A triathlon involves running, cycling and swimming over a variety of distances with no breaks in between the different sports. It’s a race for people who want to participate in all three types of endurance tests, and who want to push themselves to their limits. If you think it sounds easy enough to bike, run and swim long distances and come out anything less than exhausted on the other side, then you clearly haven’t tried it. And if you stop to think about the challenges of going from one physical activity to another, it will become clear that different types of training are required, and also the types of clothing worn by competitiors need to be considered carefully, because stopping to change costumes is not an option. This is especially true for the sprint and Olympic distance triathlons where the need for special clothing – such as a triathlon suit – becomes pretty clear.
The Purpose of Triathlon Suits
For shorter distance races, minimizing the time in the transition areas is critical. No socks are worn for the bike or the run, and often the keen triathlete’s running shoes will have elastic laces to speed things up. And so the clothing worn tends to be optimized for performance across all three disciplines. Although it is possible to buy two-piece tri suits, very often the competitors will opt instead for a one-piece body-hugging garment. This will fit snugly against the body so you can glide effortlessly through the water, and is more aerodynamic for cycling, though the main problem on the bike if you wear separate shorts is chafing and the generally uncomfortable feeling when the waist band rolls down as you ride.
Tri suits have a built in chamois just like regular cycling shorts or bibs, but it is much smaller and quicker drying. The materials allow the suit to dry after the swim, and the small chamois offers protection on the bike, but is not so intrusive that it restricts free running form during the final leg of the race.
So the main features you’ll need to look out when buying a triathlon suit are:
- The Fit – it’s worth trying on a few brands, and also a few models within each brand. Often the elite suits are tighter, which is great for reducing water resistance and improving aerodynamics, but can be rather uncomfortable if you’re not used to it! You will need to get the balance right for yourself, between comfort and performance.
- The Material – again, you should aim for the best moisture-wicking fabrics in order to keep you comfortable, dry and cool.
- Compression – many of the compression garments so often worn by runners these days were originally used by triathletes, and they are still important. Search for a tri suit which can offer compression for your legs. This will help to minimize muscle oscillations and keep fatigue at bay.
- Bike Chamois – as long as you choose a tri suit rather than a cycling-specific skinsuit the chamois will be small enough and flexible enough to keep you feeling comfortable on the bike without being an encumbrance during the run.
- Staying Ventilated – all triathlon suits will have a long zipper to make it easy for you to get into them, but also so you can regulate your body temperature during the triathlon. Many models will also have mesh panels sewn into them to assist with cooling and to help moisture to wick away. Another balance has to be found here, as the more cooling features you have in your gear, the more drag it is likely to create through the water.
- Pockets – if you are involved in the longer distance races and wear a tri suit, you might want a pocket so you can carry energy gels.
- Triathlon Suits For Women – some suits for female triathletes have built in bras, but many are moving away from this as they can make it difficult to get into the suit. The tight fit of most tri suits will often mean that they offer good support in their own right.
These shorts have to be able to withstand the rigors of running and cycling while keeping you covered and as dry as possible. Materials like polyester and Lycra are ideal because they’re breathable and stretchable while still offering support. Any material that’s going to stay wet will keep that wetness against your skin and that promotes rawness and chafing. Many people prefer triathlon shorts that come to just above the knee to protect the entire inner thighs.
Triathlon Swim Suits
For the swimming portion of the triathlon, a proper wet suit is in order. And while you might think that you can swim faster without long-sleeved Triathlon Wetsuits, you should give one a try. Choose a long-sleeved neoprene wetsuit which will offer more buoyancy and make swimming easier than if you wore a sleeveless wetsuit or none at all. It’s important to choose a suit that’s designed for the swimming portion of a triathlon and not one designed for diving or other purposes. The neoprene in those suits will be stiffer and can slow you down in a race.
Remember that changing time between races is part of the race time, so the faster you can get in and out of your wetsuit, the better. Use a neoprene safe lubricant liberally around your wrists, ankles, neck and anywhere else you might chafe to prevent irritation and make it faster and easier to get that triathlon suit on and off.