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Coach Steve being aero! SWIM WETSUITS: Wetsuits, what a great invention! They allow you to swim in water too cold for bare skin; give you so much float that even the most insecure swimmer can be confident, and best of all they make you faster. I answer two questions concerning wetsuits often: Should I wear one or not for this race, and should I have a wetsuit with sleeves or without?

If the water temperature is low enough on race day to be wetsuit legal, you must wear one to be competitive. Everyone is faster in a wetsuit, some by a lot (athletes with body position issues and/or a weak kick), some by a little (athletes with no body position issues, and/or a strong kick). A wetsuit adds buoyancy so you float higher in the water. How high you float is determined by how much water you displace, and how much water you displace is in turn determined by your weight compared to the water's weight. Think of a wetsuit as a thick layer of very light skin. It adds bulk, but since the neoprene has tiny air pockets it's lighter than the rest of your body and much lighter than water.

Most wetsuits have extra thickness over the legs. This gives your legs extra float, bringing them up and your body closer to horizontal. In a wetsuit you don't need to kick as hard to hold a good body position. Some athletes don't kick at all in a wetsuit.

The technology and materials for wetsuits get better all the time and you should only consider owning a wetsuit with sleeves. The more neoprene, the higher you float and the faster you go. After a couple swims in a wetsuit with sleeves you won't notice a significant difference in range of movement through the shoulders. Don't swim in a wetsuit for the first time on race day!

Taking a wetsuit off at T1 adds time to your transition, but less than gained by wearing it even for a sprint distance race. It should only take a few extra seconds to get it off if the fit is optimal (ask me about my favorite brand). My first wetsuit many years ago was a nightmare to get off. The legs were so tight that I'd have to sit down and struggle to get it off. If possible test this before you buy.

If a wetsuit fits well and your form is good you shouldn't need lube on the legs or at your neck. The legs should be cut so they're not overly tight, and with good form your head should barely move relative to your body, making friction at the neck a non-issue.

When the swim is done and you're running to T1 you should take off goggles, cap, and unzip the wetsuit, pulling it off your arms and down to your waist. All you should have left to do at your bike is to get it off your legs. You should do this standing up. Practice in training!
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