Wetsuits The Long and Short Of
Until the early 1980s, wetsuits were used by people
such as surfers and scuba divers to avoid hypothermia in
cold waters. That changed when wetsuits became the great
swim equalizer in triathlons. Wetsuits are more buoyant
than just the human fat cells we carry around. The buoyancy
allows poorer swimmers to swim more on top of the water
which typically means someone will swim faster. This buoyancy
affects poorer swimmers more than swimmers with good technique
and thus closes the gap between the two in efficiency. Triathlon
wetsuits or speedsuits come in a variety of
cuts and lengths. Originally, the triathlon wetsuits were
5mm thick, maximum thickness allowed, throughout the wetsuit.
Even though buoyant, this didnt allow for flexibility.
Designs changed to sleeveless and shortened leg lengths
to negate the flexibility issue. Now, with advances in rubber
and stretch material, I think the full body suit is the
best wetsuit for speed. It may be warmer than other wetsuit
versions, but I will sacrifice comfort in warmer waters
for speed. Full body suits are flexible enough that you
can have full range of motion with your stroke. If this
is the case, then why would you want a sleeveless or a short
legged suit if there is less rubber for buoyancy?
No matter what wetsuit you use, make sure you swim with
it at least once before you race. If you have no open water
in your area, then go to a pool. The first time you wear
a wetsuit for the season, you may get a claustrophobic sensation.
This is also where visualization can help ease any anxiety.
In race situation, removing your wetsuit can be aided
by putting Vaseline around the ankle areas. This helps the
rubber slide off easier. I also use it around the neck,
crotch and near the armpits to prevent chaffing. Wetsuit
companies say Vaseline is bad for the rubber. Although this
may be true, I havent found anything that works better.
I wipe away the Vaseline soon after the race. Vaseline is
also great around the ankles because it is harder for a
competitor, planned or unplanned, to grab your ankles in