don't take losing a contact seriously these days because so many are daily disposables anyway. I take it you have fancy expensive contact lenses?
2) + 3) If you had an old pair of glasses of almost-your-current-prescription, that would surely be good enough for these purposes, namely to get you from the locker room into the pool without stubbing your toe. If you've lost or destroyed all previous glasses, maybe get a basic pair from Zenni for under $20, and secure with a sports strap?
posted by aimedwander at 2:21 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am very nearsighted with a wonky prescripton, and prescription goggles have changed my life. (Ok, not really, but they're really cool.) I got these guys, because you can get a different prescription in each eye.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:21 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Prescription goggles aren't actually that expensive and you can buy them off the shelf, although of course what's available there won't be as precise as buying them custom-made.

They're here for $10-$20 or here, custom-made to your prescription for $35-$50, depending on what you need.
posted by kate blank at 2:23 PM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

My prescription goggles were $20, by the way, and they fit my weird-ass prescription. (-5 in one eye, -10.5 in the other. Seriously: I can't get prescription sunglasses from Warby Parker, but I can get $20 prescription goggles.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:23 PM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've been swimming 2-3 times a week for 8 years with contacts and goggles, and I've never lost a contact or even come close to losing a contact. You may need to acquire better goggles that don't leak? I have a pair of (fairly expensive for goggles) Sable goggles that I love, and they do make off-the-shelf prescription lenses for them if you're interested in that route. But I've also swum with not top of the line TYR and Speedo goggles and contacts and been fine.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:24 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, my boyfriend just wears regular goggles over his contacts and although he's worried he'll lose a lens, he actually hasn't in the three-plus years we've been swimming together.
posted by kate blank at 2:24 PM on April 21, 2016

Another vote for prescription goggles. I bought mine from an online retailer in the UK and you could set the strength of each eye.

Cost me about £25 (including VAT), which will be about $25 (excluding tax) where you probably are.
posted by mr_silver at 2:26 PM on April 21, 2016

I wear my glasses in the pool and keep my head above water.

I am the queen of the dorks.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:30 PM on April 21, 2016 [19 favorites]

I occasionally swim with my contacts in and goggles on. As long as your goggles are well fitting, there should be no problem. Don't rub your eyes like crazy or forget you have them in and they shouldn't come out of your eyes or get lost.
posted by amanda at 2:31 PM on April 21, 2016

ARGH all these online places are like "lol girl u got a shitty astigmatism sry" but fuck them i will not be defeated

My contacts are $400 and I don't really want to risk it unless rx goggles would be more than $400
posted by poffin boffin at 2:32 PM on April 21, 2016

I've never seriously considered prescription goggles because at my prescription they would cost well over $100, but I've never lost a contact in the pool swimming with properly-fitted regular goggles (and this is over 20+ years of sometimes-regular swimming and nonstop contacts wear). Do you know what's causing your contacts to come out when you wear goggles? If the goggles are sealed tightly to your face, there shouldn't be any way for the contacts to get washed out, but maybe something else solvable is going wrong.
posted by babelfish at 2:40 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't think your swim goggles need to correct to the level that your contacts do, though?

They only need to be good enough to walk around the pool deck and stay in your pool lane.

Maybe your optometrist could suggest a lower-level prescription for the goggles.

My point of reference is prescription scuba mask I had made for my lifelong dream vacation to Hawaii. I couldn't see to drive in them, but they were freakin' amazing for looking at fishes.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:43 PM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

I swim 3x a week or more and I just wear goggles over my contacts. I haven't had a problem with this. They're monthly soft toric lenses for an astigmatism. I do keep a small bottle of contact lens solution in my locker at my gym in case of irritation. I've used that once or twice after my workout and I think because I got an eyelash in there not because of complications with the chlorine or anything.

I don't really see people leaving their glasses at the end of the lane but I'm not really paying attention. I keep my kickboard, my workout sheet and my pull buoy at one end of the pool while I'm working out - I don't see why you couldn't keep your glasses there too unless you have lots of unruly kids running around or something.
posted by rdnnyc at 2:45 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Wait, should I be using my glasses prescription or my contact lens prescription for goggling? They are somewhat different.

