Let's face it – the task of choosing a triathlon wetsuit can be difficult enough, but once it arrives at your doorstep in all it's rubbery glory, how should you actually begin using it? What are some changes that will be necessary to your swim stroke or pre-swim and post-swim rituals? These 10 quick tips will vastly help you prepare for using your triathlon wetsuit.
10. Don't panic. When you first put on a triathlon wetsuit, especially if it's a new one, you might feel a little claustrophobic and short of breath. Don't worry…that's completely normal. After the first few uses, it will loosen up a little bit. Excessive tightness will also be helped with the tip below.
9. Pull the sleeves and wetsuit legs far enough up your arms and legs. Too many triathletes wear a wetsuit like their sweatshirts or pants – pulled all the way down to the bottom of their wrists and the ankles. To allow for adequate freedom of rotation, pull your triathlon wetsuit about an inch or two higher than you would normal clothing, then pull that extra slack that this creates up into the shoulders and the hips.
8. Shave. Yes, this is for you guys, and maybe some of you ladies too. You'll slide in and out of your triathlon wetsuit much easier if you don't have all that hairy friction holding you back. Not only does this free up time for more swimming during practice and training, but your race transitions will of course be faster as well.
7. Kick Gently. Some triathletes kick too much in their triathlon wetsuits, while others drive their legs just as forcefully as if they were swimming without a wetsuit. The buoyancy of a wetsuit means that your legs float closer to the surface of the water, and a light flutter kick will propel you just fine. Don't completely stop kicking, just give yourself a bit of gentle propulsion (from the hips, not the knees!).
6. Wear It. This triathlon wetsuit tip should go without saying, but so many triathletes still wait until the day of the race or even the race itself to actually don the mighty wetsuit, then panic or swim slowly because they just aren't used to the feeling of the wetsuit. Instead, for at least the final 6 weeks leading up to your race, try and swim at least once a week in your wetsuit. You can wear it in the pool, but just make sure you thoroughly rinse it in fresh water afterwards.
5. Bend Your Elbows. Many triathletes put on a wetsuit and feel “stiff” in the arms. In reality, the changes in panel thickness in a triathlon wetsuit will allow you to comfortably bend your arms, and you should have a “high elbow” recovery while swimming in your wetsuit in the same way you do while swimming without one. And the stroke under your body should also have a high elbow bend, not a straight arm.
4. Swim Hard. Many triathletes go for long and easy open water swims in their triathlon wetsuit, without actually pushing themselves to “race pace” intensity. The expansion of the lungs, body heat, and increase in blood vessel size that occurs once you start swimming hard can make a wetsuit feel tight and uncomfortable. If you're not ready for that feeling during the race, you're more likely to panic.
3. Practice the Exit. Don't finish a practice swim in your wetsuit and then ho-hum your way to the beach, shore or car, then take your time exiting your wetsuit. Anytime that I take my wetsuit off, I am hurriedly fumbling the same way that I do during a race, beginning the exit process as soon as my feet hit bottom and I start running upright from the water. I guarantee that practicing the triathlon wetsuit exit will vastly improve your transition times.
2. Vaseline, Body Glide, Pam Cooking Spray or Crisco. You certainly do want to lubricate your extremities with one of these options, so that you can slip in and out of your wetsuit without it “sticking” on your hands and feet, but you'll also want to put some of that lubricant on the back of your neck, to avoid the annoying neck chafing that can occur with as little as 10 minutes of swimming.
1. Read the Instructions. Nearly all wetsuits come with specific care instructions. If you bought a used triathlon wetsuit, then you can easily find the care instructions on the internet. These instructions are not meant to be glanced at and then discarded. Rinse, clean, dry and properly fold your wetsuit after training and races, and you'll vastly improve the life of your wetsuit!
Ready to start swimming? Grab your wetsuit and get going! And remember to visit the Rock Star Triathlete Academy at http://www.rockstartriathlete.com for even more highly practical quick tips.