- Wearing a wetsuit in a triathlon
can significantly aid your swimming.
It helps you keep your body warm,
also helps to make you more buoyant in the water
and even act as protection against other swimmers
and their flailing arms.
- Oh come on Mark, surely a wetsuit is a wetsuit right?
- Well, you'll be surprised Mark
because there are som big differences between
the wetsuit that you're wearing
and the wetsuit that I'm wearing.
But I do understand it can seem like a bit of a minefield.
There are so many different styles of wetsuits on offer,
with so many different features lending themselves
to different styles of swimmers and types.
So today I'm going to be running you through
how to choose a wetsuit.
Well the first triathlon specific wetsuit
was developed in the late 1980s
by a chap called Dan Enfield.
He was an IRONMAN athlete and he basically set about
to try and create a wetsuit that made him
faster through the water, and also through transition.
Now 40 years on and technology and innovation
have pushed this even further, and now
we've got countless wetsuits to choose from.
Now jokes aside about wearing
my surfing wetsuit for swimming
but actually this is a question that I see and hear
time and time again, and in short,
yes you can swim in one of these but it is worth noting
that they do generally use a slightly thicker neoprene
for insulation, and also a slightly tougher
and less flexible neoprene for its wear and tear.
Whereas a triathlon wetsuit like I'm wearing here
is more flexible, it's hydrodynamic through the water
and super easy to remove through transition.
Well they do this by having a number
of different panels with varying neoprene thickness
and that helps with flexibility where it's needed
and also with the buoyancy
for the body position in the water.
But where do we actually start
when we're choosing a wetsuit?
Well before we even start picking up any wetsuits
it's important that we figure out
what kind of swimmer we are.
So are we someone that swims perfectly flat in the water
when we're swimming in the pool,
or are we someone that drags our feet along the floor
of a swimming pool?
Now if you are new to swimming,
or you're a slightly weaker swimmer
then it is very common to have a slight drop
in the hips and the legs whilst you're swimming.
But fortunately there's suits for all different
styles of swimming that can actually help to improve this.
So they do this by changing the thickness of neoprene
and the buoyancy from the chest to the legs.
So if you are someone that drags your legs
along the bottom of the swimming pool
then you'll be looking for something that has
slightly thicker neoprene in the legs
and therefore more buoyancy compared to the chest.
So a suit like this one, and that will then help
to adjust the tilt of the body
and the body position to make you flatter in the water,
and therefore better.
Whilst for those lucky folk that swim relatively flat
in the water already you'll be looking for
a suit that doesn't really affect your position
or tilt in the water, you'll be looking for
a suit that has a relatively similar neoprene thickness
between the chest and the legs,
so you'll remain nice and flat.
So a suit like I'm wearing here or this one here.
Now fortunately most brands cater
for all different styles of swimming,
and all different positions of swimming
and they'll normally explain this for each of the suits.
Some use a series of numbers like 3/5 or 4/4
and what these numbers mean is, the first number
is the thickness of neoprene in the chest,
whilst the second number is the thickness
of neoprene in the legs, so a 3/5 for instance will mean
3 mil neoprene in the chest and then 5 mil in the legs.
So more buoyancy in the legs,
that's gonna help someone that already drags
their legs along the bottom of a swimming pool.
A 4/4's gonna mean 4 mil on the chest, 4 mil on the legs.
So very similar buoyancy, you're gonna remain very flat.
So that's gonna suit those natural swimmers
who are already nice and flat in the water.
And then there's the fit, probably the most important part
about choosing a wetsuit because if you go too big
you'll have water gushing in, and if you go too tight
you probably won't be able to swim very well.
Now a triathlon wetsuit should feel more snug
than your standard water sports wetsuit
which does take a lot of people by surprise,
so you often see people opting for a size too large.
Fortunately most brands offer a large range of sizes
to choose from, almost a size for everyone.
They've got sizes for the tall yet slim,
and extra female sizes for the more curvy.
So you just refer to the brands size charts
using your height and weight and if you do find
that your height and weight don't sit within
a certain size category, they normally recommend
going by your weight or of course you can
contact the brand for their advice.
Now on paper I'm actually too tall for the suit
that I'm wearing here, and this suit here
but by going by my weight, I've managed
to get a perfect fit, it just means that
the ankle and wrist openings sit a little bit higher
then usual, takes me a little bit longer to put on,
but once it's actually on it feels great.
So a few brands offer this style of wetsuit
which basically has a thermal liner
which doesn't absorb water so it maintains it's loft
which maximises that insulating effect.
It's not a brand new technology
we've actually seen it for years in surfing
and water sports wetsuits, but over the last few years
they've started to trickle that technology
into swimming and triathlon specific wetsuits.
Additionally whilst modern wetsuits
are super flexible, some people just don't get on with them.
They don't like have neoprene on their arms,
and they find them restrictive.
Now I'd normally put this down to an incorrect size
or not having the suit put on properly,
but if you've tried everything there are also
sleeveless options that a number of brands also do.
Aside from budget, it may also come down
to the importance of that wetsuit for you.
Are you just starting out in triathlon,
or are you needing a wetsuit for your training swims?
In which case you may well just want
a cheaper, more entry level wetsuit.
Or if you are a regular competitor
and you're looking to improve on your triathlon times,
beat other competitors, or win races
then you may well want to spend
a little bit more money, get a higher end wetsuit
that's gonna help shave those valuable seconds off.
Finally I suggest trying on a wetsuit before you buy it,
and if you can jump in the water and try it out for real.
Though I do understand not everyone can do that,
so worst case just spin your arms around
to test out the flexibility of that suit.
It might look silly, but you triathlon shop
will understand trust me.
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