Posted: May 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

After considering the pro’s and con’s of renting vs. buying a wetsuit, and sleeveless (long john) vs. full suit, I found a great deal online I couldn’t pass up and finally ordered the Xterra Volt.

A wetsuit is used in open-water triathlons (versus pool swims) because it helps swimmers cover the long distances. The neoprene material on the outside adds buoyancy, and the inner lining offers some warmth. Since they can be expensive, it is recommend you rent a wetsuit before purchasing one, but given the condition people treat rentals (think rental car), I opted to get a new suit. The outer material can be torn easily by clumsy fingernails and I wanted to make sure I started off with a mint suit.

On sleeveless vs. fullsuit, there are a couple of things to consider: sleeveless suits offer a wider range of motion for your shoulders and are cheaper; fullsuits offer more buoyancy and warmth. I opted for the sleeveless primarily because of price, though I may get a full suit in the future depending how late I swim in the season.

When I received my wetsuit and used it for the first time I was pleasantly suprised on two counts: first, the suit wasn’t nearly as hard to get in and out of as I had been hearing (though admittedly the sleeveless is the easier variety), and second, the suit noticeably decreased the amount of energy I had to put out while swimming. When I first got into the pool with the suit, it felt like I was cheating!

The buoyancy of the suit for the first few minutes was amazing before it fully absorbed the water. Even after the initial effect wore off, there was a marked difference in my body position in the water. As a cyclist and runner I have dense legs which ironically makes it more difficult to swim! In my natural position in the water  my lower half sits markedly lower in the water that my upper half, so I am not horizontal on the surface- the ideal swimming position. Having your legs sit low in the water greatly increases drag and effort since you are increasing the surface area of your body resisting the water as you move forward.

One of the ways I can counteract my low-lying legs in the water is by kicking them more to bring them to the surface- this however, consumes large amounts of oxygen, and makes the overall swim effort more difficult. This suit, however, helped me maintain a more balanced position in the water, and I definitely felt less fatigued than normal.

I’m feeling more confident about the June 5th triathlon because I have a suit now, but I still want to get out in some open water to practice beforehand. Unfortunately the Schuylkill is too dirty for swimming much of the time, so I’ll have to find another alternative.




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