Get the most out of your triathlon wetsuit by fitting it properly to improve your open water swimming comfort, efficiency and speed.

Triathlon wetsuits aren’t cheap, but they’re essential for the majority of triathletes not blessed with a tropical climate. Like every aspect of the sport, practise makes perfect when it comes to swimming in your wetsuit, but you’ll only get the best out of your investment if you take the time to put your wetsuit on properly before swimming.

Here are our top tips for getting your wetsuit on properly to improve your open water swimming experience.

Take Your Time and Go Gently

Getting your wetsuit on properly takes time, so make sure you plan to get your suit sorted well before your race start time and you’ll be able to get the smoothest, most hydrodynamic and resistance-free fit for a faster swim. Your nails should be trimmed short to avoid puncturing the delicate neoprene, but be careful of doing this right before handling your suit – or be sure to file any sharp edges.

With all the steps below, think about working the wetsuit up, gently pinching the material together with the pads of your fingers and thumbs, then pulling the area you’re trying to manipulate, rather than tugging from a long way away.

Lower body

Slip both feet in and settle the hem just above the ankles ensuring there are no gaps between the suit and your skin. If you want to be extra careful and make getting the suit over your feet easier, you can wrap each foot in a plastic bag, which is easy to pull out afterwards, or keep your socks on. Then work the suit up your legs, getting out any folds or ripples in the suit so that it lies smooth. This will set you up for a good fit on your torso, which will improve freedom of movement and thus your swimming efficiency.

Putting on a wetsuit on lower body
Work the suit up your legs, getting out any folds or ripples in the suit so it lies smooth (Photo: Triathlon Vibe)

The hips of the suit should be pulled right up so that the area between the legs is snug up against the crotch. With the upper section of the suit still folded down, grab the wetsuit’s waistline and pull up while walking on the spot. Alternate between pulling at the front, back and sides. Squatting down while pulling the suit up can also help get this area settled closely. This will ensure that your legs are free and unimpeded, avoiding rubbing and allowing you to get the most out of your leg kick as well as help you run from the water to transition.

Upper body

Put each hand through the arms and settle the cuffs above your wrist bone so that no water can travel up the sleeves while you swim, affecting your hydrodynamics and speed through the water. Then, pulling at the elbow, work the material smooth on your forearm being sure that any catch panels or other forearm technology is in its correct orientation to utilise these features to their maximum.

Once the lower arm is sorted, work the suit up onto your shoulders, bringing material up from the above the elbows. Get as much material as possible up above your shoulders and work the underarm area until the suit sits closely against the inside of your armpit as you stretch your arms into the air. This will ensure you’re making the most of your suit’s flexibility, not fighting against it. In turn, this will improve shoulder freedom to make swimming easier.

Putting on a wetsuit on upper body
Ensure to work as much material as possible above your shoulders to allow shoulder freedom in the swimming (Photo: Triathlon Vibe)

Next, bend forward so that the suit folds around your midriff, then work these folds up the chest to bring the neck up at the front and maximise flexibility across the chest and avoid water flowing down the neck line – both of which help your efficiency and speed.

Then get a friend or fellow competitor to make sure the back of the suit is pulled up. Put your arms out wide and back, pulling your shoulder blades together while they zip up your suit and secure the tether cord. If you’re alone, pull the zip up yourself then do some arm swings and back rotations to make sure it’s properly fitted.

Once your suit’s on, you can continue to adjust your suit here and there until it feels just right.

Use Suit Lube

Lubing up – stop snickering! – is an essential pre-swim ritual. This could be simple baby oil, but a lube stick such as Bodyglide or HUUB Sport Luub is easier and less messy to use.

The longer the swim, the more chafing you’ll have to put up with, so a generous application of suit lube is a must. Applying around the ankles, wrists and neckline won’t only help you get your suit off faster in T1, but will avoid you developing a nasty rubbing rash on the back of your neck. Without lube, such a rash becomes a literal pain in the neck later in the day when salty sweat flows.

Putting lube on neck
Using wetsuit lube can will help avoid chafing (Photo: Triathlon Vibe)

Pulling on a wetsuit with slippy fingers is not going to be an easy task, so once your suit is on and settled in place, carefully fold up the wrist and ankles before giving a covering with the lube and then flip them down again.

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