The wetsuit is your most important item in swimrun next to shoes. It should provide good buoyancy and keep you warm when swimming. Finding one which provide a good individual fit can be difficult but it is of major importance that the suit aligns itself properly with the body. This is why it’s recommended to always try the wetsuit on, preferably in real-life swimrun conditions, before buying it. In the early days of swimrun it was common for swimrunners to use triathlon as well as surfing wetsuits and based on experience and needs some started to modify their wetsuits, cutting them in different ways, adding zippers in the front and pockets on the inside. It didn’t take long for the industry to adjust and start providing specially designed swimrun wetsuits for us to chose from, but be cautioned, there are a couple of things you need to think about before buying one. The wetsuit and any related neoprene equipment should be bought based on the types of races you are going to do and what your individual race capacity looks like.
Today there are two basic types of swimrun wetsuits: The full wetsuit and the semi-full, also known as a shorty.
The full swimrun wetsuit
The full wetsuit covers most of the body featuring long arms and legs. It is recommended for those who:
- find it hard to stay warm during swims
- are strong runners
- are less strong in swimming
- are ok swimmers but want to skip the extra leg-buoy
- do shorter-type swimrun training
- for cold conditions
- short sprint races or
- races with high swim-ratio.
The semi-full (shorty) swimrun wetsuit
A semi-full wetsuit covers the torso, shoulders, arms and thighs but stops short or is cut just before the knee. It’s recommended for:
- strong swimmers
- those who easily stay warm during swims
- doing longer swimrun-type training
- in warm conditions
- long distance racing
- races with high run-ratio or
- races with high elevation.
Some people also choose to cut the arms of the semi-full wetsuit, just above the elbows. It’s also important to take your body type and composition into consideration, e.g., if you are mesomorphic, endomorphic or ectomorphic. A wetsuit in the dry does not provoke the same sensations and fit compared to being used in the water. It’s a completely different feeling why you should take it for a test swim.
Most of us shape our bodies during the season, usually becoming slimmer towards the end of it. A pre-season wetsuit might not fit properly later on, why if your budget allows for it, its recommended to have 2.
Additional important wetsuit features
In general, it has to fit properly around the neck and not take in water. It also has to be flexible around the shoulder to allow for proper arm/shoulder rotation during the swim stroke. It is imperative that these two requirements are fulfilled. Most brands will provide the suit in a range of sizes and you can also choose between important features such as single or dual zipper, 1-type or hybrid neoprene material, asymmetric or straight front zipper and so forth.
Single vs. dual zipper
Selecting between a single or dual zipper should foremost be based on your individual need. The dual zipper is recommended for those who need to cab-down the suit with ease, usually to ventilate abundant heat building up under the wetsuit. Cabbing-down is possible with only a one-front zipper however difficult due to the tight fit of a wetsuit, and especially challenging if you are strongly built around the shoulders. A front zipper will however allow you to ventilate the front side which can be convenient in shorter races. If you use a wetsuit with a single back zipper it will be difficult to cab down and up in solo swimrun races, why its recommend to go for a dual or a front zipper wetsuit.
1-type or hybrid neoprene material
Among the many types of neoprene material, there are usually three which are featured in swimrun wetsuits, the open cell, closed cell or nylon covered neoprene. The open cell neoprene is more flexible but also more fragile compared to the closed cell type which is less flexible but provides a much better streamline advantage in the water, given its higher level of water resistance. The nylon covered neoprene, which has made its way to the swimrun market in 2016, provide less buoyancy and streamline in the water but much greater stretch in the material, optimal for running. Today swimrun wetsuits are either featured as 1-types (same material used all over) or as hybrids, using varying combinations of the open, closed and nylon covered neoprene. In general, the rule of thumb, depending on the thickness of the material, is that:
- A 1-type full wetsuit using closed neoprene will provide best buoyancy and streamline in the water
- A 1-type full wetsuit using open neoprene will provide slightly poorer buoyancy and streamline but greater flexibility when running
- A hybrid wetsuit using nylon covered neoprene, depending on how much and where the material is positioned, will provide the least level of buoyancy and streamline but the best flexibility when running.
