One of the most frequent questions posed by beginner triathletes at the store is "What type of apparel should I wear for my training or for my races?". Although the question sounds simple enough, a chapter of a triathlon book can be devoted to this one topic. When determining what type of apparel to wear for training or for races, one should ask the following questions: |
o What are the distances of the races in which I will be competing?
o What type of workouts will I be doing during training (i.e. bike-run brick workouts, individual swimming workouts, swim-bike brick workouts, individual run only workouts, individual cycling only workouts)?
Triathlon Apparel for Racing
In response to the first question, it is important to contemplate what apparel to wear based on the distance of the race in which you are competing. For sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, the distances are short enough for men and women that they can wear a triathlon short that has minimal padding and no pockets. For a top, it is recommended to wear a tighter fitting singlet or tank top for men or a "racerback" or tankini top for women. To minimize drag in the water while swimming, a tighter, skin fitting top will typically result in better times as opposed to a looser fitting top which can create more drag and retain more water.
For men and women who do not like to race in shorts and a top, a one-piece triathlon suit is also ideal in sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. A one-piece triathlon suit is usually very snug and should fit in such a way that you will feel extremely hydrodynamic during your swim. If your one-piece suit feels too loose, it will probably result in drag while swimming and it is more likely to make your suit balloon up" with water.
For men, a one-piece triathlon suit will often have a front zipper which comes in handy when it feels too hot. Simply pulling the zipper down a few inches can provide some much needed ventilation. For women, a one-piece triathlon suit sometimes comes equipped with a built in support bra which will allow for also pulling the zipper down to allow for ventilation.
In 1/2 Ironman and full Ironman distance races, while the triathlete has the same options as listed above (shorts and a top or a one-piece suit), it may be wiser to go with a separate top and a separate bottom. If you are a pro or elite triathlete and you are finishing your ½ or full Ironman distance in warp speed times, a simple flip of the coin may make your decision.
For the age group triathlete who may be out on the course for a much longer time, wearing a one-piece triathlon suit can cause problems if nature calls and you find yourself in the porta-john half way through your run. While it may sound simple just to pull down your suit and "do what you have to do", it is much harder to do this when your body is cramping and when you are battling other physical challenges during your race. Because of this issue alone, it is a good idea for age groupers to opt for a separate pair of triathlon shorts and a separate top during a ½ or full Ironman.
Additionally, a triathlon short with more padding and a looser fitting jersey as opposed to a tighter fitting top (used in a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon) are also recommended. Most looser fitting jerseys also have one or even more pockets which are very useful for stashing gels or other essentials that are needed when on the bike or during the run.
Due to the fact that a vast array of triathlon training sessions exist, the type of apparel needed for training varies compared to apparel needed for race day. bike-run brick workouts, individual swimming workouts, swim-bike brick workouts, individual run only workouts, individual cycling only workouts
Bike-run brick workouts
Depending on how long your brick is, this will determine what type of apparel to wear. For shorter bike-run brick workouts (similar to sprint or Olympic distance races), men and women should develop a comfort level with their apparel and simulate race day conditions. With that said, a one-piece tri suit or a triathlon short with minimal padding are ideal. Since it is training, although the tighter top would simulate race day conditions, a looser fitting top is also fine for training. On the contrary, if the bike-run brick workout is considerably longer (in preparation for a ½ or full Ironman), a triathlon short with more padding and a looser fitting jersey are ideal.
Individual swimming workouts
For workouts that will only require swimming, the location of the swim will dictate what type of apparel to wear. If the swim is at a chlorinated pool, one should consider using a swim jammer that contains chlorine resistant fabric (i.e. TYR or Speedo jammers for men and TYR or Speedo Swimsuits for women). Unfortunately, although triathlon shorts and triathlon tops can handle swims in open water, they are really not made to endure chlorine. Consequently, one is much more likely to extend the life of his or her triathlon apparel by not using it for pool swimming (and using it much more for bike and run training).
If the swim workouts are in open water, triathlon shorts and tops can be used, but it is recommended to rinse out your clothes soon after your workout is completed.
Swim-bike brick workouts
For swim-bike brick workouts, the length of the training will dictate what type of apparel to wear. If the workout is in preparation for a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, a one-piece triathlon suit or a separate top and bottom with minimal padding is ideal. For a longer brick, a triathlon short with more padding will be sufficient.
Individual run workouts
For those days when you will only be running, you can pretty much wear anything that your heart desires. For men, regular traditional running shorts along with a looser fitting dry fit t-shirt or tank top will suffice. If you have become so used to using your triathlon shorts, knock yourself out and go with the triathlon shorts. For women, traditional running shorts (or tights/knickers) and a crop top, tank top, etc. will usually do the trick.
Individual cycling workouts
For those days when you will only be cycling, the possibilities are endless. For men and women, a well padded cycling short (or even a triathlon short with minimal padding if you are conditioned enough to not need the extra padding) and a comfortable jersey (sleeveless, short sleeve, or long sleeve if the weather is cool enough).
All in all, when it comes to deciding what type of apparel to wear for training and racing, several factors can affect a triathlete's decision. As with anything in the world of sports, it is important to develop a comfort level with your apparel during training and as often as your schedule permits, simulate race day conditions so that come race day, apparel will not be a cause for worry.
Roy Lazarus Trivillage.com Customer Service COO/Co-Owner of Trivillage.com
Trivillage.com is the multi-sports store with a local touch and a global reach! For all of your gear and apparel needs for triathlon, swimming, biking, running and anything outdoors, check out Trivillage.com!
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