What Makes the Best Training Suit for Open Water Swimmers

What Makes the Best Training Suit for Open Water Swimmers

As a longtime surfer and world-ranked professional open water swimmer who has swum around Manhattan, in the Red Sea, and the Catalina Channel, I’ve spent most of my life in swimsuits. I’ve gone through thousands of suits but none of them are both stylish and functional. Along the way, I discovered that many active women are also frustrated having to choose between “fun” and “practical.”

There’s a lot of terms for swimsuits. Whether you see Exercise, Athletic or Active, it means the same thing. These are sporty-styled with many options for an open or covered back, choices of shoulder straps (thick or thin) and low, standard or high necklines. They are usually made out of stretchy, super soft Lycra which typically only last 1-2 seasons. 

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Competition and Training Suits

Competition and training suits are made out of either Lycra or Polyester and the construction makes the suit fit tighter. Competition suits have a very snug fit and are not meant for everyday wear. Training suit choices come with thick or thin shoulder straps and the criss-cross back straps come in a variety of configurations. The neckline and leg line options can be high, modest or low cut.  These suits are not stretchy and can last multiple seasons.

Training (or practice) suits are still stretchy but not as much as lycra. They are functional, durable, retain their shape, support the body’s range of motion, and add some compression. They perform by efficiently meeting the swimmer’s stretching and pulling at any speed and with any stroke while also prioritizing a comfortable fit.

The 3 most important swimsuit features to consider for open water swimming are fabric/material, seams and style.

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Fabric – Material

Fabric/material generally requires deciding whether to prioritize durability or style. For example, less stretchable fabrics, i.e., Polyester and PBT,  last longer while fashionable styles made with Lycra,  or Spandex, can become saggy and see-through over the course of a single season. Nylon on the other hand is soft but not super stretchy or body hugging. It is often combined with Lycra and it then becomes a form fitting suit with a longer life than just Lycra, but not as long as polyester. For the eco-conscious, there are recycled Nylon and Polyester options as well. 

Seams

Double stitching the seams makes the suit stronger by holding taut the elastic and thus the edge of the suit – ensuring a tighter fit to the body. Similarly, tighter shoulder straps maintain a snug fit, preventing the suit from billowing with water or sliding down.  But, keep in mind your neck/shoulder area shouldn’t hurt from too tight straps.

Style

Leg line options – Jammers or briefs?

Jammers offer a little more coverage plus the fabric compresses the body to help reduce drag and minimizes muscle fatigue by supporting blood flow. Anything below the knee is not legal in FINA-sanctioned competitions. High, standard or lower cut leg line options all allow a full range of leg movement. Thick or thin straps. The thicker the strap, the more chest and suit support. The classic back design is the criss-cross strap which allows the swimmer to have full range of motion.

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However, if you are wanting something fun or sophisticated, there are other options that provide less but still sufficient support. For example, a horizontal strap across the back or a strap tie behind the neck can also keep the suit in place. There are many suit options that provide excellent performance for open-water swimming.  It is important to understand what features are most important to you and what tradeoffs you are making.

See Her Swim understands these choices – our goal is to provide a variety of attractive, timeless styles that perform.  They are long-lasting for exercise and training and celebrate the feminine. Our suits are dedicated to Her – capturing the grace and beauty of women athletes. SeeHerSwim.com, Made in California.

–  Morgan Filler, founder of See Her Swim and professional open water swimmer 

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