The WHY, WHEN and HOW of Technical Racing Suits
Technical racing suits have been around for a number of years in a wide array of styles. Just ask your coach what they wore in high school or college - and watch the nostalgia wash over them.
Why we wear tech suits is to gain a competitive advantage over the typical “Team Suit” or “Practice Suits”. Polyester suits last but are a slower fabric in the water. Lycra suits are faster in the water but don’t last as long. A tech suit is designed to only be worn for racing and preferably only worn for the most important races you will be in. Our stance on the use of tech suits is that they are SPECIAL, and only to be worn at SPECIAL times. If you wear the suit every single weekend, at every meet, for every event - that suit stops being special.
The younger the swimmer, the less the “technical” advantage will be noticed and more the “mental” advantage will be realized. A young swimmer who hasn’t perfected certain elements of their stroke technique or matured enough physically may not be rewarded by the suits technical advances (lower drag and body compression). That same young swimmer will be rewarded by the mental aspect of wearing something that feels different than their team suit. The awesome feeling of putting on a special suit and now feeling like Batman is an awesome power - and usually more potent than the actual technical aspects of the suit. This is the same swimmer that when putting on a new tech suit drops 4 seconds in a 50 free and thinks “Oh my gosh, this suit is amazing”. At that point we say “No - that was you. The suit helped you cut a few tenths of seconds, the rest was your swimming”.
The older, more physically mature, and better technical swimmer - the more impact the suit will have - in the technical world.
Many states have set specific rules limiting what level of tech suit certain age group swimmers can wear in competition. This is to limit those swimmer being pressured into buying suits that are not appropriate for their age, swimming ability, and physical maturity. Many of these rules point to if the suit has “stitched” or “bonded seams”. This refers to the how the suit is constructed. As two fabric panels are brought together to create the suit - lesser expensive suits have seams that are stitched together (just like a team suit), where as the higher price suits’ seams are “bonded”. On these higher priced suits there is no stitching, which lowers the drag the suits has when traveling through the water. Ask your coach what rules apply to you in the state you swim.
When we choose to wear these suits should be between you and your coach. As stated above - a special suit stops being special when it is used often. A mid-season taper meet, a last chance qualifier, or your end of season championship meet are the perfect times to wear your tech suit. Other meets during the season are when you wear your team suit. Speak to your coach about their goals for your swimmer, their season plan and when you should “suit up” for a special meet. Trust your coach as they have your best interests in mind and plan to help your swimmer succeed in the season - not just an Invite in early October.
How we wear these suits is a touchy subject. Please keep the following points in mind:
- Throw out the size number. No two suit styles or manufacturers will be similar in sizing. Some may vary a size number up or down, where some may vary a few numbers. Don’t buy a 26 tech suit because your swimmers practice suit is a 26. You could be in for a big disappointment when you get your suit - It’s probably going to be the wrong size. For sizing, work with people from Splash to help you narrow down the size. In many cases you will be able to try on the sample suit to help you get the size you need.
- Put it on correctly. A dry body is the best for getting these suits on. These suits are not the easiest thing to get on - especially for female swimmers. Our rule of thumb is if it takes more than 15 minutes to get into the suit, it is too small. Pulling the suit up fully is a must, the lower the suit is on your hips the less length you will have through the rest of your body.
- Treat it like a $500 swimsuit, because in many cases, it is. Keep sharp objects away from it. Long fingernails are a suits worst enemy. Try to keep nails trimmed, or if you need to have nails to help with your hunter/gatherer existence, try to pull the suit on using the pads of your fingers. Care should be taken when putting the suit on and taking it off. Rips can be avoided by taking your time and reminding any teammates who are helping you into the suit to also take their time. Wear warm-ups or shorts with the suit, as swim meets have bleachers that have sharp edges looking to rip your special suit. The sides of pool deck can also be damaging for a suit. Sitting on the edge to slide in, sitting on a block waiting for starts to begin, and pulling yourself out of the water are all moments when damage can occur.
- To wash or not wash? Your best friend when wanting to extend the life of your suit is clean water. We want to get the chlorine out of this suit as soon as possible. Once rinsed, dry your suit by laying flat to dry after each use. Do not iron, blow dry, or throw it in your dryer. Don’t hang the suit to dry as this will put tension on the suit and stretch it out prematurely. Do not use fabric soap or detergent to wash the suit, and try not to use shampoo when wearing the suit. These suits have special water repellent treatments that can be effected by these other chemicals. Just water, lay flat, and store in a cool dry place.
- How many swims? This is the most complicated question in all of swimming (other than how do I go faster). There is not a scientific number of races these suits are “good for”. Do you swim the 50 free or the mile? There are a lot of 50 free swims that can happen during an 18 minute mile swim. Did you buy the suit too small and are taxing the stretch of the fabric more than another swimmer? Are you wearing this for prelims and finals on a 4 day meet? All these questions muddy the waters when trying to formulate an expiration date for your tech suit. Our suggestions for extending the lifespan of a tech suit: Buy the right size. Wear it for your most special meets. Try not to wear it during warm-ups (change into your suit after warm-ups). Read the above information on care of the suit. Following these steps there is no reason you can’t have a full year of racing in your new suit - barring the dreaded growth spurt. NEVER BUY AN EXPENSIVE SUIT WITH THE IDEA OF "GROWING INTO IT". Wearing an ill-fitting suit defeats the whole purpose of wearing the suit to begin with. You would might be better off in your tight team suit, rather than a baggy tech suit.