(i am super uncomfortable leaving my glasses unattended not even because of the ridiculous expense to replace them but because i would require handheld assistance and an expensive cab ride to get home if they were lost or damaged. i cannot function safely in public without some form of corrective lenses, and it's a huge terrifying nauseating point of anxiety to me to even contemplate.)
posted by poffin boffin at 2:49 PM on April 21, 2016

The prescription will probably wind up being a highly imperfect compromise, especially if you have astigmatism. I followed instructions like these and the result is good enough for the swim - pretty sure the water itself helps (somehow, refraction something something). Terrible for land.

I stuff my glasses in the plastic case that came with my goggles and have that in a bag with my towel, either by the pool or hung up in the shower area in the changeroom. (The prescription I ended up with is not good enough out of water for me to feel comfortable walking all the way from the lockers to the pool. I can do like 10 or so feet but always have to ask for help to figure out where the ticket basket and kickboards are :/)

I'd be too afraid of bacteria etc getting into my contacts to use them in the pool.

I understand worrying about losing glasses - I think you can get plastic cases etc (for wallets and whatnot, marketed to travellers). If I were going to do something like that, I'd get some kind of plastic fanny pack. A lanyard or wrist-attached thing would bug too much, I think. (I'd prob just go to a dollar store and hack a girl's "purse" or something. I do enough other strange things in the pool that I'm past caring, though.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:09 PM on April 21, 2016

Are you actually afraid of people stealing your glasses? My solution in situations like this has just been to bring my regular old glasses case and leave them on a bench or something close enough to the ladder out of the pool that I know I can get to them unassisted.
posted by 256 at 3:12 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just saw your note about anxiety regarding losing your glasses. Could you also bring your contact lenses and leave them in your locker. Then, in the unlikely worst case scenario of your glasses case being awol when you get out, you don't need a cab home, you just need to ask for assistance getting to the locker room, then you can put in your contacts and come back to find your glasses.
posted by 256 at 3:14 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Do you have your previous pair of glasses? If so, are they sufficient to use to get from the locker room to the pool, and then leave them pool-side (appropriately protected/hidden)? Then if something did happen to them you would only need assistance back to the locker room and you could get your regular glasses back.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 3:14 PM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you're leaving your glasses unattended, you're actually carrying two pairs: the old ones you don't mind losing that you leave by the pool, and the ones you wear regularly that you leave in your locker. Worst case scenario, you lose your pool glasses and get embarrassed when you have to ask the lifeguard/a fellow swimmer to help you back to the locker room and do your lock combo. If you're swimming effectively blind, you eventually get used to using the high-contrast markings on the bottom of the pool to gauge where you are, and swimming by feel in order to not run into people sharing the lane. There may be a route to and from the locker room that you can use that has a physical component like a railing or section of wall you can follow.

Anyway, that's more of less how my dad does it (and it sounds like you are similarly visually-impaired.) He's also experimented with removing the arms of an old pair of glasses and placing them in a scuba-style mask for a life-hack Rx goggles solution and he said that worked sort of OK for snorkeling with a very limited field of vision. Now that Rx goggles are so cheap online....just get Rx goggles. Even if the Rx is not perfect, you're really just shooting for "I can swim safely and get where I need to go," it's OK if it's a minimum level for safety.

When I swim in the ocean, I put my wallet and keys in a pouch that goes on my wrist. You could definitely put your glasses in a case in a waist pack and wear it into the pool. It would slow your time down some but it might be worth it.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:23 PM on April 21, 2016

Another option might be to get a waterproof snorkeling bag to strap your glasses to your body while you swim. If you're a high-performance athlete, this will impede your ability to move fast, but if you're a regular swimmer, it won't make much of a difference.

