New techniques may improve a swimming pool workout from Masters coach Nancy Kirkpatrick Reno. Before sticking a toe in the water, consider this advice: * Swim in a pool that's at least 20 to 25 yards long; those pools can usually be found at high schools and some gyms. A 50-meter Olympic-size pool is best, but not everyone has access to that. "If you're going to become a lap swimmer," Kirkpatrick-Reno says, "you can't go any shorter or you'll be constantly turning." An outdoor pool is preferable to an indoor one, because the chlorine and other chemicals dissipate in the air.
* Choose a pool with a pace clock, or get a waterproof swim watch. "It will help you measure how fast you're swimming," Kirkpatrick-Reno says. "If you have no clock, how do you know you're improving?"
* Not all swimsuits are created equal. Racing suits are best, because they cling to the body and cut down on drag, which can slow a swimmer. Men should ditch the loose-fitting trunks or jams -- those, Kirkpatrick-Reno says, "are like taking grocery bags and tying them to your waist" -- and choose a more tight-fitting suit.
* Swim caps can cut down on drag, especially for people with long hair. They can also protect hair from pool chemicals. Goggles are essential to protect eyes from the same chemicals, and they're available with prescription lenses and tinting and UV protection for the outdoors. A couple of pieces of gear are used during drills: Kickboards can help swimmers focus on kicking properly. And pull buoys (lightweight foam pieces that sit between the thighs, keeping the legs still) make swimmers use more upper body muscles. Stay hydrated. Even though you're in a body of water, you will perspire.
* Do some cool-down laps after a workout. A few laps at a leisurely pace will help slow the heart rate and cool the body's core temp