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"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."
Kitsap TriBabes
Wetsuit 101
Dear Tri Babes,

In order to develop a better relationship with your wetsuit, you need to realize, first and foremost, that:
WETSUITS ARE OUR FRIENDS!!! If you have gotten off to more of a "Frenemies" start with your wetsuit, then please remind yourself of the following: 1) It makes the cold water MUCH more pleasant - you should be thanking it with each and every breath you take; 2) It serves as your own LEGAL "personal flotation device" - you should be thanking it with each and every stroke you take for giving you the luxury of leisurely floating in the water whenever you want to take a break; 3) It KNOWS best - whatever position it seems to be "forcing" you into is the MOST efficient swimming position to be in - you should be thanking it for each and every second it is shaving off your swim time.

In order to transition from Frenemie to Friend with your Wetsuit (or to simply maximize the efficacy of your wetsuit), you need to know the following:

~ Friends are NOT "things"; they are living "beings." So, too, is your wetsuit. Therefore, it must be treated and respected as such. You don't RUSH friendships; you are patient with them as they develop naturally over time. Please be patient with your wetsuit in MULTIPLE ways. Expect that you WILL be "acquaintances" first. It WILL take some time for you to get USED to your wetsuit. Please do not dismiss it before you have given it a fair time trial.

~ Before you put it on, LUBE UP!!! You can take the expensive approach and use Body Glide OR you can take the cheap approach and use non-scented VEGETABLE spray oil. But, you should apply this lube LIBERALLY to ALL areas (inner thighs, arm pits, front of neck, back of neck, entire upper chest) for MULTIPLE reasons (to prevent chafing, to prevent that "claustrophobic, constricted" feeling, to make it easier to remove the wetsuit after you swim).

~ To get INTO the wetsuit more easily and to prevent ripping/tearing it as your do so, put your hands and feet into plastic bags before pushing them through the arm and leg holes.

~ To get the wetsuit adjusted properly onto your legs and arms, treat it the way you would pantyhose - little scrunch, gentle pull up, little scrunch, gentle pull up, over and over and over . . .

~ Do NOT expect to get into the wetsuit all at once. Instead, put on the legs and walk around with the torso and arms hanging down/off for 20-30 minutes minimum. I usually travel TO the swim/race site with my wetsuit half on. This gives it time to adjust to the contours of my lower body. THEN, once I get to the swim/race site, I put my arms through and zip it "up." I then walk around (for 5 minutes minimum) like an idiot doing big arm circles and jumping jacks so that the wetsuit has time to mold to the contours of my upper body.

~ Stop being a prude and use the da*n thing as your own personal "Porta Pottie." Before a swim/race (except when I am with YOU, of course), I wait to pee until I get into the water. Then, I "activate liquid central heating." I know that it is "gross," but being this "non Pink" serves two purposes: 1) it helps you minimize/counteract the coldness of the water; 2) it allows you to create a liquid buffer zone between you and the wetsuit which allows the wetsuit to flow WITH your movements rather than constrict them.

~ Realize that your wetsuit's "buoyancy" properties propel you into a more horizontal position in the water. Even though it feels like the wetsuit is "pushing your head down," what it is really doing is elevating your hips and legs up. Just like a teeter totter, as your hips/legs come up, your torso/check/face go down. Do NOT interpret this as the wetsuit's attempt to drown you; DO interpret this as the wetsuit's attempt to put you in the most efficient "horizontal" swimming position possible. If you "accept" rather than "resist" this horizontal position, you WILL swim more efficiently and more quickly.

~ Realize that these buoyancy properties of your wetsuit DO make the breast stroke MUCH more awkward and difficult. So, as an alternative, if you get tired, revert to swimming the Freestyle/Crawl ARMS ONLY (with no leg kicking) as you recover your energy. OR, stop and tread water for a few seconds and then proceed forward.

~ When choosing a wetsuit, always get a TRIATHLON/SWIMMING wetsuit from a Triathlon focused on-line site OR from Poulsbo Running. Triathlon/Swimming wetsuits are thinner than the cheaper "surfing" wetsuits that you will find at Costco, etc. The thicker ones are VERY hard to swim in.

~ RULE: When choosing a wetsuit, given that you live in the Northwest, go for the long legged, full-armed version. These will keep you warmer which is what you need the majority of the time in the frigid waters of the great Northwest. EXCEPTION: IF you have a shoulder injury or IF you have clinically diagnosed claustrophobia, choose long legged but armless "Farmer John" Style. These will give your shoulders a fuller range of motion which will mitigate any pre-existing injuries and minimize your feelings of claustrophobia.

~ do NOT use it in chlorinated water
~ never "wash it."
~ rinse it out/soak it in cold water after each use
~ allow it to dry inside out
~ never dry it in direct sunlight
~ store it on a hanger in the closet (try to avoid folding it when not being transported)