Asymmetric or straight front zipper
Some wetsuits feature an asymmetric front zipper. This type will make it easier to cab down the wetsuit compared to a single straight front zipper. This can be a plausible option for those who prefer the single zipper solution but need more wiggle-room for cabbing down the wetsuit.
As you understand, choosing a wetsuit is becoming harder and more technical as the development progresses, why you need to test it before buying it.
|To look out for are things like:||To be careful about:|
The wetsuit pants come in two versions, full or short. Originally meant as a supplement to the buoy used by many swimmers, its popularity has grown among swimrunners beyond only training in the pool. It’s recommended for:
- training or racing in warm climate
- short swimrun races
- both beginners and experts
- those who wants to limit the use of extra gear
- swim or swimrun training in the pool or open water
As comparison, a standard type foam buoy has an approximate lifting capacity of 2.9 kg compared to a pair of short swim pants with only 1.9 kg why it’s recommended to go for the foam buoy if you’re not a strong swimmer. However, when accustomed to the pants, your swim speed should increase significantly. Despite what you stand to lose in terms of ‘weight-buoyancy-capacity’ compared to the foam pull-buoy (approximately 1 kg), you gain in terms of absence of tension to keep the buoy in place between the legs, and the improved hydrodynamics (streamline) in the water, allowing for better speed. The flotation capacity is enough to help lift the lower body up, helping the swimmer into a more natural swimming position.
At the moment, very few dedicated swimrun vests exists, as this type of garment isn’t widely used in swimrun racing. If you plan to buy one, it’s recommended to browse regular wetsuit shops or surfshops who usually carry these types. Go for the one with a full front zipper since you will want to open it up in hot conditions but remember to get one which is longer, properly overlapping the pants. It’s recommended to use the vest as a complement to the wetsuit pants to cover the torso when:
- training or racing in climates with average temperatures
- short or middle distance swimrun races
- swim or swimrun training in open water
- in windy conditions with strong cooling effect on land
- if you burn easily in the sun
There are basically 3 different types of swimrun calfs: The home-made ones, the neoprene and the hybrid compression sock-type. All types work equally well in supporting your lower buoyancy position, aimed at lifting your feet up in the water during the swim. The difference comes on the level of weight-buoyancy ratio, i.e. how much weight can the swimcalfs float (lift-up) in relation to how much they weigh themselves. Because you’ll have to run with them on the entire race and for longer races, and accumulated grams (g) over time do count. Additional things to have in mind is the level of compression received, how much the material shapes and moves with your legs during the runs, if it tends to slip down during swims, but also how it ventilates while running, or keeps you warm during the swims. As an example, the neoprene will ventilate the least but give you most retention of heat compared to the hybrid compression socks. Being on this detailed level when choosing is all about that individual comfort preference, or how eager you are to win, tweaking your equipment to the max.
A neoprene cap or gloves main purpose is to help the swimmer retain body heat. A neoprene cap is recommended for really cold water as most heat from the body usually escape via the head. Some people use gloves with ‘skin’ in-between the fingers to help their swimming, but the added weight from these gloves, especially when wet, and their impact on your swim stroke technique, will most likely be negative and might cause injury to your shoulders. The cap and gloves should only be used for swimrunning in very cold conditions as they will not otherwise help improve your swim performance.
|Remember to long-term-store all neoprene equipment turned inside out, rolled-up and in a cool dark space. Never let it hang on a clothes hanger for longer periods of time and especially not exposed to bright light or the sun. Pay attention that some wetsuits tend to shrink between seasons.|
In the near future we will conduct a large swimrun equipment test where we dive into the new equipment hitting the market in 2017
/The WoS Team – In the forefront of swimrun development
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