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Triathlon Swim - What Should I Wear?

The swim leg just might be the most intimidating part of a triathlon.  Everyone can bike and run, but the swim can be foreign territory to even lifelong athletes.  One of the most common questions we get is this: What do I wear in a triathlon swim?  We have the answer.

First, determine if your race will feature an indoor pool swim or an open water swim in a lake or ocean.  That obviously has a bearing on what you will wear.

Tri Suits and Swim Suits: When you race, you should wear a somewhat tight swim suit/ tri suit to avoid dragging too much water around with you. Be sure it doesn’t impair the movement of your limbs or cut off the circulation because nothings worse than swimming in a suit where you can’t rotate your shoulders comfortably or a suit that leaves a painful red outline when it’s not on.

Swim Suits for Women: Women can choose to wear a tri suit or a swim suit. You can find one-piece, two-piece and tri suits in many cool colors and patterns. See some samples below:

Swim Suits for Men: Men have options now too! Back in the day, men had two choices: A Speedo (small swim suit that left little to the imagination) and big loose heavy trunks (that dragged the entire ocean with them). Both made the sport of swimming less attractive to the majority of males at some point because each had their drawbacks. Now you have much better options:

  1. Men’s Swim Jammers – These are much less revealing and make you more streamlined in the water. They come in different patterns and lengths too. Some lengths end just above the knee and others end somewhere on the thigh. They are comfortable and you can maybe use them as bike shorts if you don’t mind not having the padding in the butt area — probably only an option for shorter races, not ones with longer rides.
  2. Tri Suits. Learn more about Tri Suits.
  3. Triathlon shorts.  Probably the best all-around solution, triathlon shorts are like swim jammers but have a very thin seat pad to make the bike comfortable.  Find them here.

Wet Suits for Men and Women: When choosing a triathlon wet suit, you should consider the temperature of the water you will be swimming in. This will help you determine whether you should buy a full length wet suit, a short wet suit or something in between. There are so many different types to choose from, but trying them on and making sure that you buy one that fits snug, but is not constricting, will be your best bet! 

  1. Mens and Womens Wetsuits: -Xterra carries a full line of wetsuits build specifically for triathlon, meaning they have paneling that is conducive to the swimming motion, unlike plain surf wetsuits.  Use our code, ‘EBOOK’ when shopping at Xterra and get 25% or more off.  We also really like the Blueseventy line of wetsuits, and have used many ourselves and are never disappointed.
  2. Wet Suit Rules: Some events allow wet suits and others don’t. Our suggestion is to bring it with the intention of wearing it, ask an orginizer when you arrive to the event and then ditch it before the race if the event is a “no wet suit” event.

So the layers look like this: Swim suit, tri shorts, or tri-suit (one or the other — not all) on first; wet suit on over it. For women who need extra support, a sports bra can be worn under the swimsuit.  If you are a guy, you don’t wear any shirt under the wetsuit unless it is part of your tri suit.

Make sure you practice with your wetsuit a few times.  Wetsuits are supposed to be snug, and as a result sometimes feel a bit weird or constricting.  We think it is best to take a few practice swims, if even in a pool.  Note that wetsuits should not be used often in a pool, though.  They will be much too warm for a long swim, and the chlorine hurts the neoprene and should be rinsed off immediately.

Goggles: Woman and men should wear goggles to effectively Spot and avoid crashing into other swimmers. There are many different brands out there and the best thing you can do is try on the equipment before you buy it. Goggles come in all shapes and sizes

Go to your local sports store and spend some time trying on the goggles so that you have something that is comfortable and fits well. Find out what the return policy is for goggles before you buy the goggles in case you have a pair that just don’t work for you. Good-fitting goggles are tight around your head, suction all the way around your eyes and should be comfortable (as comfortable as something tight and suctioned to your eye can be). If they give you a headache, they are too tight!

Additional Learning:

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Triathlon Swim : – Get the low-down on gear and read tips for training and events.

Triathlon Bike: – Learn how to structure bike workouts, find safety tips and read recommendations on great bike gear.

Triathlon Run : – Get the ultimate skinny on running sneakers, running gear, safety tips and much more.

Swim Caps: Swim caps come in several different materials. There are Latex, Fabric and Silicone caps on the market. The most commonly used cap is made of latex because of its effectiveness and its low cost. Latex Allergy Sufferers should go with the Silicone swim caps. Fabric Lycra Swim Caps are the most comfortable BUT they allow water to accumulate within them and will slow you down a bit. For open water practices, you should wear the brightest most obnoxious colored swim cap to differentiate yourself from the water and avoid collisions of any type. Learn how to put a swim cap on.

Old swim suits: This is an old swimmer’s trick that’s kind to your wallet and your workout. Use old stretched out, holey suits for practice. Put them on in layers, pray that the holes don’t match up and you have a practice swim suit/drag suit. A drag suit is something that creates more resistance in the water by catching water in the holes and slowing you down. When you swim in your race, you wear a tight-fitting race suit and you will feel lighter and will go faster in the water as you are no longer carring around any extra weight!

Get Slippery: Bodyglide Advanced

Technical Formula is a slippery substances that will help your wetsuit slide on easily. It also protects you from chaffing during your run and bike training and competitions. A home-grown version used by many is “Pam” cooking spray. It keeps things lube and is in your cupboard.

Sunscreen: Sunscreen is a must! Put this on before the swim to avoid wasting time during the race. This one won’t make your face break out either!

Good Tip: Never use new equipment in a race. Always try new equipment out during training sessions before using in a race. Old swim suits: This is an old swimmer’s trick that’s kind to your wallet and your workout. Use old stretched out, holey suits for practice. Put them on in layers, pray that the holes don’t match up and you have a practice swim suit/drag suit. A drag suit is something that creates more resistance in the water by catching water in the holes and slowing you down. When you swim in your race, you wear a tight-fitting race suit and you will feel lighter and will go faster in the water!

There are Newbies Starting Triathlons Every Day. Today Just Happens to be YOUR Day!