I appreciate there are hardier people than me who swim in unheated ponds and pools all year round, rightfully boasting about their experiences on their own blogs and on the hugely popular and inspirational Outdoor Swimming Society Facebook page.
But for me, swimming outdoors in Winter means a trip to my local David Lloyd to swim in their outdoor HEATED pool which hardly makes me Martin Strel. Still, it’s about this time of year that I start to get excited about the prospect of more ‘wild’ swimming, particularly in unheated lidos, lakes and – my very favourite – the sea.
As March is my birthday month I always put swimming gear on my list and this year was no exception. Although I’ve been quite happy with my various pairs of Speedo and Zoggs jammers over the years, I thought I’d be a little bit more adventurous this year and asked my wife for a pair of FINA approved Arena racing trunks – the wonderfully named Arena Powerskin ST X Raptor Jammers.
I had a pair of Speedo Fastskin Jammers that were given to me at a launch of the Fastskin 3 range along with a pair of Fastskin goggles and although I still wear the goggles, the trunks just take too long to get on and off for casual swimming and are embarrassingly tight.
So the Arena Powerskins are a bit of a compromise. They look the business – especially in the red – but aren’t as hydrodynamic as the more expensive Fastskins which are made of a much thicker water resistant material (if you want something that’s comparable you need to be looking at £120 Arena Carbon Pros instead). Given that I’m not going to be racing in a pool where fractions of a second count, it hardly matters though.
I chose the size 30s which roughly corresponds to a 36inch waist although you need to look very carefully at the sizing guide before buying. They’re definitely much tighter than my usual training jammer, and a little lower on the hips too.
However, crucially you can still get them on and off in a few seconds in the changing rooms. Even if I’m not actually any faster, they definitely make me feel faster in the water!
Arena Cobra Tri Mirror goggles
Very kindly Arena have also kitted me out with a new pair of Cobra Tri Mirror goggles which are due on sale in August/September. As I mentioned earlier, I love my regular non-mirrored Speedo Fastskin goggles which are perfect for racing but also comfortable enough to wear for regular training.
However, the problem is when you are swimming outdoors it’s useful, even in the rain soaked UK, to wear a pair of mirrored goggles to reduce the glare from sunlight on the water. Arena sent me the black pair with grey mirrored lenses which I’m wearing in the picture at the top of the page, and also above.
They’re also available with a yellow tint (like the Speedo Mariner Mirrors which were massively popular a few years back). The price is expected to be around £38 when they’re released in the summer though I’m sure prices will fall over time.
Design wise, the Arena Tri Mirror goggles are a little like open water swimming ‘mask-style goggles’ which are particularly popular with triathletes. In this market, makes like Aquasphere and Cressi dominate with their well made designs which are in some ways more akin to ski goggles, than swimming goggles.
However, brands like Speedo and Arena have also started to make inroads into this market too. In fact the Arena Tri Mirror goggles remind me a little of a pair of Speedo Rift Pro goggles that I used to wear, albeit much smaller.
Rather than a conventional fabric strap that can be tightened up at the back, they come up with a larger ratcheted, adjustable strap at the side. The advantage of this system is that it’s generally much easier to adjust the sizing to suit your head, although in my experience they can become a bit loose over time.
After wearing approximately five times for training I haven’t experienced any problems whatsoever. The goggles are extremely comfortable to wear and I haven’t experienced any fogging up, either in the indoor or the outdoor pool.
The only slight problem is the mirrored lenses, which make everything just a little darker, have become a little scratched. I definitely would recommend keeping them in a case rather than chucking them loose into a bag like I tend to do.
Talking of bags, those nice people at Arena also sent me one of their latest swimming backpacks, the Arena Fastpack 2.1 (pictured above). Available in several different colours – including pink/black, black/yellow and black/green – I plumped for the blue and yellow bag pictured above (they match the colour of my son’s swimming club, Barnet Copthall).
Although it’s not quite as big as some of the TYR swimming bags out there, which are particularly popular with club swimmers, it’s certainly big enough for me. What I particularly like are all the different compartments.
There are two mesh pockets at the side for storing your water bottles and a small padded zippable pocket at the front that’s ideal for keeping your goggles safe and hopefully scratch free. There’s a larger zippable pocket at the front and another at the bottom for storing your swimming fins.
With summer around the corner, now’s the time to start preparing for those big open water swims so I can’t wait to fill up my bag with loads of new swim accessories.