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Understanding and Using Your Tri Wetsuit

Understanding and Using Your Tri Wetsuit
June 5, 2019 Erin Horil

Wetsuits are a great piece of technology to help your speed and efficiency in the water during your triathlon race. Let’s talk today about when you should use a wetsuit, how to get it on, and a bit about how we can help you get your perfect wetsuit .

The Benefits of a Wetsuit

Wetsuits are used primarily when the water is cold. Wetsuits help keep you warm by adding an additional watertight layer between your skin and the water. You also will let a bit of water into the wetsuit while getting warmed up, and this water will warm up from your body heat and keep you warm while you swim, since it will stay in your suit.

Another benefit is that wetsuits make you faster. The wetsuit will make you more hydronamic, reducing your drag in the water. They also increase your buoyancy, keeping your hips up higher and helping you glide along the surface easily. Both of these things will help you be more efficient in the water and save your energy over the course of the triathlon.

Choosing & Putting on a Wetsuit

There are a few considerations when selecting a wetsuit. First of all, you’re going to want to make sure it fits. Look at sizing charts first, but if you can, make sure to try on a wetsuit before buying it. Different brands are going to fit in different ways, ands sometimes brands will have different lengths within one size to fit different bodies.

Once you ensure the wetsuit will fit you properly, you need to learn how to actually put it on. Even if a wetsuit fits you in theory, if you don’t know how to wear it properly, you run the risk of having restricted range of motion. If you can’t move in your wetsuit like you’re supposed to, you run the risk of the wetsuit doing more harm than good.

There are a few good things to keep in mind as you get ready to put your wetsuit on. First, make sure the right side is out. Check this by making sure that any decals, branding, or paint is on the outside. Additioanlly, the outside of a wetsuit is usually smooth rubber, whereas the inside is typically softer and the seams are visible. Next, make sure the zipper is in the back! If you don’t get these two things right as you start putting your wetsuit on, you run the risk of spending a great deal of effort to get it on, only to have to take it right off. Finally, make sure that you’re not gouging into the wetsuit with your finger nails as this can easily cause rips and tears. Make sure you trim your nails on race day or use some kind of glove if you think it will be an issue- just use the pads of your fingers.

Some tips that have helped me get my wetsuit on right is to first put plastic bags over my feet. As I step into the wetsuit, the plastic bags help my feet slide smoothly and can help easily get the wetsuit all the way up my legs. Make sure they’re on like a pair of pants- all the way up and snug.

Next, put your arms through the sleeves. Sometimes I’ll get a friend to help me by putting my hand on their shoulders, and they can then push the wetsuit all the way up to the shoulder. If your sleeves aren’t as far up as they can go, you run the risk of the suit being stretched out and restricting your arm movement above your head. Not ideal when you’re swimming!

Finally, zip your wetsuit up and make sure the zipper flap is velcroed down. If that flap is up, you run the risk of it snagging hair or rubbing skin while swimming, and this is highly annoying! Some athletes like to use tri slide or vaseline around the neck to help minimize chafing, and this can help too.

Wetsuits on Race Day

As for when you should and shouldn’t use your wetsuit, it should be obvious when a race is wetsuit legal, because most people will be wearing them and talking about it. However, if the water temperature is below 78°, the race is considered wetsuit legal. If it’s between 78° and 84°, you can wear your wetsuit, but you won’t be eligible for prizes or age group awards. Finally, if it’s above 84°, wetsuits cannot be worn.

For me, if it’s wetsuit legal, I will be wearing my wetsuit simply because it makes me faster in the water. Some people make a determination based on whether it’s a sprint triathlon or not. The theory is that if you spend more time in transition taking the wetsuit off than you would save on the swim, then there’s no sense in wearing it. While I understand the logic, I believe with a bit of practice it’s easy to minimize the time you spend taking off your wetsuit, and you’ll save loads of time and energy by wearing one in the water.

 Come see us at the shop

If you’re feeling at a loss because you don’t have a wetsuit and want to try one out, don’t worry! We sell and rent wetsuits in the shop here at Endorphin Fitness. You can rent a wetsuit for a race weekend. Wetsuits include sizing and time to try it on with our staff to make sure you have a great fit. If you want, for a small additional fee, we can even have one of our coaches work with you on-site in our private endless pool to make sure that you feel comfortable getting in the water with a wetsuit. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email or give the shop a call at 804 741 1599! Happy training!

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