Preparing to exercise is, in many ways, just as important as the exercise itself. That means eating the right foods at the right times, hydrating your body properly, and getting enough sleep — and that's just to make a start. Preparations go beyond physically making your body ready, though. What about what you need to accomplish your fitness goals? For the weightlifter or the cardio master, it's all about what goes into the gym bag each day. If you prefer the pool, the same concerns remain: what will you pack in your bag to bring with you?

If you haven't given it much thought before, chances are you've arrived at the pool more than once to find you'd forgotten something essential. By stopping to think about what you need to bring in advance and developing a routine around packing your bag, you can ensure you're always ready to face whatever challenges await you in and out of the water. With that said, everyone's kit bag for the pool will be different in some ways. Generally speaking, though, what should you look to bring along every time? Let's run through a quick breakdown of the best things to tuck into your kit before your next swim. 

Your main swimming gear should always go first

It might seem like a no-brainer, but every swimmer eventually experiences a time when they forget to bring what they need to get in the pool. When thinking about the way to lay out your kit within your gym-style bag, your core gear should always go first. It should be easy to get to, so considering dedicating a pocket or particular space in the bag set aside solely for these items. Include your swimsuit and a spare if you have one. At times you may feel more comfortable in one style of suit over another, so leave yourself with options. Your favourite pair of goggles should be next.

Bring at least one full-size towel. Two may not be necessary, but you may want to bring a smaller sized towel for quickly drying your hands or face if you need to pop out of the pool to use your phone. If you like to use a swimming cap, be sure to tuck it in with the rest of your gear. With a setup such as this, you can easily change and get right to the pool without wasting time. Bring along a plastic zip bag or another storage item to tuck your wet gear into after each session to avoid wetting other items in the bag.

Essential accessories for comfort 

Next up comes the things that aren't quite "creature comforts" but also aren't 100% essential. However, these items can improve your comfort in and out of the pool. When you want to minimise distractions and focus on your workout, don't neglect this section of your bag. First on the list: nose clips. When you're planning to work on sprints or another stroke, or when you're having trouble with properly controlling your breathing, nose clips are the perfect solution. Tuck one or two pairs into your bag so you always have them handy before a session.

Do you find yourself continually stopping to wash out your foggy goggles between laps? Invest in a small container of anti-fog spray and make the problem go away for good. A few quick spritzes on the lenses before you begin swimming will ensure you maintain crystal clear vision. Also notable: a solution for preventing or resolving swimmer's ear. For anyone who's spent long hours training the pool, the ache of water trapped in your inner ear is a familiar feeling. This solution quickly dries out the water and restores your hearing back to normal. All these accessories are important, but they're just the beginning of the extra gear you can pack to make every swim simpler.

Don't forget gear to help you train

Now let's turn our attention to the items you can use in the pool to improve your abilities. While these are optional, they each have their role to play in your training. The right tools can add a real punch to your workout, strengthening areas in which you need to improve. For example, the basic kickboard is an item you can easily carry in your bag and use for all kinds of things. Many swimmers, especially beginners, struggle with developing good kicking form. Using a kickboard is an excellent way to practice while also strengthening your core. They're even useful for training up your overall endurance.

Next, throw in a pair of paddle gloves. When you can't maintain strokes like the freestyle for very long, often the problem lies with your upper body strength. Paddles add resistance and turn the pool into your own personal weight room. It is also much easier to tell when you're making mistakes in your stroke form with paddles. If you have room, a compact buoy for towing behind yourself as you swim can also provide the resistance necessary for strength training. Do you have other toys you like to use in the pool, such as diving rings? Throw them in the bag too.

Important electric items can come along too

These days, it's tough to go very far from home without bringing at least one electronic device along with you. Many gym bags today have pockets specifically designed to fit electronics, so feel free to pack in everything you need to stay connected before and after your workout. This pocket is also the best place to store your phone during a session; you don't want to leave it unattended or in a place where it could fall into the water. Don't forget to bring a charger — a dead battery is the last thing you want, especially if you need to make an emergency call unexpectedly. 

Do you use a fitness tracker? If you don't wear it regularly, don't forget to tuck it into your bag before you head for the pool. Devices such as the Apple Watch can help swimmers through stat tracking and app-based workouts. If you like to use technology to tweak and refine your workout, it belongs in your kit. Music can be tougher to come by in the water than it is on the running trail or in the bike saddle, but waterproof earbuds do exist. If you need to jam to your tunes to make your next PR, consider bringing along a pool-safe pair.

Bring some pre- and post-workout fuel

Have you ever finished a swim and immediately felt your stomach growl about its hunger? Swimming burns up tonnes of calories, and it's important you have something to snack on in your bag after a workout — it can be the key to a more effective recovery process. Generally speaking, you shouldn't be snacking before you swim; a full stomach can lead to a disaster mid-workout. What should you bring along to consume when you need something later, though?

Stick to simple, light snacks that contain healthy sources of protein. An energy gel, for example, is an easy and fast way to get calories and nutrients back into your system. Trail mix, protein power bars, and other snacks athletes consume will all work well here. If you want something heartier, a simple can of tuna fish with some crackers can offer up the perfect recovery snack — light on carbs, heavy on protein, and just what your body needs to build stronger muscles. Don't forget to pack in a fresh bottle of water or your favourite sports drink to aid in rehydrating post-workout.

Build your kit and find your ideal balance

If you've ever glanced at other swimmers around the pool as they arrive and wonder what they'd stuffed into their big bags, now you should have a better idea. From water to quickly rehydrate after a tough session to the tools you need to make that session tough in the first place, it's crucial for you to take the time to pack in the right gear. It can be essential to your success, especially if you plan to tackle an especially rigorous training regimen. Even if you plan to exercise casually, you'll be glad to always have the right items on hand when you need them. Make up a shopping list and see what you can find for your kit!

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