Why Wear A Wetsuit In Triathlon?
Wetsuits keep you warm, add buoyancy and help you swim faster which is a bonus for all triathletes
The short answer: because you’re mad if you don’t! They add buoyancy, provide warmth, increase safety and will make you swim faster. A good wetsuit should allow full range of motion in the shoulders, chest, and legs while providing maximum buoyancy, and when you’re higher in the water you will go faster and save energy.
Reasons a wetsuit is vital
Warmth- The neoprene (rubber material) traps a small layer of water close to the skin which is then warmed by core body temperature. Buoyancy- Wetsuits provide added buoyancy, which reduces fear for weaker swimmers and it increases confidence in the open water. Speed- Wetsuits reduce drag and provide buoyancy which can contribute to approximately a 10% or greater reduction in time over an Olympic distance swim (3-5 minutes) for some swimmers. Energy Conservation- Added buoyancy and speed reduces energy expenditure, meaning more mojo for the bike and run portions.
Triathlon Wetsuit Guidelines
Triathlon Canada has a well-defined set of rules regarding wetsuit use in sanctioned events. It is quite extensive, but in a nutshell if the water is above 22 degrees Celsius for sprint or olympic distances races you cannot wear a wetsuit. If it’s below 14 degrees, then wetsuits are mandatory over these distances. For the full ironman distance, if the water is over 23.8 degrees then wetsuits are not permitted and they are mandatory if water temps are below 16 degrees. It should be stated that not all races enforce these rules in a strict capacity.
Triathlon Wetsuit Types
There are three common types of swimming wetsuits:
Full Cut- Coverage from head to toe.
Sleeveless- Full leg but shoulderless
Short Cut- Knee length and shoulderless
Swimming wetsuits are made from a neoprene-rubber blend, which are ever so slightly different from company to company. The exterior of these wetsuits repels water which is why they move through the water faster. The neoprene is cut into sections that fit each different part of your body very tightly. These different sections are different thicknesses of material that provide different amounts of buoyancy.
Most companies sell entry-level, middle and higher-end wetsuits, and often they have sleeveless versions of one or all of these. The differences include the seams/stitching, blend of rubber, thickness of material, or any special materials in the wetsuit that have been included to enhance swimming speed.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Triathlon Wetsuit
When purchasing a wetsuit - especially if it’s your first one - there are some important factors to consider. Price—wetsuits are quite expensive and even entry-level wetsuits can cost around $200 or more. Fit – this is very important. If possible, take the time to try on several wetsuits. Depending on your body shape, you will probably find that different brands fit better than others, as not all wetsuits are cut the same. Wetsuits should be snug but not too tight and they should not impede shoulder mobility. The neckline should not feel suffocating. Swim conditions - the temperature of the water you’ll likely be swimming in may determine whether or not you want to go for a full or sleeveless wetsuit.
Going into a store to try on different triathlon wetsuits is recommended but another viable option is to rent a wetsuit for a race. There are a few companies that allow you to try on different makes and models before committing to a purchase.