So you bought or rented a wetsuit for an open-water race and now you just have to figure out how to get into and out of it without damaging it. As with all things triathlon, preparation is the key to performance. Hopefully you got the wetsuit well in advance so you could practice putting it on, swimming in it and taking it off.
I was lucky. One of my triathlon mentors, SuperDave, invited me over to his house and walked me through donning and doffing wetsuits well before I actually rented a wetsuit and then bought my own. I’m going to do the same for you in this blog post using text, photos and hyperlinks.
Here are four hints/tips to help you get into and out of your 1st triathlon wetsuit: patience, plastic grocery bags, lubrication and maybe cleaning gloves.
Luckily you put on your wetsuit before the race starts. If donning the wetsuit was done during the race, you would see people swimming beside you wearing something that looks like one of those shredded tires you see in the median of interstate highways. Since you are not under the clock, just take your time and work yourself into the wetsuit. Make sure you work the wetsuit as far up your waist as you can before you try to put your arms into it. If you are wearing a full suit, take your time getting the shoulder and arm area as loose as possible for ease of swimming. Patience, type A triathlete, patience.
Plastic Grocery Bags
This is a trick that almost every triathlete that has ever owned a wetsuit knows and uses. It’s quick, easy and gets your feet and hands through the legs and sleeves of your wetsuit with a minimum of fuss. Just slip your foot or hand into a plastic grocery bag and then slip through the wetsuit.
There are two major produces on the market just for use with triathlon wetsuits: BodyGlide & TriSlide. In my experience these products help a little getting the suit on and help a lot getting the suit off. They are definitely worth using for areas that might get a lot of friction during the swim including neck, ankles and wrists. Triathlete forums also report folks using all kinds of household produces for the same purpose. Check your wetsuit instructions before using any “unusual” products for lubrication.
I’m guessing that you like me were shocked to find out that you can easily tear holes in your triathlon wetsuit with your fingernails. One of my coworkers suggested using household cleaning gloves when putting on your wetsuit. They offer two advantages. First the added grip strength makes working yourself into the suit a bit faster and easier. Second and maybe more important, the gloves give you an extra layer of protection avoiding tearing the suit with your fingernails.
10 solid tips on preparing for a wetsuit legal race. Hint you and your new wetsuit need to get in the water a few times before the race.
A solid 3-minute video on donning a wetsuit.
A Q&A column covering three of the most common issues for new wetsuit users.
An exceptionally complete article on preparing for race day including wetsuit tips. If you’re new to triathlon you need to read this. If your a experienced triathlete, please pass this article on to novices.
This article putting on a wetsuit as well as cleaning, storing and repairing tears.
In researching this article I discovered that wetsuits are supposted to be hung folded in the middle to keep the shoulders from stretching out. Below are links to two wetsuit hanger: one commercially available and one DIY.
I rented a wetsuit from this company for a weekend training camp years ago. I found them to be super user friendly. Renting is a good solution if you only have one wetsuit legal race in your calendar and haven’t decided if you want to buy a wetsuit yet.