Wearing glasses in the pool is ... not super awesome for them, but it won't destroy them utterly and completely. It will tend to make them less shiny -- they plastic bits will haze and the metal bits will start out getting shinier (because they will be so clean!) and then dull after some time. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for nice new glasses, but you can do it with an older pair if you have them and they'll still function just fine as glasses for years and years, they'll just get tatty looking.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:29 PM on April 21, 2016

I am very short-sighted (-13) but swim often with my normal (soft) contact lenses and ordinary goggles, and have no problems. You do need to wear goggles that fit well. Best to go to a specialist sports shop at a quiet time, and ask someone who has a bit of expertise to find the right pair for your face (shape and size). S/he will advise you to widen your eyes (as if in surprise) as the goggles are fitted over your eyes, then to relax them when they are in place. You need a close-to-perfect seal. With the right pair, it's easy. You just need a bit of personal attention when you're shopping for goggles.
posted by TristanPK at 4:01 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is it possible for you to get cheap disposable contacts that approximate your prescription? Even if you have astigmatism, you can probably get disposable lenses that work well enough for swimming/goggling.
posted by radioamy at 4:16 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been swimming 2-3 times a week for 8 years with contacts and goggles, and I've never lost a contact or even come close to losing a contact.

Same for me. I do wear disposables, have a very intense prescription, and they do correct my astigmatism. Losing disposables is no big deal. They cost less than $300 annually, and as a bonus, they're a lot lighter and more comfortable than permanent lenses. Because they don't need disinfecting, they also are better at protecting you from eye infections. I'm a fan. A good-fitting pair of goggles over contacts works just fine. I've never lost one in the pool.

Prescription goggles, though, are another good idea, and they don't need to correct for astigmatism. You don't need reading/driving vision for swimming. Just orientation vision. So you can make a cost/sharpness tradeoff there.

The way I would handle this when I wasn't wearing contacts was to wear old glasses to the gym, and just wear them to the pool. I'd find my lane as a reference point, then put my towel and glasses on a bench near the pool, or even at the lip of the pool a foot or so from the lane, and go swimming. Even though I'm extremely nearsighted - like, I can't read, drive, or cook without correcting my vision - I can swim in a lane without any correction, as it's mostly a physical thing - if you bump the floats, just correct. The only annoying part is not being able to see the swim clock, but for that I wore a sport watch that I could squint at close and that would do fine.

I really wouldn't worry about someone stealing my glasses. They aren't really that easy for anyone else to use. but if you have fancy expensive frames or something, put them in a case and stick them in a fold of the towel so people can't see them.
posted by Miko at 5:07 PM on April 21, 2016

I am you. When I was swimming I would wear my glasses onto the deck. I'd carry a towel, fins, and prescription googles and a waterproof iPod thingie out with me. I'd put my glasses and towel someplace safe on a bench near the pool, put the prescription googles on and get in the pool.

The prescription googles don't have to be perfect. They actually get better once you are in the water. I just needed them enough to see if someone was already in the lane or get to the pool without tripping over anything. I think I had the strongest off-the-shelf I could find. I couldn't have read small print with them, but they were good enough I could see the digital timers and they were great once I was in the water. I loved being able to see so clearly once I was in the water.

The astigmatism doesn't matter once your in the water. All you need to see is that black line on the bottom or the large timer letters if you're timing yourself.

Before I used the prescription googles I would just wear my glasses into the water then take them off and put them on the pool deck while I was doing laps. I swam competitively through high school and college and everyone knew my glasses were sitting on the deck. It's a good idea to user an older pair in case someone steps on them. I always put them next to paddles or fins or other swimming stuff I had while in the pool so they were a little more protected.
posted by rsclark at 5:11 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

If your eyes are different, buy a pair for each eye of off the shelf prescription googles and switch the eyes, and you now have two correct pairs. Ballpark is fine for swimming. I have astigmatism and this worked fine.
posted by idb at 5:12 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

oh my god, im not convinced that someone is following me around lying in wait to STEAL my glasses, im not pearl clutching about THIEVES. im worried that they'll get thrown into the dirty towel bin, like my keys and asthma inhaler did once before, or that they'll be knocked under a bench and i won't be able to find them because i literally cannot see how many fingers my own hand is holding up at arms length from my own face, like i've done many times IN MY OWN HOME, which is why i have my spare pair of glasses in a fixed location that i can find with my eyes closed. i'm worried about someone knocking them on the floor and stepping on them by accident, like my own mother did to my glasses at the public pool when i was little.

