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Top 5 Wetsuit Tips for Triathletes

Ahhhh nothing like the smell of neoprene in the morning! Unless, of course, that smell brings back painful memories and a wave of anxiety.

These are a few tips I have, ran from beginner to some more advanced, to help your open water swim go as smoothly as possible on race day.


1. Fit, fit, fit.

A wetsuit should be snug. As snug as possible. But, not so tight that it restricts your breathing. They really provide two key benefits, the first being added buoyancy, secondly they make your body more hydrodynamic. Think about a speed boat, they’re long, skinny, and smooth. Designed to cut right through the water with as little resistance as possible. That’s how we want a wetsuit to fit, any added fabric or material, or creases around joints, that’s flapping in the water will do nothing but slow you down.

Companies like Roka offer fit guides based on your height and weight. However, make sure you take a few basic measurements with a tape measure and string - shoulder width, chest width, and hips - to make sure the size your ordering will be ideal. Everyone’s body proportions are different, and what the sizing guide says may not work for you.

2. Stick with a basic model.

This is especially true if it’s your first wetsuit. I myself only own one, and it’s an entry level. The fact is, moving from no wetsuit to an entry level wetsuit is going to give you the most bang for your buck. A higher end wetsuit might make your faster, but only by a matter of seconds - not minutes. Yeah, they might look cool - but paying 2-3x the price for a minimal gain just isn’t worth it. You‘re much better of taking that saved coin and getting a few in-person coaching sessions or a video analysis.

3. Don’t stand around in it.

This passed weekend I raced IMAC 70.3, and one of the first things I noticed at 5 AM in transition were how many people already had their wetsuits on. I completely understand why someone might think it’s a good idea to get it on right away, it takes a while and you want to be ready for the start ASAP. But trust me, save it for the last minute. Wearing a wetsuit increases your heart rate. The compression of your entire body just makes it harder to pump fluid where it needs to go. The longer you wear it, the more it will take out of you before your race even starts.

Secondly, standing around with all of that compression will lead to fluid pooling in your legs. Gravity kicks in and the wetsuit makes it much harder for blood to go back up your legs.

So, now you’ve been standing in your wetsuit for over an hour, your heart rate is elevated, and you’re about to jump in the water. As soon as you do, and that adrenaline hits your heart rate will spike and your muscles start dumping lactic acid. The trapped fluid in your legs means your body can’t adequately get fresh blood and oxygen to where it needs to go. Boom! Leg cramps. It wasn’t a lack of hydration, it was your wetsuit.

4. Go for a swim.

This one seems obvious, but sometimes it’s not the easiest thing to accomplish. It’s already a hassle to get to the pool, let alone with a wetsuit. Personally, I don’t want to wear my wetsuit at the pool (not because I look ridiculous, but the chlorine can eat that neoprene right up). Finding open water swim opportunities can also be quite challenging depending on where you live.

Join a club, ask around, use Facebook or google search to help you find open water swim groups. If a pool is your only option (or, like me, you don’t want to go swim in your local lake by yourself), just make sure to thoroughly rinse your wetsuit when you’re done.

Swimming with a wetsuit is different. your body position changes due to the buoyancy, you go faster, and the sleeves can limit your range of motion. For me, I notice a lot of extra fatigue in my shoulders when I haven’t hit the water in a wetsuit for a while. Getting used to that feeling is extremely beneficial on race day.

5. Paddles.

This is for more advanced swimmers who have their form dialed in. But, in my opinion, the best way - short of swimming in a wetsuit - to prepare for the extra fatigue of wearing a wetsuit is to regularly incorporate hand paddles into your training. Pull bouy optional, just make sure you get the right size. Too large and you can injure your shoulders - if you’re unsure, go with a smaller size to be safe until you’ve built up adequate shoulder strength.

Hit the pool, and do some 500’s with paddles. It will pay off big time.

Thanks for reading! If you’ve made it this far and have any questions or tips of your own - shoot me an email at ian@ffendurance.commmoocc..eeccnnaarruuddnneeenduencoe.ncraduenom.cfendurancefednuts ce

Good luck and happy training!

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