A wetsuit isn’t worn by every triathlete, in certain temperatures they are even forbidden. But, its benefits are proven and the garment’s popularity is a testament to that fact. Able to be put on quickly over a Tri-suit, the wetsuit provides warmth and extra buoyancy in the water, alongside streamlining and extra muscle compression.
As with the addition of any layer of clothing, a wetsuit provides warmth. Not only is this provided by the extra layer, but the suit actually allows a small amount of water inside the suit. This water that becomes trapped between the suit and your skin, and becomes heated by your body temperature. The neoprene from which the suit is made also is a high-quality insulator, helping keep you and your muscles warm, alongside its supple properties which allow flexibility to perform your swimming stroke.
The neoprene material that triathlon wetsuits are made from will provide extra buoyancy, so make sure you don’t pick up a diving wetsuit. The buoyancy that a neoprene wetsuit provides takes some of the exertion from your muscles as they push through the resistance of the water. Several triathlon and ironman organisations have limits on the thickness of your wetsuit, at no more than 5mm, so check your race’s organisation and rules before purchase.
You need to make sure your wetsuit fits correctly. If you are unsure, ask. Our advice is that it should fit like a glove, without being so tight it is uncomfortable or restrictive of your range of movement, particularly on the shoulders and legs (crotch area). A wetsuit that is too tight can also cause you problems with your breathing in the water, so it’s always best to ask in store when you are trying yours on.
While there are a few styles, generally you are going to be making the choice between sleeved or sleeveless wetsuits. Sleeved is going to provide more warmth but be more restrictive to movement, sleeveless is going to be cooler, and less restrictive. Don’t make the choice on restriction alone, as triathlon-specific suits are designed to allow as much range of movement as possible even with sleeves. The sleeves also provide more buoyancy, so there is a trade off you will have to negotiate between range of movement and less resistance in the water.
So, now you know why to Wetsuit, and how it works. The next step is getting to a store and trying one on, even if you plan to order online later (trying before you buy is essential). But, to improve your suits longevity, you’re going to need to take proper care of it. This is a simple process. Rinse the suit in clean water following each use and turn it inside out to dry. Don’t leave it in direct sunlight and don’t leave it near a radiator or heat source. When using the suit avoid sharp objects, as a hole in the suit is going to ruin many of its benefits.
Now, take the plunge and go get yourself kitted out. Suits you sir.