Do I need a wetsuit?

North­ern Idaho has sev­eral fan­tas­tic triathlons such as Race the River Triathlon and Radi­ant Lake Triathlon, each with poten­tially cold water for the swim. With water temps in the area rang­ing from 60 to 72 degrees, it def­i­nitely falls in the zone of being wetsuit-worthy. While triathlon wet­suits can be a major invest­ment, they can also have many ben­e­fits, espe­cially if you might use the wet­suit repeatedly.

Are Wet­suits Worth It?

Triathlon wet­suits pro­vide two main advan­tages: Warmth and Buoy­ancy. A good triathlon wet­suit will keep your body com­fort­able in even very cold water temps, so it can be a neces­sity if you’ll be spend­ing time in water that is below 60 or 65 degrees. Most triath­letes will also tell you that a good wet­suit gives them more buoy­ancy, allow­ing them to glide over the water more eas­ily and not kick quite as much. This can help your swim time, but can be espe­cially use­ful if you are ner­vous about open water swims.

With prices of $200 to $700, how­ever, wet­suits are not triv­ial expen­di­tures. If you are con­sid­er­ing an invest­ment in a high qual­ity wet­suit for the first time, there are three options. You of course can bor­row one, rent one from a local or online triathlon shop, or pur­chase one of your own. While bor­row­ing may be tempt­ing, you would want to get just the right size – wet­suits should fit you per­fectly or they will lose their effec­tive­ness. Rent­ing can be a great option if you aren’t par­tic­u­lar about the model and may just use the suit once. If you plan to do mul­ti­ple open water swims, though, con­sider invest­ing in a good wet­suit with a per­fect fit for you. Read through some triathlon wet­suit reviews, try a few on, and buy one that is right for you.

Using the Wetsuit

After pur­chas­ing, rent­ing, or bor­row­ing your wet­suit, try it on at home first. You have to prac­tice a bit with these types of things, and may need help when you first try it on. Being sure to put it on when you are dry, and be care­ful not to tear it – Neo­prene is a great mate­r­ial but can rip and punc­ture eas­ily. Pull it all the way on, and try going for a quick swim at a local beach or cold pool. You will notice that when you’re in the water your mus­cles will feel and react dif­fer­ently. You may need to adapt or change your swim strokes. Wet­suits cling to bod­ies so the feel­ing can be con­stric­tive, but you will get used to the sen­sa­tion so don’t worry about it because after a few swim ses­sions it’ll feel like a sec­ond skin.

Lubri­cate the leg and arm­holes of the suit or your body with a prod­uct like bodyglide. Such a lubri­cant will pre­vent chaf­ing and if you get sore in those areas you won’t be able to con­cen­trate on swim­ming. Ath­letes have also used PAM or another cook­ing spray, but never use petro­leum based lubri­cants because they will eat away at your suit. Water-based ones are fine.

A goal of every triath­lete is get­ting out of a wet­suit fast after leg one. Grab your zip­per as you run from the water and with­out get­ting all tan­gled up, get your arms out of the suit first. When you arrive at the bicy­cle area you can com­plete the removal. You can prac­tice this at home so it’ll be easy after the first few times dur­ing a race.After the Race

A good triathlon wet­suit can last you sev­eral years if you take care of it, and this means spend­ing some time on it after the race. Wash your suit with fresh water both out­side and in after the race.  Ath­letes do this out­side using a gar­den hose, or in a shower. Hang the suit to air dry on an old fash­ioned clothes­line or a heavy duty towel bar. After the sea­son ends, use a sham­poo like one made by McNett for clean­ing the neo­prene. It’s gen­tle and you’ll keep your invest­ment in great shape for many sea­sons. Finally, find a stor­age space where there is no risk of it being torn or nicked by metal or edges.

Spend­ing $200 or more on a triathlon wet­suit may be daunt­ing, but if you plan to do a few triathlons and open water prac­tice swims, you’ll find that it might be money-well-spent over the long haul.