Category Archives: Swim

swimskins swimmers

What are Swimskins + Top 5 Best Swimskins

Swimskins have been growing in popularity during the past few years in triathlons and open water swimming. This is primarily due to their benefits for speed and aerodynamics and also the fact that they are legal even when the water is too warm for wetsuits.

Overall there are not a ton of options when it comes to swimskins, but the TriNewbies team has reviewed the best swimskins and came up with the list below:

    Image Best Feature Price
1 Roka Viper Pro Swimskin (Mens/Womens) Best Overall Swimskin $255 (roka.com)
2 Roka Viper X2 Swimskin (Mens/Womens) Best High End Swimskin $325 (roka.com)
3 Synergy Triathlon SynSkin (Mens/Womens) Best Value Swimskin $149.95 (amazon.com)
4 TYR SPORT Torque Elite (Womens) Best Lightweight Swimskin $225 – 25% Off! (swimoutlet.com)
5 blueseventy PZ2TX (Mens/Womens)   $209.95 (amazon.com)

1. Roka Viper Pro Swimskin (Price not available) – Womens/Mens

Roka is definitely the leader in the swimskin space, with most pros and amateur triathletes donning their swimskins. The Roka Viper Pro is the top of the line swim suit.

The Roku Viper Pro and X2 (below) both some with no -sew stretch woven technology, meaning there are no creases or lines in the suit to increase drag. The suits are coated with a Teflon DWR (Durable Water Repellent) which reduces drag and increases efficiency. The suits also provide a good amount of compression, which also helps reduce drag while supporting the core and the legs in the water, helping both swimming posture and speed.

Roka Size Chart for the Viper Swim skin

2. Roka Viper X2 Swimskin (Price not available)Womens/Mens

The Roka Viper X2 is the top of the line swim skin, and also tops the list as the most expensive. If you’re looking for the best swim skin your money can buy, the Viper X2 is the way to go.

The main difference between the Viper X2 and the Viper Pro is the IXI Taping which is placed in various areas in the swim skin. This allows your movements, especially lower to upper body, to become more in line and provide a smoother swim through the water.

3. Synergy Triathlon SynSkin Swimskin ($149.95)Womens/Mens

The Synergy Synskin is the perfect entry level swimskin that offers the excellent benefits of water resistant materials and aerodynamics at an extremely reasonable price.

The suite comes with many of the same features as the higher prices models, including bonded seams, which reduce drag, and YKK auto locking zipper for smooth removal. Like most swimskins, sizing can be an issue. The chart below should be a good guide, but there have been complaints about weird sizing so be sure about the return policy before you order, as you may need to go a size up or down.

Synergy Size Chart for the SynSkin 2

4. TYR SPORT Torque Elite Skinsuit ($164.95) Womens/Mens

TYR is known for their swimwear, so it’s not surprise that they make a pretty dependable swimskin (they call it a Skinsuit). The main feature of their swimskin is the light weight, just a quarter pound which is extremely light and will not produce must extra weight to drag.

Another cool feature is that the inner layer has a very low water absorption rate, around 0.5%. This helps reduce drag and reduce weight when swimming in this swimskin.

5. blueseventy PZ2TX Triathlon Swimskin ($209.95) Womens/Mens

The blueseventy swimskin offers a ton of great features listed for the other swimskins, including hydrophobic fabric, YKK zipper, and bonded seams. This makes the blueseventy PZ2TX a solid overall swimskin.

blueseventy Swimskin Sizing Chart

Common Questions about Swimskins

Swimskins vs Wetsuits

Wetsuits are thicker and bulkier that swimskins and generally are used more for warmth and buoyancy. Swimskins provide neither of those, instead focusing more on the aerodynamics and hydrophobics to make the swimmer more streamline through the water.

If you are looking for a wetsuit, check out our top wetsuits!

The advantage of a wetsuit is for colder races since they do provide warmth, but for some races with water temps in the high 70’s and above, wetsuits could be illegal and dangerous due to overheating. That is really where the skimskin has it’s advantage since there is little risk of overheating due to the thin fabric.

WetsuitSwimskin
WarmthYesNo
BuoyanceYesNo
AerodynamicYesYes
Improves SpeedYesYes
USAT LegalYes, up to 84 F Water TempYes
WTC (Ironman) LegalYes, up to 84 F Water TempYes

Are Swimskins legal in Triathlons?

Yes, always. Swimskins are not considered wetsuits so they are legal for all triathlon swims, even if the water is too warm for wetsuits.

Do Swimskins improve swim time?

Yes, typically swimskins improve swim time by making you more aerodynamic and reducing drag. Having a singular piece of material with specific fabric that is hydrophobic, which repels water, helps the swimmer move through the water faster.

How to you wear swimskins?

