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what to look for in a triathlon wetsuit

Best Triathlon Wetsuit

What to look for in a Triathlon Wetsuit?


Finding the best triathlon wetsuit for your body type and abilities is a lengthy trial and error process, and there are many factors that make a good wetsuit for the individual athlete. Goal setting is an important part of any successful person’s life – the definition of success is up to you. For many people, competing in triathlons is a goal unto itself and an extreme form of meditation. For others it is another test of one’s own determination and inner strength. Whatever an athlete’s reasons may be for competing, triathlons generally require significant dedication even in the preparation and training phase. Part of preparation is choosing the gear that best serves the individual athlete and guarantees one’s best performance.


Triathlon Wetsuit Buoyancy

Added buoyancy is one of the greatest benefits gained by using a wetsuit while swimming a triathlon and it is an important factor when selecting the best triathlon wetsuit for your specific needs. The materials used to create a given suit, neoprene being the primary component, create Wetsuit buoyancy. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber containing small nitrogen bubbles, lending wetsuits their buoyant and warmth retaining properties. Triathlon wetsuits are governed by the USAT, the governing triathlon body in the US, ensuring neoprene in triathlon wetsuits is limited to within 5 mm thickness. You can a thicker one, but it will not be legal for sanctioned races.

The thicker portions of a triathlon wetsuit are generally centered on the torso and leg areas – these being the heavier, denser areas of the human body. This provides the athlete with greater buoyancy in areas that need it most and lifts the swimmer into a more streamlined, efficient position while in the water. This will also help you save your legs for the ride and run, and you will save a great deal more energy that would normally get eaten up by the large muscles in your legs. Thinner, more flexible neoprene is reserved for areas that require greater flexibility like the elbows, shoulders and under-arms.

If you’ve never swum while wearing a triathlon wetsuit you have to get out for a training swim in your suit before the race. You’ll definitely notice the difference from normal swimming to swimming in a wetsuit. You can feel the greater buoyancy in the legs and it may even feel like the suit is trying to push your face down into the water. It’s also beneficial to practice getting into and out of your wetsuit under dry and wet conditions so your ready at the transition points of the race.

Some events do not allow competitors to wear wetsuits because of the buoyancy advantage they provide. If you’re preparing for just such an event, buoyancy neutral triathlon swim skins provide excellent warmth and lower drag coefficient while still remaining legal for non-wetsuit competitions.


what to look for in a triathlon wetsuit


Wetsuit Flexibility

Flexibility is an important factor for any wetsuit, but it is particularly important when choosing the best triathlon wetsuit. Unlike suits designed for other water sports, triathlon wetsuits are designed with open water swimming as the design focus. With that in mind, triathlon suits are built with thinner, more flexible material around the shoulders and elbows with the thicker stuff reserved for the thighs and torso. The built in flexibility differs greatly from those found in surfing or diving wetsuits, and the added dexterity greatly increases your ability for speed of movement over these other types of suits. 1 mm neoprene is also often used in the under-arm area as well. This decreases stretch resistance and reduces strain on the swimmer when extending the arms over the head through the stroke.


Proper Fitting of a Wetsuit

Ensuring you get a proper fit is essential when choosing the best triathlon wetsuit. What you’re going for in a proper fit is something of a second skin. Ensure that the suit contours your body including the underarm area and the inner elbows. Any looseness in these areas will lead to friction, rashes, and blistering. Make sure your suit is snug around the neck and has no loose areas that can fill with air or water. Greater hydrodynamics is one of the key benefits of wearing a triathlon wetsuit, so you don’t want to negate the benefit by allowing drag inducing water and air pockets into your wetsuit.

When trying on a new suit, there are a few ways to tell if the suit is either too small or too large. Too small and you will feel very uncomfortable vertically – you’ll feel the suit pulling up from the crotch area and down on the shoulders. You will know a suit is too big if it folds and bunches up through the midsection and the rear. If you have a suit that is too large, these bunched up areas will definitely result in lots of water and air pockets during a race and increased drag. To pick the best triathlon wetsuit, ensure the suit doesn’t extend out more than a quarter inch from the skin over the entire body and go with the smallest suit that fits properly.

Like everything else, wetsuits are very specific to the sport for which they’re intended. The best triathlon wetsuit will fit like a second skin, be very flexible, have a smooth coating to reduce drag and will be easier to put on and take off than another typical wetsuit.


First Event Wetsuit Tips

– You may feel a bit claustrophobic when wearing a wetsuit for the first time. Just realize that this is only a sensation since a properly fit suit will allow for complete full breaths.

– A wetsuit is generally easier to remove when it’s still full of water, so possible, remove your suit when you first exit the water where you will have an easier time.

– On the subject of getting your suit on and off, applying Bodyglide around your ankles and calves will help you quickly remove your suit for transition. It’s also good to put Bodyglide around sensitive areas like the neck as well to reduce chafing. Bodyglide is great because it won’t damage your wetsuit like petroleum-based products or cooking oil.

– Bodyglide is skin protectant you put in sensitive areas to reduce chafing. Also, it doesn’t damage the suit like petroleum-based products.

– Ensure the Velcro around the neck is fastened properly so the “hook” part doesn’t rub a hole in skin of your neck.

– It’s a good idea to wear your full race outfit underneath your wetsuit so you’re not wasting time trying to pull a shirt on over your wet body at the transition point. Practice a few times getting into and out of the suit with your full racing outfit on underneath.
– For sprints, it’s definitely a good idea to weigh the time it takes to remove your wetsuit versus using it in the water.

– Make sure you get the suit all the way on, or you won’t be able to move properly. In particular, make sure the crotch and armpits are all the way up. The fit should be snug, but it shouldn’t feel like there is too much downward pull at the neck and shoulders.

– Make certain the seams or your suit are straight and you know how they should lay. This will reduce the opportunity for chafing.

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