please accept that my reasons for not wanting to leave my glasses unattended (in a place that is not my own home and in which i cannot find my way around from memory and with my eyes closed) are founded in logic, reason, and previous life experience, and not hysterical stupidity.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:15 PM on April 21, 2016 [10 favorites]

wear old but still semi-functional glasses (if you haven't donated them) between your locker and the pool
posted by Jacqueline at 5:18 PM on April 21, 2016

Your glasses may be something the lifeguard would hold on to, with a simple request. No lifeguard wants anyone to be a fall risk because they cannot see.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:18 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

How about a string bag you can loop over a bench, rail, or towel bar? Too hard to throw away by accident.
posted by Miko at 5:20 PM on April 21, 2016

Something like this might seem like overkill for a pool, but it would be a way for you to keep your glasses on you at all times while in the pool while not having to hold them: Safe Swimmer Float.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:37 PM on April 21, 2016

I have a blah-looking pair of lightweight glasses that really glom onto my head well. I call them my "sport glasses" and swim away in them -- they've been to loads of beaches and haven't fallen off yet. I'd consider looking for something light and comfy you can get to stay put, perhaps with a strap in back. The drips on the glasses are surprisingly non-annoying.

Narrative Priorities is just being cruel, and there is nothing dorky about this at all. Probably.
posted by kmennie at 5:59 PM on April 21, 2016

You should really talk to your eye doctor about new contacts. I have TERRIBLE vision and an astigmatism and I can do disposable daily without a problem.
posted by k8t at 6:00 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a card-carrying member of Team Wear Your Glasses In The Water. I like to attach them to myself just in case. I've used twine or string that goes behind the back of my head, sunglasses straps, and sometimes if I want extra protection (like if I'm doing jumps or somersaults) I will tie an extra piece of string from my bathing suit shoulder strap to the string behind the back of my head. If you're tying things on to your glasses, I recommend using the constrictor knot as it gets tighter the more you yank on the ends, unlike a regular overhand knot. Works like a charm.
posted by danceswithlight at 6:27 PM on April 21, 2016

And they make lots of eyeglass-holding straps specifically for swimming.
posted by Miko at 6:32 PM on April 21, 2016

Oh, and in times of need, I have absolutely worn my glasses OVER a pair of goggles. In one memorable instance, I was able to use this setup to retrieve my keys from the bottom of a swimming hole in a beautiful gorge.
posted by danceswithlight at 6:39 PM on April 21, 2016

If your pool will let you keep stuff right at the edge of the pool, rsclark's idea sounds great, you could just put your glasses in a hard (and maybe bright) plastic case. (May do this myself if it's allowed!)

The bag I have is a distinctive (blue) mesh (Dollar Store TM) bag, identifiable on deck even to me, that does help. But quickly finding the kickboards at any pool I go to (and not fearing slipping and giving myself a concussion) sound better. (My on-land depth perception isn't great with the prescription goggles.)

Curious to know where people are getting these cheap disposable torics... they are ~ 1.5-2x the cost of monthlies, and don't win out against biweeklies, either (where I am - from online vendors, too). Lack of need for solution doesn't improve the math, for daily wear :/

I used to wear glasses while swimming when I was a kid (or would just leave them with someone on the beach), but now, I'd be worrying about the anti-glare coating on the lenses being messed up by chlorine.

posted by cotton dress sock at 7:02 PM on April 21, 2016

I get my disposables at WebEyeCare. Cheapest source I've found.
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

(And to be honest, i sometimes wear them more than one day. And alternate with glasses.)
posted by Miko at 8:04 PM on April 21, 2016

I scuba dive in contacts+goggles, so I'd just get a pair of goggles that are tight, or a mask that has good suction. May seem like overkill, but I never got anywhere close to losing contacts while swimming/deep water scuba diving.