Swimskins are meant to be worn over your tri-suit and are taken off after your swim in transition.

8 Swim Workouts for Ironman Training

These swim workouts range from 3,000 – 4,500 yards and should be used for advanced swimmers training for long distance events such as Ironman.

Key and Warm Ups

Key
Pull – use a pull buoy when swimming freestyle (and paddles if available)
Distances are the same whether in yards (yds) or meters(m)

Sw – swim
K – kick
 – seconds 

Swim Drills – You will find swim drills in the swim drill page of the site
Swim Warm-ups

Warm-up #1:
500 freestyle very easy
200 kick easy
100 swim easy
Total – 800 yds

Warm-up #2:
500 freestyle very easy
200 kick easy
100 swim easy
6 x 50’s 20 seconds rest between each
Total – 1100 yds

Workouts

3000 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up #2………1100 yds
600 Free Drill…………600 yds
20 x 50’s free
5-10″ bet. ea……….1000 yds
300 swim down………300 yds
Total………………..3000 yds
3000 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up #2……..1100 yds
600 Free Drill………..600 yds
10 x 100’s free
10-15″ bet. ea……..1000 yds
300 swim down………300 yds
Total………………..3000 yds
3000 Yard Workout 3
Warm-up #2……….1100 yds
400 Drill………………..400 yds
300 free – 15″ rest, 
3 x 50’s free 10″ rest
3 x 50’s kick – 10″ rest
rest 2 minutes
200 free 10″ rest
2 x 50’s swim 10″ rest
2 x 50’s kick 10″ rest
100 free
1 x 50 swim
1 x 50 kick …………..1200 yds
300 swim down……….300 yds
Total…………………3000 yds
3200 Yard Workout
Warm-up #2………1100 yds
300 Drill……………….400 yds
1500 free swim
aerobic pace………..1500 yds
200 easy swim down
Total………………..3200 yds
3500 Yard Workout
Warm-up #1…………800 yds
500 Drill
400 sw 15” rest
4×50’s sw 10” bet. ea
4×50’s k–rest 10”
2 min rest
300 sw, 3 x 50’s sw, 3 x 50’s K
200 sw, 2 x 50’s sw, 2 x 50’s K
100 sw, 1 x 50 sw, 1 x 50 K
200 freestyle swim down
Total – 3500 yds
4000 Yard Workout
Warm-up #1…………800 yds
1000 Freestyle Drill
(400 swim – rest 15”
300 pull – rest 15”
200 kick – rest 15”
100 swim – 2 minutes rest)
    Do this set 2 times
200 freestyle swim down
Total – 4000 yds
4000 Yard Workout
Warm-up #2
600 Freestyle Drill
10 x 200’s freestyle 20 seconds rest
300 swim down
Total – 4000 yds (m)
4500 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up #2
1000 Freestyle Drill
1500 swim freestyle – aerobic swim pace, rest 2-4 minutes
12 x 50’s kick – 10 seconds rest between each
100 freestyle swim down
Total – 4500 yds

8 Swim Workouts for Advanced Sprint Triathletes

Below are 8 short swim sets for the short distance sprint triathlon training. These are for swimmers who are more advanced and are looking to improve their time.

Workout Warm-Ups

Warm-up # 1
100 swim easy …………….100 yds
50 kick easy ………………….50 yds
50 swim easy ………………..50 yds
Total …………………..200 yds
Warm-up # 2
150 swim easy ……………….150 yds
100 kick easy …………………100 yds
50 swim easy ……………………50 yds
Total …………………….300 yds
Warm-up # 3
200 swim easy ……………..200 yds
100 kick easy ……………….100 yds
100 swim easy ……………..100 yds
Total ……………………400 yds

Main Sets

800 Yard Workout 1
(1 )Warm-up # 1…………200 yds
16 x 25’s swim (1 laps each)
5 sec. rest between ea. …400 yds
200 swim down easy…….200 yds
Total ……………………800 yds
800 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up # 1…………..200 yds
8 x 50’s swim (2 laps each)
10 sec. rest between ea…..400 yds
200 swim down easy ………200 yds
Total ……………………..800 yds
1000 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up # 2……….300 yds
20 x 25’s swim (1 laps each)
5 sec. rest between ea. ..500 yds
200 swim down easy……200 yds
Total …………………1000 yds
1000 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up # 2…………..300 yds
10 x 50’s swim (2 laps each)
10 sec. rest between ea. …500 yds
200 swim down easy ………200 yds
Total ……………………1000 yds
1250 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up # 3 ………….400 yds
28 x 25’s swim (1 laps each)
5 sec. rest between ea. …700 yds
150 swim down easy …….150 yds
Total ………………….1250 yds
1250 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up # 3 ……….400 yds
14 x 50’s swim (2 laps each)
10 sec. rest between ea. .700 yds
150 swim down easy ……..150 yds
Total …………………..1250 yds
1600 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up # 3 ……….400 yds
40 x 25’s swim (1 laps each)
5 sec. rest between ea. 1000 yds
200 swim down easy ……200 yds
Total …………………1600 yds
1600 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up # 3 ………..400 yds
20 x 50’s swim (2 lengths each)
10 sec. rest between ea. 1000 yds
200 swim down easy ………200 yds
Total …………………..1600 yds

10 Swim Workouts for Beginner Sprint Triathletes

These 10 swim workouts are meant for beginner swimmers or triathletes looking to complete a Sprint triathlon. They are divided up by distance and can be used in the Sprint Triathlon Training Plan.

200 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up – 2 laps easy………50 yds 
4 x 25’s easy -10 sec. 
rest between ea. …………. ..100 yds 
50 swim down real easy……50 yds 
Total …………………….200 yds
200 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up – 2 laps easy ……..50 yds 
2 x 50’s easy -15 sec. 
rest between ea……………..100 yds
50 swim down real easy ….50 yds
Total ……………………200 yds
300 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up …………………………..50 yds
8 x 25’s swim -10 sec
rest between ea. …………. ..200 yds
50 swim down real easy …..50 yds 
Total …………………….300 yds
300 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up …………………………50 yds
4 x 50’s swim -15 sec. 
rest between ea. …………..200 yds 
50 swim down real easy …50 yds
Total ……………………300 yds 
400 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up ………………………….50 yds 
6 x 50’s swim -10 sec. 
rest between ea. …………….300 yds 
50 swim down real easy ….50 yds 
Total ……………………400 yds 
400 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up …………………………50 yds
12 x 25’s swim – 10 sec. 
rest between ea. …………..300 yds 
50 swim down real easy …50 yds 
Total ……………………400 yds
500 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up ………………………..50 yds
16 x 25’s swim – 5 sec. 
rest between ea. ……………400 yds 
50 swim down real easy ….50 yds
Total …………………….500 yds
500 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up ………………………50 yds 
8 x 50’s swim -10 sec. 
rest between ea. ……………400 yds 
50 swim down real easy ….50 yds
Total ……………………500 yds
600 Yard Workout 1
Warm-up ………………………..50 yds 
20 x 25’s swim – 5 sec. 
rest between ea. ……………500 yds
50 swim down real easy ….50 yds
Total …………………..600 yds 
600 Yard Workout 2
Warm-up ………………………50 yds
10 x 50’s swim -10 sec. 
rest between ea. ……………500 yds 
50 swim down real easy …50 yds
Total ……………………600 yds

How to Use Swimming Drills to Improve Your Swim

Drills, drills, and then more drills! One arm drills, kicking drills, body position drills.  There must be a hundred drills out there for improving your swimming. Most serve their purpose.  Mastering each of them can be difficult, though that is usually not the difficult part.  The true challenge is applying what you have gained from the drills to your full swimming stroke.

Out of those hundreds of drills, I like to implement just a few different ones when designing workouts.  These drills tend to focus on body position, the finish of the stroke, the recovery, then entry and timing.  All the drills can be used without any training equipment or with varying training aids such as fins and paddles.

Although this article won’t go into the specifics of each drill (this will come in future articles), it does, however, go into how you can implement the drills into your current training plan and workouts.

Drills are all about Efficiency

To begin, let me state something that I am sure everyone already knows. ― Drills are there to help improve your technique.  I would like to change that statement to the following: “Drills are used to increase efficiency”.  

You may think this means the same thing, where it in fact, it does not.  Having good technique does not necessarily make you an efficient swimmer. ― Of course good technique will help you swim easier and you will look pretty good in the water to your friends and training partners.  The difference is, that if you are efficient, you will have a speed component added to the mix.

Perform Drills at Slow Speeds

I am an advocate of performing drills a at slow speeds.  Though if you cannot also perform them at a quicker pace, you are only teaching yourself to swim slow.  To truly learn a specific skill, whether it be finishing your stroke, or recovering in a relaxed manner, or getting on your side for better hydrodynamics, you will need to have the ability to perform the drill at varying speeds.

There is no doubt that you will need to perform drills slow at first to get a good grasp of exactly what the focus points are and to get a good feel for what you are trying to accomplish.  Once you have done this, try doing the drill faster.  Give yourself four or five effort levels and go through all of them.  Walk before you run…though learn to run!

Just about every pool you go to, you can find someone in the pool that is doing some drills real slow….looking good, not making a splash….then when they start to swim, you see the same slow pace..  The problem with that is they only have one speed because they have not taught themselves how to do the movements at varying speeds, so the skill they learned is “performing movements slow”….as opposed to acquiring a new skill to create greater efficiency.

The Skill Acquisition Model

The Skill Acquisition Model of periodizing your swimming training plan incorporates drills and full-stroke swimming to improve your efficiency.  When figuring out what points in your stroke need to be improved upon, you need to map out a specific training plan to account for your technical needs.

For your training plan, focus on one aspect of your stroke per week.  Maybe even for two to three weeks.  It takes quite a bit of repetition to make a change ― repetition at varying speeds!  If the new movement is not properly acquired, then you will, in a year from now, find yourself trying to make the change again.  A great scenario would be to complete an entire year of training and have acquired 10-12 new and efficient movements.  Plan it out!

In the weekly plan, you should always have your first workout of the week be the “setup” workout.  This is where you spend a lot of time on learning the technique of the drill.  From there, you can implement that drill into your warm-up for the following workouts, or even as part of your main sets.

No Matter what drill you are performing, always follow it with full-stroke swimming.  It is important to apply your gained knowledge of the drill to your full stroke.  You can be as creative as you like;  a simple example of a set to gain a new skill could be:

3 x   [   4 x 50 Drill  10-15 seconds rest
         [   1 x 100 Swim  15-20 seconds rest

The speed component of a set like this could be implemented into each set of 50’s.  By increasing the speed of each 50, then also increasing the speed of each 100, you will be able to better acquire the skill you are working on.  Another variation would be to increase speed after every few strokes.  Just remember, that when going through the varying speeds, you must maintain your stroke integrity.  Do nott be afraid to push it a bit….just stay in control.

How to Measure Swim Efficiency

There are quite a few good tests out there to measure your efficiency; counting strokes is only a part of this.  One of the simplest tests to use is what I call the 200 Overall Test.  It is straightforward and can provide you with some great feedback as to where you are in regards to your efficiency.

Swim 200 meters (or yards) at a solid pace.  You should be able to maintain your speed throughout the full 200.  You will need to record three different pieces of information:

Stroke Length:  Record your stroke count for the entire 200. ― Get an exact count. 

Speed:  Record your Time.  Be exact and convert it to seconds. 

Effort:  Record your heart rate at the end of the 200.  (check out the Best Heart Rate Monitors)

Now add the three results together.  This total will be the benchmark for you efficiency.  Your goal will be to get the total down.  ― Here is an example:

160Strokes
180Seconds  (converted from 3 minutes)
155Beats per minute
495Total

Each of these components provides you with information regarding the state of your swimming.  Ideally, it would be great if you could get all three components lower every time.  But the reality is that getting one of them down improves your total…as long as the others do not go up.

If I could summarize this article into a few pertinent points, they would be:

  • Swimming efficiency is a factor of distance per stroke, speed and effort.
  • Know what the drill you are performing is doing for your stroke
  • Teach yourself to perform drills and full-stroke swimming at varying speeds

Measure your improvement regularly.

Good luck….and become efficient.

Improve Your Swim by Determining Your Aerobic Swimming Pace

Regardless of your swimming experience, developing a solid swimming pace for your triathlon competition(s) is essential for a balanced and effective triathlon performance. And the faster your pace, the better the overall results.

What is Aerobic Pace

However, don’t get a “faster swimming pace” confused with simply “swimming fast.” When we talk of pace, we are referring to your aerobic pace, specifically a pace based on your aerobic training level. Furthermore, the faster you are able to swim at your aerobic pace and the longer you are able to maintain that pace, the better your overall triathlon performance. And in a triathlon, this means a faster swim leg without jeopardizing your upcoming bike and run.

In this article, we will show you the necessary components to develop and fine tune your open water swim pace based on your current level of swimming. This will also include learning how to design your own swim program based your specific swimming goals.

How to Calculate Aerobic Pace

In swimming, your aerobic swim pace will be a result of your average 50 yard or meter freestyle pace or your 100 yard or meter freestyle pace over a given distance. And the given distance will be determined by the particular triathlon for which you will be training.

First, what is the distance of the triathlon for which you will be training? Sprint, Olympic, Half Iron, or Iron Distance? Knowing this is necessary to determine the swim distance you must perform in order to find your aerobic swim pace. (see chart below for a break down of Triathlon distances and test swims.)

Race DistanceSwim DistanceTest Swim
Distance
PaceDivide Your Total
Time by …
Sprint Tri500-800 yds500 yds50 yd pace10
Olympic Tri1500 yds1000 yds50 yd pace20
Half Iron Tri2000 yds1500 yds100 yd pace10
Iron Dist Tri4000 yds2000 yds100 yd pace20

For example, let us say you are training for a Sprint Distance Triathlon. The swim portion of the race usually covers a distance of approximately ¼ to ½ mile. In yards, this transfers to about 500-800 yards (or meters). Therefore, your training or test swim should cover at least 500 yards (or meters). The key is to swim this distance relaxed. Not slow, not fast, but at a nice pace with which you feel comfortable. And you want record your time for this swim. After a good warm-up, begin the swim. At the end of the swim, record your total time. Then divide that total time by 10 (a 500 yd swim is made up of 10 x 50’s) and the result will be your 50 yd swim pace. Therefore, if you swam your 500 freestyle in 7 minutes and 30 seconds, your aerobic 50 yd swim pace would be .45 seconds (7.5 minutes divided by 10).  

Track Your Progress

In order to mark your improvement, once, every three weeks you want to perform this test to assess your improvement.

Once you have determined your aerobic pace, you then have a base-time to use during your swim training and specific swim sets. However, your goal is to improve this aerobic pace. 

Therefore, challenge yourself! 

Looking at the results from the example above, if you are given a set of 10 x 50’s freestyle on an interval of one minute, you should be able to hold a pace of 45 seconds per 50 with relative ease. This would also allow you 15 seconds rest between each swim. However, we want to make this a challenge so try and hold 42 seconds for each 50 yd. freestyle you perform. You will be surprised how easy it is to swim just three seconds faster per 50. And you will be even more delighted when you realized you’ve just improved your overall 500 yd. swim time by 15 seconds! 

Finally, during these specific aerobic swim sets, take note of your heart rate. Your goal is to try and keep your heart rate within it’s aerobic range during these type of sets. Check some of the top triathlon heart rate monitors.

How to Train for the Swim Portion of the Triathlon

Most triathletes, regardless of their swimming ability or background, feel the only way to achieve swimming speed, in an effort to improve their overall triathlon performance, is to swim harder and faster during the swimming workout. But if you are not careful, training too hard can adversely affect your overall triathlon-training regimen.

So training hard is bad?

Well, that depends.

If you are a competitive swimmer, not necessarily, for much of your training will consist of hard, anaerobic, interval based training. However, you must remember, you are not a competitive swimmer, regardless of your background or ability. You are a triathlete and should be thinking, training and racing like a triathlete. Therefore, as a triathlete, training like a swimmer, hard and anaerobic, can negatively affect your overall aerobic fitness level as well as your over all performance in a triathlon.

That is not to say swimming isn’t a difficult sport. Even swimming easy may actually be difficult and seem hard to an individual with little or no swimming experience. And occasionally, speed work, which does consist of hard swimming, is necessary and beneficial to overall improvement. But, the majority of the swim workout for a triathlete should be long, comfortable and relatively easy…you know…AEROBIC! And here lies the difference between the swimmer and the triathlete training for the swim.

To begin with, it is a simple fact – competitive swimmers swim hard and fast in workouts in order to swim fast in a swim meet. They push their heart rates to maximum levels, and do so for a majority of the workout. As so often is the case, triathletes will join a masters swim program made up of primarily competitive swimmers and without knowing any better, train according to their needs. Therefore, they too will swim fast during workouts pushing their heart rates to their maximum level in order to improve the swim leg of a triathlon, as well as, their overall triathlon performance. 

When a swimmer competes in a swim meet, he or she may swim three or four events over the course of an eight hour day with the average event lasting anywhere from 25 SECONDS to 2 MINUTES! They will swim each event, climb out of the pool, dry off and REST, until their next event – sometimes two hours later. 

Unfortunately, a triathlete cannot afford the luxury of resting after the swim portion of a triathlon. Come race day, a triathlete will perform the swim leg of a triathlon at a fast pace (based on their training), exit the water running, strip off a wetsuit, pull on a pair of cleats and helmet, hop on a bicycle and head out on the road. Not only does the triathlete not get a chance to rest after the swim, he/she will most likely perform the cycling leg with a heart rate considerably higher than the rate at which they typically train on the bike. A physiological factor that can negatively affect the upcoming run and overall racing performance.

During my early years racing in triathlon, I fell into an all-to-common habit for many “swimmers:” I would go all out on the swim, hang on during the bike and bonk during the run, only to spend the post race celebration with an IV of saline stuck in my arm. But, in defense of my pasts performances, and based on my past knowledge of swimming, I only knew of one way to train. My frustrations led me to consider quitting triathlon all together. But I felt like there was an answer. After seeking the advice from my old swim coach, and some deductive thought, I realized….

Wouldn’t it seem logical for a triathlete competing in a triathlon to slow his/her swim pace down conserving their energy for the bike leg? Makes sense, doesn’t it? This can only benefit his/her cycling and running performance of the triathlon. And if your racing is a direct result of your training, then doesn’t seem make further sense to a base your training accordingly? 

Let’s explore this a little further.

