Friday, April 18, 2014

Technical Suits

Technical suits have become common place at every swim meet level in recent years.  I have seen them at local recreation meets/summer league meets all the way to the highest level of competition.  I was at a meet recently and saw $4000 worth of suits in a 10 & under heat.  Yes you read that correctly…. that is $4000 worth of suits.  That value in suits in that one heat was more than the cost of my first car and possibly more than the cost of those swimmers parent’s first cars.

So now you may be asking why I am putting so much emphasis on the topic of “tech suits.”  After the 2008 Olympics when numerous world records were broken tech suits were given all the credit and became the “must have” item almost overnight. Yes, the suits those Olympians wore gave the swimmers a lot of advantages from buoyancy to reduced drag, but they have all since been banned.  This does not mean the suits that are out there today do not give you an advantage, but they are much different than what those in 2008 were wearing.  Today’s tech suits offer compression, reduced drag, water repellency, etc.

The truth is, despite the changes in tech suites, I still have “fights” with my swimmers and parents at almost every meet about which suit they should wear.  Here is the truth about tech suits and where I pull my rationale from…First, these suits are expensive. Second, you only have a couple of swims in your suit before it has become too stretched out, loses their water repellency and compression. Third, the advantage the suit gives an average age group swimmer is minimal.  At your non-championship level meets there is no reason to wear one of these suits.  A tight textile/practice suit is perfect.  You are not rested and probably had tough practices leading up to your meet.  So why waste the few swims you have in a tech suit in your less competitive non-championship meets?

The reality is for many swimmers wearing a tech suit is just a mental game. They get in their head that they need the suit to swim fast and without it they have no chance.  It is all part of this new mentality they get by simply putting on the suit.  I am a big believer that the swimmer needs to learn to swim fast and not rely on the suit. If they are successful without the suit they will be successful with it and their swimming becomes less about what they are wearing and more about the technique they have been working on.   

From my standpoint, a tech suit should be saved for meets when you are tapering, which for my swimmers would be three meets a year.  We have a taper meet normally at the beginning of December, and then we have Championship meets in March and July/August.  These are the only meets these suits make sense.  You want it to be a “special occasion” to wear the suit.  If you wear it to every meet there is nothing special about putting it on and any mental advantage you would feel is lost as a result of the redundancy of wearing it too often. 

Picking your suit

There are several different brands and styles of the tech suit.  However, before you choose your suit you should go to FINA and make sure the suit you are looking at is approved.  The suits now have a logo that says FINA Approved and looks similar to this:

Having this logo is really important as there are still a lot of banned suits out there and you do not want to be the swimmer wearing a banned suit. 

Once you find approved tech suits and are narrowing down your options make sure you try them on. The biggest mistake a swimmer makes is not having a suit that fits properly. Every suit is cut differently and you need to find what works best for you and your body. You also need to make a decision if you are going to wear a Kneeskin or traditional style suit.  And boys need to consider if they want a high waist suit or not.  Lastly, when considering a suit always remember “the most expensive does not always mean it is the best suit for you.” Just because one suit costs more than the next does not mean it will help you swim faster. It simply means it is more expensive. Price should weight very little in your decision of what to buy.

As championship meets are approaching if going the route of wearing a tech suit is your plan you need to start thinking about what you want NOW. Why? Because suit retailers cannot keep tech suits (especially the most popular ones) in stock around big meets. 

And my last and most important suggestion as you start to consider what tech suit to purchase is to talk to your swimmer’s coach. You are making a pricey investment and your coach will likely have some invaluable insight of what he/she thinks will best “suit” your swimmer.

Disclaimer:  These are my opinions and are not to be a reflection on anyone other than myself.

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