Swimming Goggles and the Tyranny of Choice

by J.D. Roth

If you’ve been following along at Get Fit Slowly, then you know I recently began a health and fitness program. Yes, I know I’ve started these many times in the past, but this time feels different. This time feels like 1997, the year I lost 40 pounds. My entire mindset seems to have changed.

I’m following Bill Phillips’ Body for Life program, which contains two components: diet and exercise.

Body for life

The dietary component of this plan is pretty straightforward. Participants are supposed to eat six small meals per day. Each meal should consist of one portion protein and one portion carbohydrate (where a portion is roughly the size of your hand or fist). An extra vegetable can be eaten with two meals each day. Participants are encouraged to drink as much water as possible. Finally, everybody can take one free day per week on which they don’t worry about following the plan.

None of that is revolutionary, of course. The fitness plan is pretty standard, too, except for the aerobics. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, participants lift weights, alternating between upper- and lower-body workouts. (If I do lower body on Friday, for example, then I do upper body the following Monday.)

Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are set aside for aerobics. Phillips recommends just twenty minutes of aerobic activity at a time, but each of those twenty minutes is carefully prescribed. One begins moderately but proceeds to exercise more vigorously until near peak effort, then reduces to moderate effort again to repeat the cycle.

All of this has worked fine so far. I’ve enjoyed the program, and have been able to stick with it.

I’m not so good at the twenty minute intensity intervals for the aerobics, though. I may be circumventing the intended effects, but I’m instead using my aerobic days to do traditional aerobics, the sort with which I am familiar. I might, for example, spend an hour on the stationary recumbent bike.

I’ve been looking for an aerobic exercise for my upper body (which is incredibly weak). All I can come up with is swimming. I’ve always considered swimming to be something for when I’m in peak condition. (I have a sliding scale: biking, running, swimming. The fitter I am, the further along that scale I can move.) But I’ve decided that I’m going to try to do some swimming regardless of my condition.

Buying goggles

As a result — and the entire reason I’m writing this entry! — I made a trip to G.I. Joe’s today to pick up some swimming goggles.

“Where are they?” asked Kris.

“I don’t know. Let’s start over here,” I said, pointing to the right, “and go ’til we find them.”

We walked past the biking stuff, the weight-lifting equipment, the team sports equipment, the walking equipment, the hunting equipment, the camping equipment, the auto parts, the kayak equipment, and then we came to the swimming stuff.

Just to the left of where we’d started, I found an endcap with about a dozen different types of goggles. I began to browse through them, looking for a pair I thought I’d work. I didn’t know what I was looking for, though. I don’t know anything about swimming goggles.

“What’s the difference between the Baja and the Baja Jr.?” I pondered aloud.

“I don’t know,” Kris said from around the corner, “but there are more goggles over here.”

Indeed there were. There were another 30 types of goggles of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Kris grabbed a pair. “Buy these,” she said, handing me the Speedo Hydrospex.

“Why should I buy those?” I asked. “The lenses are blue. Why would I want blue lenses?” I put them back and began to look through the rack. The choices seemed endless, and there was no way for me to evaluate the options. What made a $20 pair of goggles better than a $10 pair? Why did some have blue lenses or black lenses or pink lenses? Did it matter what type of headstrap the goggles had? I knew I wanted anti-fog goggles, but that was my only requirement. (I remember how annoying it was to have the goggles fog up when in the pool.)

“I can’t decide,” I said. “I’m just going to buy the Hydrospex.”

The moral

The crazy thing is that if I had only been given three choices, it would have been easy for me to make a decision. I feel qualified to choose between three types of swimming goggles. But when there are 30 choices, I’m all at sea. When there are 30 choices, there are so many subtle variations between the models that I have no hope of differentiating between them.

(Yes, I’m well aware there’s an entire book on this subject, thanks.)

Updated: 17 March 2008

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