22nd January 2018. Swimming outdoors is a unique activity because it provides so many more challenges for the athlete. Indoor pools are highly controlled environments, with the conditions created to be just right for competitive swimming. Outside, the weather doesn't always cooperate, the water can be smooth or choppy, and the water temperature fluctuates considerably as well. If you have plans to start practising your swimming in a lake or the ocean ? especially if you intend to train for a triathlon ? it's critical that you properly prepare before taking a plunge. In water that's below between 25 to 27 degrees Celsius, donning a wetsuit can keep you warm while also providing you with important benefits. When you swim in cold water, it can feel difficult to go through the motions to move forward. The cold can make your muscles feel like they've already contracted as much as they can. With a wetsuit, a thin layer of water remains trapped between the garment and your body. Natural body heat warms this water and insulates you from the colder temperatures around you. Combined with the added buoyancy the rubber suit provides and it can make swimming outdoors easier overall. Many triathlons even encourage the wearing of a wetsuit. With that in mind, what should you think about when you start shopping for a wetsuit? We can break it down into a few categories to take a closer look.
Choose a general style of wetsuit first
As you begin shopping for a wetsuit, one of the most important facts to keep in mind is that not all wetsuits exist for the same purpose. Some are meant for deep diving, for example, and are not as flexible as they must provide more warmth. Others work best for surfers and paddle boarders, but still don't deliver the optimum amount of flexibility. Triathlon and swimming wetsuits are their own category, and they emphasise freedom of motion. When wearing one of these suits, you should feel as though you have as much mobility in the water as you do without the suit. Once you've found the right category, you'll need to pick an actual style. Full wetsuits which cover your arms and legs will work best in the coldest waters and long open-water swims. Spring suits provide more balance by only partially covering your extremities. Choose this type when the water isn't too cold, but you still need the added floatation and insulation. "Farmer" style wetsuits are sleeveless and will deliver the maximum amount of shoulder mobility. When speed is your ultimate goal and the weather is right, this should be your choice. Once you've picked out the style you need, you can look at other aspects of wetsuits.
What fabrics can you expect to see?
The good news is that unlike with other sports-related apparel, there isn't too much variation in the materials used in wetsuit construction. The dominant material for all wetsuits today is neoprene, a synthetic rubber that offers exceptional durability, stretchiness, and buoyancy. Aside from creating the warm water barrier discussed above, neoprene also traps air bubbles in its structure. This structure is what allows wearers of wetsuits to swim more strongly, as they do not have to fight to stay above water nearly as much. The exact type of neoprene, plus any additional fabrics blended in to the suit, can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. As the price tag increases so too does the care paid to the wetsuit construction. Higher-end wetsuits will provide varying levels of stretchiness for maximum comfort. Thickness is an important consideration when purchasing a neoprene wetsuit. The thicker the suit, the lower your mobility, but it also yields a warmer swim. If you swim in very cold waters, a thicker wetsuit, up to 6mm or more, should be your first choice. In warmer waters, a thickness as little as 2mm will be adequate for your purposes. Check your local water temperatures and decide before you begin to shop.
Making your wetsuit fit: an easy explanation
So, you've picked out a style, and maybe you're even zeroing in on the brand you want to purchase ? now what? You can't purchase a wetsuit sight unseen since the way it fits your body is very important. Too tight and you won't be able to swim well, nor will it be comfortable at all. Too loose and you won't gain any of the benefits of the suit at all. Luckily, with a few simple rules of thumb, knowing when you've found the right one isn't too difficult. When trying on your wetsuit, here's what you need to remember:
- No excess material - When you put a suit on, there shouldn't be any space left for the neoprene to bunch up or fold in on itself. If it does, this is a sign that the suit doesn't fit as snugly as necessary. Try on a different suit to find one that isn't too tight but provides a smooth profile across your body.
- Move your shoulders around and try some swimming strokes in the air. You should not feel restricted in your range of motion.
- Ensure that the suit's holes for your legs and arms are not baggy. If they do not fit close to the skin, they can scoop water in as you swim, slowing you down.
- Focus on the neckline: does it feel too tight? You must be able to breathe normally, so don't choose a suit that feels too tight in the neck area.
Finding a suit that fits your budget, too
Wetsuits can be pricey, but they don't have to break the bank. Try to balance your budget against how much you need the wetsuit. Will you be swimming in it frequently? You may want to spend a little more on a higher-end suit built for comfort and speed. If you only need it to stay warm during a particular time of the year, though, you can opt for a lower-cost wetsuit that simply provides you with an opportunity to stay warm while you train. So-called "low end" wetsuits are often better suited to warmer water as they feature looser seams and less advanced neoprene construction. ?Low end? doesn?t mean low quality, though, as they can still last for years of use with the proper care. Higher-end suits, in addition to featuring more complex construction for comfort, will also feature proprietary neoprene blends that can offer different advantages in flexibility or buoyancy. Some advanced suits may even have buoyant areas at strategic points on the suit to make swimming even easier. Consider what you need versus what you can afford and don't be afraid to shop around for variety.
Additional considerations when making your purchase
Wetsuits don't often come with fancy high-tech features, but there are a few other things to think about when you're shopping suits. If you're running in a triathlon, take a close look at the zippers. How quickly can you take the suit on and off? Do the zips seem relatively watertight as well? A close fit and the ability to get in and out of the suit without delay are important attributes, so it's worth trying a few different suits to see which are the easiest to use. Consider weight, too. Weight can be a function of budget as more expensive suits will use lighter neoprene. While you won't be carrying tonnes of extra weight, some suits can make you feel more sluggish than others. Try to determine how it might feel in the water by trying it on in the store and moving around on dry land.
Slip into your new suit and start swimming
It can take time to make the adjustments necessary to feel comfortable while swimming in a wetsuit. To ensure you get the product you need, be sure to ask for assistance during fitting before you purchase. It always helps to have an extra pair of eyes watching out for problems in the fit. Don't worry if you feel strange or even slightly uncomfortable the first few times you don your new outfit. Once you spend a few practice sessions in the water adjusting to the differences in your buoyancy and movement speed, you'll be swimming faster than ever. By the time your triathlon approaches, you should be "well suited" to swimming in this special attire! This article was written for Sports Fitness, an online store stocking fitness and swimming equipment. Low prices, fast delivery, and excellent customer service every time. Follow @SportNessUK