Whether it’s a swimsuit, wetsuit or a trisuit, it’s key to find one that works best for you. While the amount of choices available for triathlon training and competitive wear can be overwhelming, here are 10 tips to make the choice a bit simpler.
1. Be comfortable. Just like a bike fit, a suit fit is equally important. Pay attention to sizing as it can vary across different brands, and it’s key to try everything on. When it comes to training swimsuits for pool or open water workouts when the temperature doesn’t require a wetsuit, find a suit that offers a close and supportive fit. It should cover your body appropriately — nothing too tight around the shoulders, chest or waist. For wetsuits, find a suit that fits closer to the neck to keep water out and body temperature in. Across the board, no suit should ever interfere with your ability to swim. So, find and try suits that feel comfortable and allow for full range of motion.
2. Know your materials. Common swimsuit materials like nylon, Lycra or polyester are best for training and competition. Nylon is very common and comfortable but can fade and fray over time and use. Lycra has great elasticity, chlorine resistance and comfort level. Suits made with polyester are quire durable and the leader when it comes to chlorine-resistant and fade-resistant material, but it can be less comfortable as it is more form fitting than other materials. Read the labels on the suit, and know the material so you can better understand what may last you longer over training seasons. Keeping an eye on this smaller detail when looking at training suits is a sure way to make a smart purchase.
3. Don’t use an old swimsuit as a size reference. Sometimes when we need to make a quick gear repurchase we resort to using our old suits. These suits can be stretched out and not meet your current sizing needs, allowing for a poor fit. This applies to wetsuits, too. Weight changes and age/condition of your suit are items to consider when purchasing a new suit. Sizes vary across brands and change over time, so it’s important to check on sizing changes on the suit you are looking to purchase.
4. Don’t use your pant waist size for reference. Pant sizing often is used for getting a certain fit or look, which does not always translate well for your swimwear size.
5. Measure correctly. Use a soft measuring tape, and if possible, take your size measurements on bare skin. If this is not possible, be sure to adjust your measurements for bulk caused by clothing. Get a friend, teammate or significant other to help you measure. The tape should lay flat and not be too tight (you don’t want to cause skin indents).
6. Try it on. In addition to your local triathlon shops, you can visit competitive swim shops or sporting goods stores for an in-person try-on. In this day of online shopping and two-day free shipping, we forget that these stores can offer a wide selection of suits with the huge benefit of trying on in person. You can also avoid any of those pesky online store returns.
7. Get two. Just like having an extra pair of goggles or running shoes, having two training suits is important. That way you can always have an extra in the event of a tear. Also having an extra allows for you to rotate between suits to extend the life of your suit.
8. Mind the padding in trisuits. If you’re shopping for a trisuit, be sure to look at the chamois pad sizing. The pad sizing is important to keep in mind for comfort on the bike and also reduce chafing on the run. Pad sizing should be thinner than that of normal cycling shorts, but you may consider something slightly thicker (very slightly) if you are going to be racing in longer course races. Combination of materials to look for are nylon, spandex and polyester.
9. Price shop. Gear prices can add up quickly in triathlon, so searching for a good suit deal is often easier than you think. Look at several different stores or sites before making your purchase. Look up promo codes and check the sales/clearance section. Don’t forget that if the suit you like is available in store for pick up, you can save you on shipping costs. USA Triathlon annual members can also access great savings on gear through partner discounts.
10. Take extra care. When it comes to training equipment, our swim gear can often be neglected. Get into the routine of rinsing your suit post training — hand wash, avoid wringing out and lay flat or hang to dry. Wetsuits should also always be rinsed off after using and turned inside out to dry. Routine maintenance will extend the life of your suit and limit the need for more frequent repurchases, making it a bit easier on your wallet.
Keep these tips in mind for your next suit purchase and you’ll be on your way to finding the right suit for you.
Daniela Villegas is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. She has over 15 years of competitive swimming experience. She is the assistant coach for Triathlon Training Team, based out of Long Beach, California.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.