Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming


Most triathletes LOVE their wetsuits. Many love them so much they will only enter races that will have wetsuit legal swims!

But swimming in a wetsuit can feel very different to swimming without one. So the first time time you put yours on (ever or after a long break) it may feel a little weird.

If you use your wetsuit correctly it can cut minutes off your time on race day. The modern wetsuit will lift your hips up and get your body floating much higher in the water. This lift and alignment reduces your resistance and will help you swim way faster.

But they can also limit your shoulder rotation and make it hard for you to breathe. If you’re not used to a wetsuit or yours doesn’t fit, you may have a problem. It could end up causing your technique to change and affect your breathing rhythm. Both of which will lead to a slower swim!

Let’s look at how to make sure your wetsuit helps you swim faster, not slower than you do in the pool!

5 Wetsuit Tips To Make Sure You Swim Faster & More Comfortably in Open Water

1. Make Sure Your Suit Fits Before You Buy

Your highest priority with a wetsuit is comfort and fit… Wetsuits need to fit just right! If the suit is uncomfortable/too tight/too loose in any place it’s going to affect your swim. A poor fit could change your stroke mechanics, put extra stress on your shoulders and restrict your breathing.

You must find one that is comfortable and fits your body well.

It’s important that you make sure your suit fits before you buy. I would never buy a wetsuit that I haven’t been able to swim in and fully test first. There are retailers/distributers that will allow try before you buy. See if you can either try out a showroom model for free or rent a suit for a swim before you buy it!

You’re looking for something that is comfortable.

  • It should allow good range of motion in your shoulders.
  • You want the ability to stretch through your lats without feeling restricted.
  • Breathing deeply shouldn’t alter or restrict the movement of your chest.
  • It should fit like a glove, nice and snug but not too tight.

The brand or suit is a minor detail in comparison to fit. Most of the suits in the mid to upper end offer roughly the same benefits. Finding what works best for your body and stroke should be your highest priority.

2. Soak Your Suit Before You Wear It

Has your wetsuit has been sitting in your closet for a couple months during the off season?

There is a chance it will have shrunk or lost it’s stretch.

Soaking your suit in warm water before you wear it for the first swim of the season will help make sure it fits like it used to… that’s provided you haven’t changed in shape and size during the off season 🙂

wetsuit tips for open water swimming

3. Practice with it Before Race Day

We never want to be using new equipment on race day. You definitely want to have tested and feel comfortable in your suit with before you show up to the start line.

Ideally you’d test it in open water conditions similar to the ones you’ll be racing in. If that isn’t possible, at least test it out in the pool. Keep the swim in the pool short, so you don’t overheat and be sure to rinse the suit in fresh water after you’re done. Chlorine tends to erode neoprene!

4. Lube Up

There’s nothing more annoying than chafe. An annoying burning sensation on your neck or under your armpits is the last thing you want to deal with as you race.

Make sure you lube yourself up before race start!

5. Warm Up Before Your Race

It’s critical that you get in and warm up in your wetsuit before your race starts. The cold water can be uninviting early on race morning, I get it. But you are more likely to have a panic attacks if you haven’t acclimatized to the cold water or the tightness of your wetsuit.

During the warm up, open up the wetsuit at the neck and let a little bit of cold water in. That cold water will sit close to your warm body and heat up – that’s what keeps you warm through the race!

Any questions, email me or put them in the comments.
– Rory

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Related Advice & Tips:

This post is part of a series on swimming well in open water. Read the rest of the posts in the series here:

Part 1: The Six Culprits Of Slow Open Water Times
Part 2: How To Prevent An Open Water Swim Panic Attack Before Race Day
Part 3: How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day
Part 4: How To Swim Straight In Open Water
Part 5: Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming