Whether looking to break an age-group record or go a personal best time, Masters swimmers put in countless hours in the pool, on dry land and through proper nutrition to achieve their personal goals. When it the time comes to race there is another component that the world of swimming looks to in order to maximize performance: the suit.
Right now, technical suits are the hype, in the news, the buzz on pool deck and are priced at hundreds of dollars. So why make the big purchase?
Unlike a typical lycra or polyester training suit, the technical race suits being developed by many of the sport's top manufacturers (TYR, Speedo, blueseventy, Arena) are high-performance garments that are engineered to control muscle undulation, reduce water absorption, and minimize drag. Also differing from practice suits, most performance suits are now full-bodied from the chest down to the ankle. The suits are designed to be highly compressive, minimizing muscle fatigue. In a nutshell, the suit aids in fast swimming.
In order to find out what suit is best for you, it is advised that you try on a few different suits to get a feel for what will optimize your performance. "The best suit is really the one that fits you well and the one that you are most comfortable in. When you step on the blocks at race time, that is what will count," says Matt Zimmer, Team and Promotions Director for TYR Sport, Inc.
Personal preference plays a huge role in deciding on a suit. Some swimmers prefer to have tight compression on the legs or the chest and end up buying suits that have fabric that caters to these preferences. Other swimmers want to be able to have a full range of movement. For these swimmers, it is best to look for a suit that has more jersey material which will provide more "give." Getting a suit that is just looser will not help your flexibility. Look for a firm, secure fit in which you can still move, bend and flex.
Specific stroke and race durations also play a role in choosing a suit. Many breaststrokers want a full range of motion in their legs in order to bend at the knees and snap around to finish their kick. Butterfliers tend to prefer their suits tighter in the rear while having more give in the shoulder area. Sprinters will want more compression, a tight fitting suit, while a distance swimmer will want more movement for comfort during a longer race.
Due to the lightweight fabric and stress put on the seams when getting in and out of the suits, high-performance or technical suits will only last for a limited number of races. Rinsing your suit with cold water, letting it air dry and then storing in a dry, cool place will extend the life of your suit.
It is important show care when putting on your suit as the nature of the lightweight, high-performance fabric requires time and caution full it on properly. Here are some tips from TYR, the creator of the technical suits A7 and Tracer Rise worn by Olympians Matt Grevers and Amanda Weir, to follow when putting on a full-body suit in order to optimize the its condition and avoid any accidental damage.
1. Place one leg in the suit, making sure seams are correctly positioned at the sides of the legs. (Many swimmers place a plastic grocery bag on the foot for the initial insertion into the suit. This allows the suit to slide easily over the foot and ankle. The bag can them be removed and used for the other leg.)
2. To get the suit over the ankle, gently work the ankle opening over the foot to just above the ankle.
3. Ensure the ankle opening is high enough up the leg to enable the rest of the suit to be pulled up fully, and sit correctly on the body.
4. Gently pull up the suit to just above the knee making sure the material is pulled tight and there are no creases. We recommend pulling with a wide grip across seams, as the seams are the strongest part of the suit. Pulling directly on the fabric may result in damage to the suit.
5. Repeat the process for the other leg, correctly positioning seams and gently pulling the remainder of the suit just above the knee, taking care to eliminate all of the creases.
6. Once the suit is past the knee on both legs, begin pulling it up bit by bit, alternately up each leg.
7. Avoid using your fingernails to pull on the suit.
8. Before attempting to pull the suit over your rear, ensure that the legs have been fully pulled up to the top of the thighs and crotch.
9. Hitch the suit up over your rear and arrange the top of the legs, crotch and seams of the suit so that the suit is comfortable.
10. To fit over the torso, continue gently pulling the suit over the abdomen and lower back until the armholes can be fitted.
11. Be careful while putting arms through the armholes and over the shoulders. Some final adjustments may be made in the length of the suit once the arms are through as skin can restrict the ease of the fabric sliding into proper positions.
12. Make final leg and torso fit adjustments before zipping up the back. When zipping the zipper, be sure to arch your back and squeeze shoulder blades together so the zipper does not make any contact with the skin and snag.
For more information about TYR and TYR products visit www.tyr.com.