You may think buying a wetsuit for triathlon would be fairly straight forward, but once you start looking you’ll find there is a lot to consider. What type of suit do I need? How much should I spend? What brand is best? And once you’ve got all that figured out, there’s the challenge of sizing and fitting. Help is on hand though, as we caught up with Ironman Triathlete, Parys Edwards, to find out how to pick the best wetsuit for you.
Choosing the right wetsuit for you is really important and I believe taking your time and doing your research pays dividends. You will hopefully be spending a lot hours training and competing in this suit, so having a suit that you love putting on will give you confidence every time you swim.
Anyone who is completely new to triathlon may wonder why you need to invest in a triathlon specific wetsuit at all, but there is a huge difference between a wetsuit designed for swimming as opposed to surfing for example.
A triathlon wetsuit uses a more flexible type of neoprene with differently positioned panels to minimise restriction in your stroke. While staying warm is important, these suits are more crucially designed to hold you in the best position in the water for swimming. All this will help you conserve energy and ultimately swim faster.
This is only true though if you pick the right one for you and you get it to fit correctly, because a poor fitting suit can be more of a hindrance than help. So here are five key things I would recommend you think about when choosing your wetsuit.
Different wetsuits have different levels of buoyancy that hold you in different ways in the water. If your swimming isn’t that strong and you find your hips sink, choose a wetsuit that has a higher level of buoyancy on the hips than on the chest. This will help bring your hips in line with your upper body and put you in a more streamline position. The blueseventy Fusion is a great suit for ‘sinky legs’. The neoprene is 3mm on the chest, 5mm on the hips and 4mm on the lower legs, or 3-5-4 buoyancy tier.
Swimming is a strong discipline for me so I choose the blueseventy helix, which has a more neutral buoyancy of 5-5-4. You may ask why a wetsuit designed for a stronger swimmer has thicker neoprene, surely that makes it more buoyant and better for beginners? Not necessarily. Because my swimming position is even without a wetsuit, I don’t want a suit that will lift my hips higher than my chest because this would throw off my stroke. Also, stronger swimmers tend to have a better range in their stroke and benefit more from a more flexible top to their suit. The helix is just 1mm on the sleeves and has special TST panels on the shoulders and back that allow me to move amazingly freely.
What distances are you racing? And are you in triathlon for the long run or just testing the water, so to speak?! Longer races generally mean more training sessions, which means more hours in your suit. If this true for you then you may want to consider a middle of the range suit as opposed to an entry level suit. They are more flexible, generally better quality and offer a better tier of buoyancy. All this will make your swimming experience more enjoyable!
Alternatively, if you’re only in it for a season and not sure if you want to spend a lot of money, then an entry-level suit will be absolutely fine as a starting point. Something like the blueseventy Sprint is a great first suit. It has a 3-3-3 buoyancy which will give you a nice lift in the water and keep you warm, but won’t alter your body position too much if you are just getting used to the feeling of swimming in a wetsuit.
Your body type
Every brand fits differently and I would encourage you to get to your local retailer and try brands for fit. I personally love the fit and design of blueseventy wetsuits. They take great care in getting their fit right, particularly for women. Not only do they offer FemmeFit on their wetsuits and trisuits, but they also offer more female sizes than men’s. Us women tend to come in more shapes and sizes, and I think it’s great that blueseventy recognise this and try to cater to everyone at all levels. Not only do you have the choice of half sizes, they have Athena sizes for more curvy ladies.
If you can, get to your local retailer so you can be fitted correctly. Even a suit that is the right size can feel restrictive if not fitted right and for those who have never worn one before, the experience will be a bit alien. You will likely think it feels too tight, but they are designed to fit like a second skin and it is nice to have reassurance from someone that is experience that it is right. A good indicator of fit is that you can pinch about an inch of neoprene in your lower back. Also remember that when you try it on you will probably be indoors in the warm, so your body will be a bit bigger than it would be in a cold lake! Be patient with fitting, at first it will take time, particularly if you are trying a few on and you become a bit clammy. Also you don’t want to rush and risk damaging the soft neoprene with fingernails or other sharp objects.