British and European Masters record holder Helen Gorman gives her thoughts on why Masters swimmers should wear modern textile bodysuits for competitions.
Textile bodysuits are faster than skin
Textile fabrics are faster than skin in the water.
Add the compression benefits of streamlining the body into a technical suit, and racing with as much skin covered as possible becomes faster than swimming with exposed skin. However, plenty of Masters swimmers don’t wear the latest textile suits.
The key reasons swimmers don’t wear technical suits seem to be price and the time it takes to get into them.
Being forced to “buy before you try” also makes purchasing a suit daunting. With price tags ranging anywhere from £100 to £350, swimmers want to know that the benefits promised by a manufacturer will actually make a difference, and what you get for £350 that you don’t get in a £30 training suit or even a £100 bodysuit.
When it comes to selecting the right suit for you, look for the following features and benefits that mean you’re getting a high-quality suit:
- Compression: A key one for masters swimmers who can effectively make themselves smaller and more streamlined in the water with the help of compressive fabrics. Suits should take up to 20mins to get on when they are new! And not all body suits automatically offer good all-over compression.
- Welded/bonded seams: This renders the suit virtually stitch-less and eliminates points of drag. A bonded suit will be faster than a stitched one, but it will also be more expensive.
- Lightweight and quick drying fabric: A lighter weight suit will dry quickly if you want to wear it for more than one race. Never use a hand dryer, it can melt the bonding if you have a stitch-less suit. Heavier fabrics tend to offer more compression but are aimed at the bigger, faster more muscular swimmer.
- Nonslip gel leg grippers: Gel leg grippers circle the inside of each leg opening and hold your suit in place, preventing it from riding up or creating drag-increasing ripples in the fabric. If the suit isn’t tight on your leg it will slow you down.
- Hydrophobic treatments: The best suits will repel water for a certain amount of time. They shouldn’t become heavy or waterlogged by the end of your race.
- Comfort: Compressive suits won’t be the most comfortable necessarily, but shouldn’t be uncomfortable to the point of affecting your swim. If you wear a suit too big you’ll lose the benefits of wearing it, but most brands or swim stores offer really good advice on this over the phone or in store.
FINA rules appear to be sticking with the current textiles without zips and no covering of the shoulders or arms (for now).
There seems to be no immediate chance of men’s suits reverting to torso coverage either, so the current format of jammers and kneeskin suits are here for a while. You can buy a suit today with little chance of the rules making it illegal over the next two years.
There are no rules that say you have to wear a body suit and only those aiming to break records really need to pay close attention to the most up to date rules, but if you can swim faster by investing in a bit of technology it has to be worth it considering the investment of time, money and energy to go to meets.