Say you are a 40 year old individual and you have been preparing for your first triathlon of the season. For the past eighteen weeks, your training has looked something like this…


Swim: 3 times per week, hard fast interval sets
Bike: Aerobic training with some speedwork, Avg. training heart rate 125 bpm
Run: Aerobic training with some speedwork, Avg. training heart rate 135 bpm


Everything has been clicking. Your running and cycling have been right on and you have been swimming faster than ever! Come race time, you are ready. The horn sounds the race begins and off you go into the water. At the close of the swim, you exit the water, glance down at your heart rate monitor and notice it is reading 175 bpm. Upon beginning the bike leg, your heart rate is now 50 beats per minute above your average bicycle training rate of 125 bpm! Fortunately, within a mile or two into the ride your heart rate will drop, but probably not the full 50 beats. More than likely, it will settle in at about 145-155 beats per minute for a 20-30 beat recovery. Now, if this were an Olympic Distance triathlon, you would be riding the 25 mile/40k bike coarse with a heart rate still 20-30 beats higher than your training rate! And this could mark the beginning of the end, and you will probably pay the price on the run. 

Now, let’s stop here for just a moment and think about this scenario. You have been training for this race diligently for eighteen weeks and your average bike training rate has been around 125 bpm. Now that it is race time, you are riding the 25 miles coarse with your heart rate at 145-155 bpm. 

Why?

Looking back, how many rides did you actually go on during your eighteen weeks of training where you road the entire ride at a rate of 145-155 bpm…and kept up that pace up for 25 miles? Perhaps during a speed work session doing sprints…but the entire 25 miles? And even if you believed you could train at that heart rate level, attempting such a task would most likely leave you burned out or worse…injured! Based on this scenario, do you see how you might be exhausted or even finished by the time you begin the run?

And it all began with the swim! 

Now, let’s go back and recreate this scenerio, but change a few of the components. If you were to exit the water in the same race with your heart rate closer to 140 or 150 beats per minute, and you recovered the same 20-30 bpm during the bike ride, your heart rate would settle in somewhere between 120 and 130 bpm – your normal bicycle training rate! Wouldn’t this leave you better prepared for the run and your training rate of 135 beats per minute?

Therefore, in answer to our original question above, yes, it would seem logical for a triathlete competing in a triathlon to slow his/her swim pace down conserving their energy for the bike leg. This could only benefit his/her cycling and running performance of the triathlon.

And if your racing is a direct result of your training, then it makes further sense to base your training accordingly.

So tomorrow morning, before you push off the wall to begin that impossible freestyle set, ask yourself one question…

Do I want to be a fast swimmer, or a fast triathlete? 

Hopefully, you will not make the same mistakes I once did and choose the former.

7 Wetsuit Tips for Race Day

A list of tips and strategies regarding the triathlon wetsuit for the triathlete on race day

The following is a list of tips and strategies regarding the wetsuit that I have learned over the years that may be of some help to you as you approach your upcoming triathlon racing season. If your looking for the best wetsuits, check out our triathlon wetsuit guide.

1. Swim training with your wetsuit

By all means, give your wetsuit a “sea trial”. In fact, I encourage it. Go ahead and take a dip in the pool, lake or ocean with your wetsuit on and swim a few strokes. It will help you develop a feel for swimming while wearing this new rubber contraption. It will probably feel funky for some of you, but fear not. Even when you think you are dragging in the water, you will actually be swimming faster.  

I do not suggest you wear it during your swim training on a consistent basis. Once is enough.  In fact, wearing your wetsuit during a normal swim workout could be dangerous. As we approach the summer month’s water temperatures will rise and the possibility of dehydration and even overheating is very real. Besides, you will always have time before the start of a race to hop in the water and get in an easy warm-up.

2. Be very careful pulling on your wetsuit

Typically, the wetsuit rubber is very “tender” and can tear very easily.  If you pull too hard on the wetsuit with your fingers, you could wind up pulling out small pieces of the rubber.

How do I know this? I have done it. I usually do the traditional  “gather from the bottom and slowly pull” routine similar to putting on a pair of long socks.

3. Attempting to put on your wetsuit when wet or sweaty

Attempting to put on your wetsuit when wet or sweaty can be very difficult. And such situations usually occur the morning of the race. Often times, folks will take a dip in the water before the race and warm-up without the wetsuit. If you do you will need to towel dry before attempting to put your wetsuit on.  

When would you possibly put a wetsuit on when you are sweaty? Again, just before a race and after your “pre-race” warm-up.  Most of us warm-up before a race with a jog, or a spin on the bicycle.  Inevitably, as our body temperature rises, so does our level of perspiration.  

