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Do Guys Need to Shave for Triathlons

by Hazen Kent

For years I have heard a variety of reasons why male triathletes shave their body hair and primarily their legs and I guess to some extent, they all have their place in the annals of “justification”.  

If you were to break down the triathlon into its three components, swim, bike and run, shaving is only considered necessary in two of the three: swimming and cycling.  And of these, cycling is the most common.  And because you are a triathlete, you now qualify for the label of “cyclist”.  This of course gives you the green light to shave your legs.  

Is Shaving Legs Only for Women?

For us guys, shaving our legs is a big step, especially for the first time! Nestled among our newfound lifestyle of cool bikes, hard-bodies, testosterone and ego mania, is this… “chick” thing… called shaving your legs.  

Although it is a “tri-thing” men can’t help but treat it like a “chick” thing… and become unglued at though of it!   Nowhere does this show more than we do the shopping at the grocery store. The innate act of grabbing razors and shaving cream off the shelves takes on a whole new meaning. We have now crossed the line.  

However, it won’t be long before this “chick thing’ becomes tradition.  Soon you will find yourself arguing with your mate as to who left the dull razor in the shower.   

Why Do Male Triathletes Shave?

And although I now perform this ritual once or twice a week, I am still seeking the real reason WHY?  After years of approaching cyclists with this question, about four reasons seem to come up the most:

1. Aerodynamics

With regards to cycling, this is one reason I have a hard time believing.  Shaving to become “aero” applies to swimmers primarily and we will touch on that in a moment. 

2. The Bike Crash

There’s an old adage that applies to cyclists and it goes something like this – “there are two types of cyclists, those that have fallen (wiped out) and those that will.”  If you have never experienced the pure joy of feeling your elbow, hip or the palms of your hand become one with the asphalt, then be patient…you will!  

Especially, if you plan on sticking with this sport. The more mileage you put on your bike, the higher the odds of you being inaugurated into this unfortunate club.  So, the shaved legs, I am told, helps the healing process – no hair to contribute to infection and Band-Aids peel off much easier.

3. The Rub-Down

I have heard that rubdowns and/or massages, are more effective when applied to a hairless leg.

4. Keeps You Cooler

Finally shaved legs are much cooler than hairy legs in the hot summer. 

Shaving Makes the Most Sense for Swimmers

Now for swimmers, shaving down has always been a tradition and is both physically and psychologically beneficial.  

Physically, most swimmers, men and women remain as hairy as possible throughout the most intense part of their training usually during the winter months.  That’s right, women too – specifically their legs.  

After a proper taper in preparation for a major swim meet, the swimmer will shave his/her legs, arms, back, and men will shave their chest and even their head. The removal of the body hair is said to reduce drag or water resistance allowing the swimmer to slip through the water and thus swim faster.  

But the real fact is, shaving for a swimmer is primarily psychological.  I have shaved my chest, arms, legs, and even my head twice and only a true swimmer can understand the feeling of diving into a 76-degree pool completely shaved… You feel immortal. 

So why do triathletes shave if they wear a wetsuit when they swim?

There really is no need.

And then I remembered something my old swim coach used to say and do.  As the winter season was coming to a close and spring was just around the corner (we used to swim outdoors year round), each afternoon just after we stretched and just prior to beginning workout, he would make us lay down on the deck to get a tan.

The reason?

And I quote, “because, when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you swim good.”

Let’s face it…most of us keep our legs shaved throughout our triathlon training because it looks and feels pretty cool!  And yes, even the chicks dig it…once you sell them on the idea that you are a triathlete and throw in a few of those BS reasons mentioned above.  My wife sure doesn’t complain.

So, basically, shaving is an ego thing…and so what if it is!

I say, what the hell…

Keep your legs shaved, stir up some controversy, look cool, feel good and hall ass in your next race!

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