There's also the time that I bought contacts from some random guy in Belize City so I could see on my dive the next day. Cheaper than home! And they stayed in!
posted by guster4lovers at 9:04 PM on April 21, 2016

I was thinking about those shitty reading glasses you can get at the pharmacy, but I was all "but they are for hyperopia not myopia and also her astigmatism has her hosed". But I searched and lo! you can buy a pair of shitty off-the-rack glasses that will utterly not suffice for daily life but will get you back and forth to the side of the pool. That way, if they are broken or thrown into the towels, you just demand to be guided to the locker room and get your real glasses from where you have safely locked them away, and replace your shitty glasses by mail.
Probably very shitty and inadequate off-the-rack glasses
Probably slightly less inadequate and shitty off-the-rack glasses with more options that cost twice as much but are still under a tenth the cost of your real glasses
posted by gingerest at 9:13 PM on April 21, 2016

If you have prescription goggles, just wear those like they're glasses from changing room out to pool deck and back again. Just like they were your glasses. Leave your regular glasses in the case with your clothes in the changing room. No worries! (One of my coaches, who is a very well respected masters swimmer/coach in the US, does this- I think it's lovely!)
As noted above, prescription goggles aren't too expensive, you can buy two and swap out if you have vastly different prescriptions- you can even get them tinted for outdoor/sunshiny use. Supercool!
(I just wear my one-a-day contacts under my swedes and keep a spare pair of glasses in the car, but my scrip isn't unusual.)
posted by susiswimmer at 10:04 PM on April 21, 2016

In your shoes, I'd go the goggles route, but if you're not a fan of that, I wonder if there's a way to do it with contacts. To echo others, I've swum a lot, 99% of the time in contacts, and I've never lost one (I don't open my eyes underwater without goggles and I don't tolerate ill-fitting or water-filled goggles, though). I don't know how long ago high school was, but perhaps the reason that you lost them more had to do with the contact lens technology then (my understanding is that the fit and the materials used have come a long way).

$400 contacts (per pair?!?!?) is nuts, though, so I can understand why you're nervous about losing those. Is there a time or a way to try it with contacts that you can afford to lose - maybe with your old pair right when your prescription is updated, or when you're about to change them out anyways? Alternatively, why is it that you haven't considered/can't get dailies? If your prescription would accommodate even a good-enough fit with those, then they'd be cheap enough to use just when you swim (if you don't swim too frequently). It's likely that your eye doctor could even give you a few sample pairs to experiment with swimming in.
posted by R a c h e l at 4:25 AM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am a blind-as-a-bat person with very expensive contacts/glasses and a fear of losing them. I am also a habitual swimmer. Here is what I do:

1. I bought the highest rx goggles I could find, which are laughably not strong enough for me, so they stay in my gym back as my emergency backup.

2. I keep a spare pair of glasses in a little bucket o' stuff that I bring to the side of the pool (extra goggles, little bottle of saline, extra ear plugs, etc.)

3. I swim with my contacts in and good-fitting goggles over them.

I have never lost a contact while swimming, and have never needed to use either of my backup plans. (I have lost them while driving though, THAT is terrifying and now I keep ANOTHER spare pair of glasses in the glove box all the time.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:09 PM on April 22, 2016

omg. i know it's hard but pls trust that i am wearing the one kind of contact lens that has in my 25 years of contact lens wearing proven to be the kind of contact lens that works right for me.

i'm ordering a bunch of prescription goggles in the most haphazard fashion imaginable with the assumption that eventually one will work out okay! yay! thanks to everyone who provided useful links!
posted by poffin boffin at 6:23 PM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Because of this thread, I bought myself 2 pairs of inexpensive prescription goggles (different strengths, as my eyes differ wildly from one another), which I successfully recombined into 2 working pairs of sort-my-prescription goggles and used for the first time today.

hough I am quite able to function without glasses, I must say I am incredibly pleased with how well the cheap prescription goggles work, so thanks to poffin boffin for this thread (it's crazy how sharp everything is while swimming laps now! I didn't realize how used to things being blurry I was until today)
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:49 PM on April 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


they are mayboe not good for typing
posted by poffin boffin at 6:12 PM on June 20, 2016 [8 favorites]

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