Dusting off the wetsuit


Usually at this time of the year wetsuits have been hidden away for quite some time. For many they will have been unused and unloved since the last race of the previous season, in many cases gathering a significant layer of mould.

With the race season quickly approaching it’s time to tackle the wetsuit issue head on. The is because triathletes experience all sorts of issues when they first start wearing them.

Most of these issues stem from the fact that you have just been swimming for 6-7months in a swimming pool with no bodily restriction. Your arms and body have been free to move with ease during this time. When you put your wetsuit on again you can’t expect it to immediately feel the same, your body has now been ‘vacuum packed’ and needs time to adapt.

This is why starting to using them at least 4-6 weeks ahead of your first race is of paramount importance. The most common complaints I hear are about fatigued/sore/tight shoulders, with most only able to a few lengths before this kicks in.


There can be number of reasons for this:

1:The wetsuit has been put on incorrectly 

This can create even more shoulder resistance. There is an art to doing it properly; this can really help save your shoulders a lot of undue stress. See video clip below:

2: The wetsuit is the wrong size

Over time your body shape can change particularly if you’ve lost or gained weight so what worked before might not work now.  It’s best to go to a reputable dealer when buying a wetsuit so you can try them on first and get expert of advice on what might be the most suitable brand for you. You can should also speak to a coach assess your wetsuit to see if it is the right size or what brand might suit you if you are thinking of purchasing one.

3: Pace control goes out of the window

Most get so carried away with the amazing feeling of additional buoyancy they end up swimming their sets way too fast. Frequently I see swimmers puffing and panting at the end of the warm up because they’ve lost all sense of pace control. Take note of your breathing to make sure you are swimming at the right pace because there’s a high chance your perception of effort will be out of sync.

4: Not enough wetsuit time

I would say it takes anything from 4-6 sessions before the wetsuit starts to feel more comfortable. In that time be patient and check all of the above.

5:  You’ve neglected to actively warm up your shoulders properly prior to swimming 

This is where doing to doing simple stretches can work wonders, you can also combine this will some muscle activation exercises with stretch cords or resistance bands which will be of huge value.

I also frequently get asked if wetsuits can be used in swimming pools, the answer is a big yes! My athletes have used wetsuits in our swimming pool for the past 15 years. We usually do this from April onwards, sometimes sooner if I know an athlete is racing abroad at a different time of year. So long as you are careful to rinse them afterwards with clean water they will be fine, they then need to be hung up to try.

Just be very careful of over heating if using them in an indoor pool, we are lucky to have an outdoor heated pool. You can still practice wearing them but be sure to take them off if you get too hot. Even if you only manage 10-15mins its still great practice for the races ahead if you cant get to an open water swim venue.

The other alternative if overheating is a problem is to use a pull buoy, buoyancy shorts or kick pants to simulate the increased buoyancy you feel when wearing a wetsuit. Just make sure the buoyancy is correct for you, some will need more and some will need less. This will all largely be driven by your body position in the water, with some sitting high and others sitting lower. This is why we have a whole range of different sizes of pull buoys; they are not all created equally. Again your coach should be able to advise on the right size for you.


These are terrific swim kit tools that when used in the right way can enhance many swimmers triathlon swim training program. Its rare that any race in the UK is non wetsuit so using tools like these is great race simulation work that helps re-create the level of buoyancy you will feel when you race.

You should also be very careful when putting a wetsuit on; they can rip easily if you are too heavy handed. A lot of the fabrics used can be quite delicate so use a pair of gloves and/or a plastic carrier when putting them on, especially if you have longer nails.

Lastly, all wetsuit usage is enhanced by using some form of wetsuit lubricant. This should be placed around common chaffing areas such as the neck and under the arms. Don’t risk going without because you will end paying dearly for it! It should also be placed around the lower forearm and lower leg, this will help the wetsuit slide off easier when taking it off or simulating a fast transition.