Without a doubt, the most frantic calls I receive all year are from triathletes who are struggling with their wetsuit during an open water swim. Many discover this difficulty during their first race of the season. Most tell me they can’t breathe or that their wetsuits doesn’t fit. Unfortunately this is one of the scariest things that can happen in a triathlon and often results with the athlete being taken out of the race in a rescue craft. Luckily, these problems are easily resolved with some specific knowledge and practice in advance. Getting into triathlon is initially a big expense. I realize you may not want to commit to buying all the equipment until you know if you are going to like it. However, you must wear a wetsuit in cold water swims. You can choose to rent a wetsuit instead of purchasing one. Wetsuitrentals.com is a good on-line source and Las Vegas Multi-sport is a good local source where you can try the wetsuit on first. I believe they have a rent to but program as well. The following guidelines apply whether you rent or buy.
Get a Wetsuit Made For Triathlon
A wetsuit designed for triathlon is your best bet. A non-tri wetsuit will not provide any speed or help with actual swimming. Triathlon wetsuits keep you warm and help you swim easier and faster. This is due to the improved body position and buoyancy which reduces drag. The wetsuit is also designed to slip easily through the water which also reduces drag.
Differences Between Wetsuits
Wetsuits are made in different thicknesses of neoprene. It should be thinner in the parts that move and thicker neoprene which adds more flotation is the torso and legs. If you compare wetsuits between different manufactures there is very little difference within the same price points. So in other words, a $300 wetsuit made by Orca will be comparable to a $300 wetsuit by Quintana Roo. The difference is in the fit. Just like with your running shoes, there is no one perfect shoe for everyone. Different brands will fit some better than others. Go with what fits you not which one has the coolest design on it. (I know that is hard to resist!) The more expensive the suit the more flexible and slick it becomes (and possibly cooler it looks).
Realistic Amounts to Spend on a Wetsuit
It is not necessary to get the most expensive wetsuit made. However, I wouldn’t recommend the cheapest one either unless it truly fits you correctly. Let the buyer beware on Ebay. Yes, you can get an amazing deal but the suit has possibly been (how to put delicately) warmed up in. Expect to spend between $250 and $300 for a full sleeve mid level wetsuit. Rental prices vary. If you do rent make sure you have it long enough to practice in not just for race day.
The Difference Between Full-Sleeve and Sleeveless
Almost everyone is faster in a full sleeve wetsuit. Sleeves reduce drag and add flotation. Some feel they lose the water feel but the flotation properties usually make up for this especially with beginners. You will need to try on a couple of different brands to get a feel for what fits your body best. If your shoulders are very broad you may prefer a sleeveless suit due to the increased range of motion.
How to Tell If a Wetsuit Fits
Manufactures web sites list sizes and they are not all the same. You must try it on to know for sure. The wetsuit MUST fit comfortably between your crotch and your shoulders. It should not restrict your mobility although it WILL feel different. Arm length and leg length are not that important. If you buy a wetsuit and the legs or arms are too long you can cut them to fit. Remember to measure twice and cut once! It does need to fit the waist but it is not as important as crotch to shoulder. You should not have the veins in your neck popping out nor should you be able to slip your hand in at the neck. Water will be scooped up during the entire swim if the neck is too loose. Same effect will happen with the arms. If the arms are too loose you will get new water into your suit with each stroke. You want a solid seal at the neck and wrists. Mid level and high end suits all have pretty good neck fits. Be careful with the bottom line suits with this feature. If the neck is too tight you may feel like you are choking. Cold water combined with a neck that is too tight is the most frequent reason people need to be pulled from the swim. Be aware the wetsuits are designed to fit in water not in a dressing room or in your living room.
You Must Practice With Your Wetsuit On
You can bring your wetsuit to the pool and practice there first. You must wash the chlorine off thoroughly after your swim and if it is a rental you better check first that they permit it. You should also practice in open water before your race. Even experienced swimmers will need a few swims in open water to get used to the different feel. Swimming in very cold water takes everyone’s breath away momentarily. Never swim alone in open water. There are plenty of opportunities to practice with experienced people with Swim Las Vegas and Xcell Performance Group. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to get comfortable in your wetsuit. If none of the group time’s work for you or you need more individualized attention, we are available for one-on–one sessions out at the lake or in the pool. The good news is that with the right information and a little practice you can have a very successful swim leg at your first or next triathlon.