Whether you’re new to the sport of triathlon or a seasoned veteran, getting your hands on a tri-specific wetsuit is one of the most valuable pieces of gear you can own. In addition to making for a more comfortable race experience, a quality wetsuit that fits correctly may just boost your race performance. Not only can a good wetsuit provide extra warmth, it also aids in buoyancy, thereby allowing you to put out less effort during the swim.
While wetsuits aren’t advised in warmer waters, chilly temps make them a non-negotiable, as the neoprene and rubber materials hold a small amount of water close to your skin to keep you warm. USA Triathlon sanctioned events allow for wetsuits when the water is 78 degrees Fahrenheit or below. For water temperatures higher than 78 degrees and less than 84 degrees, wetsuits are permitted, but anyone who wears one isn’t eligible for prizes and awards. Any warmer than that, wetsuits aren’t allowed.
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Buoyancy is another important consideration when it comes to wetsuits. While many new triathletes don’t feel they are experienced enough to need a wetsuit, they actually stand to benefit the most. Triathlon wetsuits are built to provide a certain amount of buoyancy in a sleek package. For someone who is less experienced swimming in open water, the added ability of a wetsuit to prop up your body in the water can lend itself to boosting confidence.
What’s more, buoyancy assists in body positioning in the water, making you faster and more efficient. By holding your hips and legs in place, rather than dragging far below the surface of the water, triathletes gain speed and save energy. This means that your bike and run may benefit from decreased energy output during the swim, making for a better overall race performance.
In terms of selecting a wetsuit, all are not created equal. First, be sure to look at tri-specific wetsuits, not something built for surfing or snorkeling. Next, consider whether you will prefer full sleeves or sleeveless. If you’re going to be competing in colder waters, a full wetsuit is advised. Not only will it keep you warmer, the added material also contributes to greater buoyancy. For slightly warmer conditions, some triathletes prefer to go sleeveless as they allow your arms added freedom and are easier to get off.
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Be sure to visit a store where you can try on multiple brands and models or order several options to try at home. Some triathlon wetsuit retailers have even installed Endless Pools to allow you to try each suit in the water. Keep in mind that the suit will always feel tighter on land than it will in the water. It should fit snugly, but still allow for full arm and leg movement. To give you a jumpstart on wetsuit choices, we’ve tested and reviewed some of the top wetsuit options available on the market today.