How you finish in the first swimming leg can affect the rest of your performance in a triathlon. So if you’re aiming for a good first record or to beat your old record, you’ll need to invest in a quality wetsuit that not only fits you well but would also help you swim faster and more efficiently.
If you need any more convincing as to why you need to splurge on a wetsuit that’s specifically designed for triathlon swimming—aside from the fact that racing organizations usually require you to wear one—here’s a brief yet detailed explanation on the benefits that wetsuits offer to triathletes.
Wetsuits are not just worn to keep swimmers dry (they’re not drysuits after all) nor are they forced upon triathletes to give them a more “uniformed” look. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a beginner of the sport, triathlon wetsuits are primarily designed to enhance your performance in the water by enhancing the following factors:
While wetsuits can’t keep you completely dry, they are often made of insulating materials that help keep you warm in the water, which tends to be pretty cold even under the right conditions. They also offer different thicknesses to suit the temperature of the water, which makes selecting the right wetsuit crucial. You don’t want to feel chilly while swimming but you also don’t want to feel too warm in a wetsuit that’s a bit restrictive.
Contrary to popular belief, swimming with less clothing on is not going to make you swim much quicker. Wardrobe malfunctions (like clothes slipping off while you run and jump into the water) will obviously cause delays, and just the natural drag from your body will slow you down. A good triathlon wetsuit streamlines your body and makes you more hydrodynamic. There’s also no worry about body parts getting exposed!
Most wetsuits provide buoyancy, so you get that extra lift and won’t have to make such big movements to stay afloat. Buoyancy allows you to bring your heart rate down and focus on swimming as fast and efficiently as you were trained to do.
Believe it or not, triathlon wetsuits help give you more energy. How? You spend much less energy fighting the cold, the drag, and your weight, so you end up conserving energy that you can use for later. Remember, there’s still the bike ride and the long run, so you’ll need as much leftover energy as possible.
The best triathlon wetsuit in the market will only work for you if it fits properly. All its technological advancements won’t matter and your swimming could even get worse if you don’t look for the right size for you. This is why you’ll need to consider buying only from a reliable and reputable brand. Here are a few other things to keep in mind when shopping for a suit:
There will always be certain sizing nuances if you consider the wetsuit brand and the wearer’s needs. That said, the same exact suit won’t work for beginners and elite-level triathletes—even if they have the same body size and weight. Be particular about the brand that you decide to work with and make sure you try them on before purchasing (such as in our NYC store).
Don’t hesitate to compare several lines of wetsuits. But first, also watch out for dealers and manufacturers with size charts that are only 99% accurate. Don’t purchase from a line of wetsuits that was created to fit everybody—you’re not looking for an OK-fitting triathlon wetsuit but one that fits you best. Look for a shop that carries more lines of wetsuits to increase your chances of finding the perfect wetsuit.
Choosing a wetsuit is not the end of the challenge. Believe it or not, it’s not easy to put on a wetsuit correctly the first time. You’ll need guidance, but you can also find instructions online.
Find a professional, preferably from the store of a trusted brand of wetsuits, with experience in dressing up clients and is not afraid to get personal when making sure that the suit fits well on every part of your body. This is something that you need to go through if you want to reap the advantages of the “best wetsuit” for you.
While it’s always a good idea to save a couple of bucks whenever you can get the chance, you should always be cautious. If you find a new model of wetsuit being sold at a dangerously low price, it could mean two things: the suit could be flawed or the original MSRP was purposely set too high so this “discount” would catch your attention. In the case of the latter, it would be a good idea to proceed as you would actually be getting what you pay for.
As biased as it may sound, it may be a better idea to stick to not necessarily popular but reputable brands that have been around for years. If you’re going to take advantage of a more affordable suit from a newer or lesser-known company, it would help to inquire about their return policy—just in case.
Bonus Tip: Veterans will tell you not to try anything new on race day, so always choose a wetsuit that you would want to wear to training and several races after that.