Wetsuit Adaptation


Posted by Coach Mark Sortino

One of the most common issues with triathlon swimming is the uncomfortable feeling most athletes experience when swimming in a full wetsuit in a race. Certainly, there can be many factors that cause this: wrong size wetsuit, wetsuit incorrectly worn, aged and worn-out wetsuit, poor or little-to-no warm up, etc. There is an additional one that we’ll discuss today: poor or no adaptation to the wetsuit prior to race.

As with all of our training, we want to increase our race specificity as we get closer to the race. For example, if it’s a long-course triathlon, then we start going longer within those final few months in our training in all three disciplines. The same philosophy should be applied to swimming with a wetsuit. We need time to get used to wearing it and how it affects our swimming. You DO swim differently with one on!

Here’s my recommendation:

  • 3 Weeks Out: Swim ~30% of your sessions in a pool in the wetsuit. Ideally you would swim the entire session in one, however, some pools are so warm that it could cause athletes to overheat. So I always have athletes, “…Swim until you’re too hot, and then take off the wetsuit.” Introduce sighting in warm up & cool down and in some drill sessions by sighting every other stroke.
  • 2 Weeks Out: Swim 50% of your sessions in a pool in the wetsuit. Continue to work on sighting more by increasing the time you sight every other stroke.
  • 1 Week Out: Swim all or most of your final sessions in the wetsuit. Start visualizing fast starts and settling in to your pace and sight every other stroke.

For all weeks, try and get some open water swim practice as well.

This example of adapting to your wetsuit leading into a race will help you learn how to swim with your wetsuit, specifically as it affects your balance, your kick, your catch and your sighting. I guarantee it will improve your swim leg in the race!

~ Coach Mark Sortino

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