How and why a tech suit can help you swim faster
Recently, in an online Masters swimming forum, the conversation spun to the topic of technical swimsuits. I read confusion in some of the posters’ comments. “How do I pick just one suit among a multiplying array?” There were complaints from some men, especially those who recalled the days of full-body neck to ankle or waist to ankle suits. Guys are limited to “briefs, jammers, and shaving.” By “tech suit” we're talking about suits made since 2009 and have been approved by the international governing body—FINA. What can a tech suit do for you?
It's impossible in the space of this article to give a fair evaluation of suits. Multiply the present suit variety times the individual body types of Masters swimmers from 18 to 98 years; a book might be written. But here are the typical questions we keep hearing from swimmers who, perhaps for the first time, are curious about what a tech suit can do for them.
Compression: What's that about? And what's it good for?
All technical suits offer some kind and quality of compression. Compression offers a number of advantages: increased circulation, assistance with recovery, and alignment. Suit panels target large muscle groups and aid blood flow. Compression supports body alignment and the shaping of the body to decrease drag. Of course this is less important for men in briefs and jammers than it is for ladies in shoulder-to-knee suits.
Seams: Sew, what's the difference?
Getting rid of drag is every suit-makers goal. Flat stitching keeps the suit closer to the body. One suit-maker boasts a multiple stitches per inch technique that further flattens out the seam. Ultrasonic and heat bonded seams make seams almost disappear. At certain key stress areas of the suit, designers will have some stitching to add strength, but you can barely see the stitching. Think of your tech suit as a second layer of skin.
Water Repellant Fabric: Is that legal?
One suit-maker touts a suit that is the least permeable on the market. Expect lightweight textiles that, though permeable, are water repellent. These have passed the guidelines set by FINA. The fabrics are described as hydrophobic since they scare water away, thus reducing drag. All tech suits have a combination of polyester, nylon, elastane, LYCRA™ and spandex. Recently fabrics with carbon fiber have been introduced to give more strength and structure to compression.
Longevity: How many races can I expect?
Swimmers will always ask, “How long will the suit last?” I have only seen one suit-maker even suggest an answer: up to 11 races. Some of you know the answer from experience, and I think suit-makers under-promise here. But there are ways to make your suit last. We urge tech suit owners to take special care, and that means getting the chlorine out as soon as you can, and all the chlorine you can. Unless you have multiple races close together, avoid wearing it around during the meet like loungewear. After use, put it in a sink of cool water for a few minutes, then lay it flat on a rack or towel to dry. Avoid hand-wringing and those well-intended suit spinning machines. These only speed the breakdown of the fabric.
Price: How much is it going to cost?
Older models will be less expensive. Ladies' kneeskins can cost from $120 to more than $500. One manufacturer wants to put the swimmer in a suit, cap, and goggle system and the price reflects it. Men's jammers are less costly—in the range of just under $100 to $350 for a suit with all the latest features.
Backs: Just for the ladies...
Suits come in closed-back and open-back styles. Straps are flat and wide for control and support. Some have elastic in the straps, some suits rely on the flexibility built into the whole suit to give the straps some stretch. But it's the whole suit that flexes for an efficient, snug, second-skin fit.
Fit: What works for me?
In order to tie all the advantages together—compression, draglessness, seamlessness, alignment, body shaping, water-repellancy—tech suits are worn tightly. Sizing from manufacturer to manufacturer varies. Try before you buy. Get good advice. Talk to your coach. Measure yourself and study sizing charts. A tech suit bought quickly, might not be so quick in the pool. A tech suit that doesn't fit, that restricts your movement, in which you can't breathe, or a tech suit that's loose, is a suit that's not working for you.
At All American Swim Supply we talk to swimmers and coaches every day about swimming and about swimsuits that can put your form, technique, training, and fitness to work. We partner with U.S. Masters Swimmers because we know and love swimming. You can be faster; a tech suit can help do that for you. We would welcome a conversation with you about a tech suit that can work for you. Contact us at www.allamericanswim.com or 1-800-552-7946.
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