This will make it extremely difficult to slip the wetsuit on and could lead to excessive pulling on the suit and possible tearing.  If you do insist on warming up with a jog or bike spin, take a quick dip in the water to cool you off then towel dry. As we approach the summer months, certain areas of the country typically experience high humidity and the early mornings can become very damp. Even normal walking can cause you to perspire.

The reason being, the air is so full of moisture, evaporation is minimal and you perspiration basically has no place to go. In these situations you will find it difficult to pull the wetsuit on. Again, towel dry as best you can prior to slipping the wetsuit on.  But keep an eye on the situation. If the race is a larger event, with the transition area located in a hotel parking lot, grab your wetsuit and head on inside the air-conditioned hotel lobby.  When you cool off…pull her on.  Again, I have done this!  It may be a good idea to pack an extra towel in your diddy bag as well.

4. Go to the bathroom before you put on a wetsuit

AND IF YOU CAN’T…MAKE YOURSELF! I am not kidding here folks. I have almost missed the start of a race because of this. Even if you typically go to the bathroom first thing in the morning, you will have to go again. And if luck prevails, it will be right before the start of the race. Therefore, use the port-a-potty at the race and do so BEFORE you put on your wetsuit!

5. Chafing caused by the wetsuit

Perhaps the most susceptible spot on the body for wetsuit chafing is the neck area. Other areas may include those where the wetsuit trim is in contact with the skin, such as under the arms on a sleeveless suit.  And the best way to prevent chafing is by applying a salve or ointment to these areas of contact after putting on the wetsuit.  

However, and at the risk of sounding redundant, do not use a petroleum-based jelly. It could eat through your wetsuit.  I use KY Jelly…it is water based. You can pick it up at any drug store. Some folks will also apply a small amount of salve around the ankles to help when slipping the suit.  I have even heard of individuals who spray PAM around the foot, ankle and calf area for the same reasons. This step is up to you. Do what works for you!

6. Pulling off the wetsuit after the swim

Upon exiting the water during the swim portion of the triathlon, pull off your goggles and cap, and then immediately grab your zipper chord from behind and unzip your wetsuit.

While running towards your bicycle, begin pulling your arms out of the sleeves so by the time you reach your bike, the upper portion of your wetsuit is gathered at the waist.

Once at your bike, pull the wetsuit down around your ankles and step out of it as best you can. This is where the salve or PAM may help.

7. Post-race wetsuit care

Finally, hose off your wetsuit after the race especially if the swim was in salt water. However, even if the swim is in fresh water, it won’t hurt to hose her down. Then hang her up in the shower. She will drip dry.

And that is all folks!  If you have some tips that I have left out, please let me know so we can add them to the list. Until then, Good luck at the races!

Do You Need a Wetsuit?

When did we start wearing wetsuits in Triathlon?

In the early-to-mid 1990’s, the use of the wetsuit emerged as a source of controversy in the sport of triathlon.  Originally, the wetsuit was introduced to the sport as a safety tool to help the triathlete survive cold waters and prevent hypothermia during the swimming portion of a race. 

When a swimmer is submerged in water, the water flows into the suit settling between the rubber and the body.  Initially, the natural temperature of the body will warm the entrapped water.  As the triathlete begins to swim, the body temperature rises, causing the temperature of the water inside the suit to rise as well.  Thus, the increased water temperature keeps the swimmer warm during the event. However, it wasn’t long before triathletes discovered the wetsuit served an even greater purpose in triathlon…

…SPEED ENHANCER.

Wetsuits Increase Swim Speed

That’s right.  It was quickly discovered that the wetsuit provided the necessary buoyancy to lift a swimmer high enough in the water to enhance the overall swim performance. The theory being, the higher you are in the water, the less water resistance when swimming and the faster the overall swim performance…much like that of a speed boat traveling on a plane.  Needless to say, controversy arose and the tri-politicians got involved.

Were the wetsuits being worn to protect against the colder waters or were triathletes simply using the wetsuit as a tool to gain a competitive edge in the water thus improving their overall triathlon performance?

Absolutely!

The wetsuit was being worn as a cold water preventative and as a means of gaining that competitive edge.  But, despite the performance advantages resulting from the wetsuit, the safety of the swimmer came first and the issue seemed settled.

That is until the sport of triathlon began to grow and wetsuits were being worn by triathletes in all types of waters, warm as well as cold.  Obviously, speed became the motivating factor behind the wearing of wetsuits as capitalism and free enterprise inevitably entered the picture.  Manufacturers got involved and the race for the lightest, tightest and most maneuverable wetsuit was underway.

To combat the growing popularity of the wetsuit and its newfound place in the sport of triathlon, tri-officials voted in a temperature ceiling.  In other words, it was decided that the temperature of the water prior to the race start would be the determining factor as to whether wetsuits could be worn.  However, it seemed the powers-that-be could not decide on a temperature suitable for the majority.  One day it was 72? the next it was 78? and the flip flop continued.  

