Wetsuit Guidelines

Triathlon season is upon us and one of the biggest decisions a triathlete has to make is related to finding the right wetsuit.  Wetsuits can provide buoyancy and make you more streamline, especially if you are not a strong swimmer but a poor fitting wetsuit can actually put you at a disadvantage.

Fitting a wetsuit properly is a bit more involved than just buying a bathing suit. To get the proper fit, height, weight and BMI are taken into consideration.  During the course of a season, an athletes weight may change especially if they are training year around.  Weight may also fluctuate significant depending on hydration levels and that may also affect the buoyancy of an athlete.  Usually, a wetsuit is used for more than a year so there is a chance the fit of the suit can change. There are also different coverage types; sleeve length and leg length.   

A recent study out of the University of Nevada was published in Biology of Sport looked at how the fit of a wetsuit effects blood pressure and heart rate.  The researchers looked at resting heart rate and blood pressure in standing and laying horizontal (swimming position) in 3 situations: no wetsuit, smallest wetsuit and largest wetsuit (according to manufacture guideline).  

This study found there was a significant increase in the resting arterial blood pressure of the athletes when they are wearing the smallest sized wetsuit.  This means, triathletes that are wearing a smaller fit wetsuit are starting a race at a higher blood pressure than those athletes that are wearing a larger fit suit.  This may mean they are starting the race at a disadvantage because their heart is already working faster to pump blood.

When picking out a wetsuit, keep this idea in the back of your head and make sure you do some research on different types of suits because you have to look good when the sharks watch you go by! 

Kathleen Leninger, PT, DPT