I’m ashamed that it took me until August to get to my neighborhood pool for lap swimming. In my defense: New York City doesn’t even open its pools until July. Also in my defense: you’re not allowed in unless you show a lifeguard that you brought a lock. And I couldn’t remember the combination to mine.
This week, two things finally motivated me to buy a new lock and set an alarm for early bird swim hours: a cycling-related strain in my knee, and a sporty new bathing suit. The suit is from Outdoor Voices; the brand that brought us athletic color-blocking introduced a small swimwear line earlier this summer, and sent me a two-piece set, gratis, to try. Mine came in a Yves Klein blue, with a scooped neck-and-back top and high-waisted, high-cut bottoms. It’s athletic, but not in an O-shape racerback Speedo way.
But the true test of good workout apparel isn’t how it looks. It’s how it feels. And this suit feels pretty divine. It slides easily on — no wriggling in — and stays snugly in place without any elastic digging into my shoulders or hips. I’ve swam in a handful of Nike two-piece suits (and a city-issued lifeguard onesie) over the years (I prefer two-piece sets for laps because you’re more agile when there’s less fabric), and as with anything Nike makes, those suits are great. The Outdoor Voices suit feels just as great. But, crucially, I don’t look quite like a member of the swim team when I wear it — I’d even wear the top out with high-waisted pants, were I at a bar near the beach or something. And it comes with some minuscule but attractive details, like wide stitches and elastic on the rib cage of the Glide top that slightly resemble European lingerie, and make the top feel like a reassuring embrace.
When you swim, you get to suspend reality. It’s part of why you go, or at least why I go: if you’re submerged in cool blue water, counting out strokes and breaths, the rest of the world — dirty dishes, emails, that thank you gift you still haven’t sent — doesn’t exist. But this is only possible when your gear works. Leaky goggles and swimsuits that drag in the water nag you back to real life. But get the right gear, and you can slip into another plane of reality. At least until your lungs are spent. I highly recommend it. This August heat should be enough motivation enough, but if you need an added push in the form of an outfit, I also recommend the H2OV line. Because I procrastinated, some of their pieces have already sold out and, according to the brand, won’t be restocked until next summer. But plenty excellent-looking tops, bottoms, and one-pieces remain. Get them while it’s oppressively hot.
Some Strat-approved requisite swim accessories
In June, we asked a bunch of swimmers about the best goggles to buy. These came up again and again. “They seem to have a reasonably universal fit regardless of your face — male or female. They’re like type O-negative blood [the universal donor],” said Christine Frietchen, a board member of the Brooklyn Tri Club, when Karen interviewed her.