Racing Suits

Expensive Racing Suits: Yes or NO?

First let’s get to the HOW and WHY……….

Racing suits for both males and females can range from £40/50 to a lofty price of over £300 for the most expensive and most influential suits/Jammer shorts. What makes them improve performance is a few factors:

  1. The suit increases buoyancy of the swimmers core, naturally more so for women’s suits. The buoyancy increases lift to the top of the water surface where there is much less drag resistance and where the swimmer can travel faster. Moving through air is faster than moving through water.
  1. Not so much for men these days as they cannot wear body suits, but a racing suit can increase streamlining acting as a second skin shaping the body into a sleek machine when passing through the water.
  1. The material of the racing costume is designed not to absorb water but to brush it off so the body can travel through water much sleeker than normal costumes or trunks. Most expensive racing suits can hold a drop of water on the surface of the suit without absorbing it and increasing the suits weight. Technology has come far since the days of the wool swim wear in the 1920s, imagine racing in that. HEAVY!. (Although not a bad training idea).
  1. The psychological benefit it gives you when you put it on for the big races plays a role too. It’s important to not wear it all the time. Plan your big meets with your coach and enjoy feeling fast in your suit at the most important meets.
  1. Finally the level of tightness of the suit plays a major role. When swimming, the muscles will create a lot of vibration and at the same time will waste energy. This can be seen when looking through underwater windows of a swimming pool. Racing suits should be very tight so to keep the muscles compressed and ready to fire. A general rule is to buy a racing suit one size too small and squeeze yourself into it, but with different manufacturers, sizes may be different and it’s a case of trial an error with sizes. Please note they have to be tight but not air restricting or movement restricting.

So that’s the why and the how, now to the WHO…………

Often I will go to competitions and I will see 10,11,12 year old swimmers wearing these super duper expensive racing suits and quite often in relatively meaningless galas. I always think to myself the parents have been” mugged off” or “conned” by the suit companies. What does a swimmer that age need with an expensive racing suit? To swim faster? Kids PB almost every race simply down to body growth and increase of training, why do they need a suit to make them go faster? It’s like putting a plaster on a cut that’s already healed. The body itself is getting the job done.

My beliefs on racing suits are that racing suits are like putting the icing on the top of a cake. You have to do everything possible with regards to training to get the full benefit of a racing suit. Often at masters competitions, swimmers who have not trained enough or have put on a little extra weight will try to compensate these issues by saying “ah it’s OK I will put a racing suit on and I will be back to my best”. But what if you were in tip top condition and then you put a super racing suit on, what could happen then? My advice is don’t buy a very expensive racing suit until around the age of 15/16 years. Take advantage of natural improvements first.

And finally (sorry it’s long) the WHEN…………

You should only wear your best racing suits at the important meets each season. This may only be 2 or 3 meets a year. A lot of money for just three meets a year I hear you say, yes but they are worth it for the above effects already explained. You should also know that these suits have a short life span and if over used in meaningless meets they will begin to deteriorate and stretch and lose the advantages. Then it suddenly becomes a waste of money as you find yourself passing over another £300.

You should only wear your suit as the icing on the cake. You’ve done the hard work and you’ve rested and prepared your body as best as possibly can. Otherwise you’ve wasted the suit on a race that doesn’t matter which takes away that feeling the suit gives you when you do wear it.

Again apologies for the length, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these articles, but I hope it’s been informative and if anyone has any questions please feel free to ask me.

Many thanks

Mark Corben