Q: “Is it easier to put on a wetsuit when it’s wet?” Rick G., Hollywood, Md.
A: In my experience, there really is no easy way to put on a wetsuit. In fact, I’ve sometimes felt that pushing, pulling and squeezing myself into my wetsuit was the hardest part of the race. Some might suggest that putting on a wetsuit in the water — where both you and the suit are wet — is easier, but I can’t begin to image the athleticism and endurance required to manage that feat in water.
Unless you are clad in a skin suit, dive skin, or other skintight clothing that will allow the suit to slide easier, it is recommended that both you and your wetsuit be either wet or dry. The most difficult scenario is trying to wedge a wet body into a dry wetsuit, or to coax a damp wetsuit onto dry skin.
If you are wet or sweaty, trinewbies.com suggests cooling off and towel drying before attempting to put on your wetsuit, as wet or sweaty skin will make it “extremely difficult to slip the wetsuit on and could lead to excessive pulling on the suit and possible tearing.” Find a cool, shady spot or, better yet, if the transition area is located in a hotel parking lot, head into the air-conditioned lobby to put on your suit.
According to greensurfshop.com, “the hardest part about putting a wetsuit on is getting your feet through the legs.” The easiest solution to this problem is to put a plastic grocery bag on your foot before sliding it into the leg of the suit. Once your foot is through, remove the bag and repeat on the other leg.
“The best part about this trick,” greensurfshop.com adds, “is that it puts less stress on the seams, making your expensive wetsuit last longer!”
Take care to be extremely gentle when putting on your wetsuit as the rubber can easily tear if you pull too hard and your fingernails can dig out small chunks of your suit. Triathlon wetsuits are especially fragile as they are “not coated with a nylon coating on the exterior of the neoprene,” pleasuresports.com warns.
Once both feet are through the suit, gather the material at the ankles and slowly work upward toward your waist so that there are no gaps between your body and the suit. “If [the groin] area is not snug, you will have tightness in the chest, shoulders, neck and arms,” notes pleasuresports.com.
Continue to pull the wetsuit up around your chest and put your arms into the sleeves. Xterrawetsuits.comrecommends starting at the wrists and working any extra material up into your shoulders, eliminating any air pockets or gaps between your wetsuit and your armpit to ensure full range of motion.
It’s a good idea to have someone help you zip your wetsuit to eliminate unnecessary stress on the zipper and to prevent the zipper from getting caught on the neoprene. If you’re going solo, grasp the base of the zipper with one hand, reach back for the zipper cord with the other hand, and pull upward.
Once the wetsuit is zipped, Xterrawetsuits.com recommends bending over at the waist and pulling the ripples near your stomach away from your body to increase comfort in your shoulder and neck area.
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As I See Fit
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Sherri Leimkuhler is from Eldersburg and is an Ironman triathlete with extensive experience in fitness and health. Her column appears on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month.