Types of Wetsuits

To keep up with the changing rules, wetsuit makers developed a variety of styles to match the conditions of the water.  The Springsuit, sleeveless and cut above the knee, was designed for warmer waters, while still providing the necessary buoyancy.  

The Longjohns, sleeveless but full length, provided warmth and ease of arm mobility.

Finally, Fullsuit included the sleeves and was designed to provide maximum warmth.  All three are still used today, but the controversy seems to have died out.

When choosing a wetsuit, so much depends upon your geographic location and the conditions or the water in which you will be swimming.   For races in colder waters, i.e. Escape From Alcatraz,  Ironman Canada, a full suit should be worn.  Just remember in warmer waters wearing a wetsuit can still leave you dehydrated. So make sure you drink, drink, drink, once on the bike.

The Conclusion about Wetsuits

Go Ahead and Get One!

Check out our triathlon wetsuit buying guide and top triathlon wetsuits.

I remember when I first entered this sport, while living in the southeast where water temperatures reach the mid to high 80’s, and thinking anyone who wore a wetsuit in a triathlon was silly.  Then I was informed that they actually make you swim faster because of the buoyancy.

Well, that confirmed it. I was a swimmer by-golly and there was no way I would ever use such a prop to improve my swimming.

I didn’t need one!

That is until I feasted on a nice healthy portion of humble pie during the swim portion of my second-ever triathlon.  One of the athletes (kind of a jerk and one helluva a traithlete!) of whom I typically enjoyed blowing out of water during swim practice…was right on my tail during the swim!!!  And climbed out of the water right behind me.   Needless to say I was somewhat displeased.  Consequently, that next Monday, I was on the phone ordering my new rubber body suit. And I will never go back.

Now I tell my swimming buddies who suffer from the same ego problem I did in the beginning, “buy the damn wetsuit, it will make you swim even faster!”.

Regardless of the advantages a wetsuit provides, it has also allowed many a non-swimmer to enter this wonderful sport, and remain.  It may have even saved some lives during those traditional, frothy mass starts!  And really, that is what is most important.

Buy a wetsuit and enjoy!  It will be one of the best investments you will make.

Balance and Rotation Swim Drill

The Balance and Rotation drill is an excellent swim drill that helps the swimmer develop balanced freestyle stroke.

Before I begin, I want to say this is not “the” Balance and Rotation Drill but “a” Balance and Rotation Drill. There are number of drills out there that teach balance and rotation during the freestyle stroke and this is just one of them. However, you will find out why I have never really known an official name for this drill. By all means, if you come up with one that explains it in a few “catchy” terms, holler!

This drill is a little more complicated and should only be done if you are feeling very comfortable with previous drills discussed. If you are an experienced swimmer, you will also find this drill both revealing and helpful.

Shoulder Rotation While Swimming

Shoulder rotation is a very important part to any freestyle stroke. It basically lends to the overall efficiency of the stroke, helps us to breathe a little easier during the stroke and more importantly, allows one to extend further per stroke. Balance too, is very important and I speak of the equal distribution of power with both arms during the underwater portion of the stroke.

Not only will this drill help you develop better shoulder rotation during the freestyle, it will also show you which arm is stronger and which one is weaker when swimming freestyle! Thus helping you achieve better balance in the water. Personally, I love this drill because I found it to be incredibly helpful.

Now read this carefully for this drill can be a little tricky. But, once you practice it a few times, it will become…well…a little easier.

How to Do The Drill

This drill is actually broken down into four parts, all of which include swimming with one arm. And you will use both arms during the drill:

1. Swim with the Left arm, Breath to the left side. The right arm is by your side not out in front of you. This will be written as L st (left stroke), L br (left breath).

2. Swim with Left arm, Breathe to the right side. The right arm is by your side, not out in front of you. Written as L st, R br

3. Swim with Right arm, Breath to the right side. The left arm is by your side, not out in front of you. Written as R st, R br

4. Swim with Right arm, Breath to the left side. The left arm is by your side, not out in front of you. R st, L br

Now, if it will make you feel more comfortable, practice the arm and breathing motion standing in your living room or simply standing in the shallow end of the pool, bent over at the waist, face down in the water. When learning this drill, by all means, use fins to add the support to the legs. As I said, this drill may be tough to get used to. And it will always be a tough one to do. But it will help tremendously.

Sample Drill Set

16 x 25’s, completing steps 1 – 4 four times in the order above. 20 seconds rest between each 25 yard swim.

View any of the other four drills below:
Thumb to Thigh
Touch and Go (aka Catch-up Stroke)
Closed Fist
Balance and Rotation