Fitness Challenge: Try On A Triathlon Wetsuit Without Laughing Yourself Silly

Heather's first triathlon wetsuit

There are several days along the way to this triathlon fitness challenge that I have felt like an idiot. The first time I went running I was sure I looked like a flailing fool. The first time in the pool to swim laps, I almost drown just getting across the 25 meter distance.

The thing you usually have to remember when this feeling of idiocy kicks in is this: Everyone has to start somewhere.

My latest step in this triathlon health and fitness dream challenge was to get fitted for a wetsuit. I count myself lucky that in the heart of wine country, Sonoma County has a wealth of support for anyone looking to train and compete in any sport. The mild weather allows for an almost year round training opportunity.

In addition to the several local and chain generic sport and athletic shops, there is actually one shop downtown that is focused on the muli-sport that is triathlon. I accidentally discovered this store while on one of many photography outings with my husband and try to avoid it.

I tend to drool too much once I walk in the door.

Just imagine your favorite thing to shop for. It could be gorgeous high heels, that perfect outfit, or goodies at a gourmet pastry shop. That’s what it’s like for me walking into this shop. The heart rate goes up, you get all excited and start spending virtually as soon as you see everything you love, all shiny and new, beckoning you to take it home.

Needless to say, it’s difficult to go in this shop with only a wetsuit rental in mind.

I have never tried on a wetsuit before today. I’ve seen people in them in photos of triathlon events, and have read enough to know the huge benefits of using them for swimming in open water. My dear husband is a master diver and is well versed in the joys of squeezing yourself into neoprene for the sake of doing something fun.

When the suit was pulled on up to my knees I wasn’t so sure.

Now I got the whole low down from one of the owners, an accomplished triathlete himself, about how long the swim would be, where and what I should plan on feeling once in the suit on dry land. He elaborated on how it would loosen up in the water, and the best way to get the thing on without punching a hole in it.

The best piece of advice on how to get a triathlon wetsuit on? If it takes less than 10 minutes, you are doing it wrong.

Alright! Now I won’t feel rushed and will be able to relax and see what’s what.

I stepped in to the dressing room and changed into my tri-suit. This is another recent purchase that I was reluctant to invest in, but several conversations with experiences triathletes convinced me of the ease of getting one. It’s basically a suit that is made for all three stages of a triathlon: swim, bike, run.

Here’s a shot of just my tri-suit. I feel fast just standing there!

Heather in her tri-suit

Knowing I would be wearing this for my event, I got this on first and sat down to give this wetsuit a try.

Putting on a triathlon wetsuit is like trying to stuff yourself into a sausage casing.

This lovely neoprene casing that is just stretchy enough to give you the hope that it will just slide right on. Until you hit a wide spot – say your calf muscle – where the whole process grinds to a halt.

The advice I got to pull it up an inch it up was helpful and it stopped me from wondering exactly how this was supposed to work. Gently grab and pull the thick material, with the pads of my fingers and not my fingernails, up to my thighs. Sure.

The crotch was somewhere mid-thigh, the tri-suit had ridden up and was cutting my thigh fat in half which is always attractive, and I had barely got it to my hips.

Shoving my hands between me and the suit, I managed to get the lower half settled in. Sweaty and determined the advice that if I got it this far, it was going to fit. That was until I looked down and saw the zipper in the front.

Crap. I had to pull the wetsuit off and start again.

I got it off, more sweaty now since this is more work than I thought it would be. One more time over the calf, inched up the thigh and officially up to my hips. Good. Now Just the arms and we were set.

Heather trying on wetsuite for triathlon

I had given my ring to my helpful husband, by request as not to rip a giant hole in the suit, so I slid my hand in the left arm and attempted to get it all the way up. Along the way I twisted, pulled and pushed until I saw my hand only to discover that the thing was now choking me.

Was it supposed to do that? I had to wait and ask the question since things were starting to warm up inside the suit and I figured a little speed to get the rest on wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Fully encased I left the dressing room to show my husband the results as I slowly started to cook. He helped me by zipping me up which completed the circle around my neck and pulled it even tighter.

I gasped out the question “Is it supposed to be this tight?” to which I got nods of agreement from both the husband and helpful shop owner.

“Hows the range of motion?” seemed like a silly question since I felt like the Michelin Man without the agility.

“Raise your arms like this” straight overhead my arms felt great, less constricted. “Now go like this.” Bending my arms with my hand pointing down and meeting near my chest. Sure, that felt OK too. “Now like this.” and then I finally caught on and asked “Are we heading to the YMCA?”. This had to be a regular joke since I got a chuckle out of him.

Heather Triathlon Dream - My first wetsuit test

Just in time since there was steam starting to rise from the choking neckline. The thing was a starting to make me cook. Down came the zipper and with it a slight breeze. Heading back into the changing room the next several minutes were spent laughing at myself trying to peel the wetsuit off. If you are wondering, the advice given was to pull it inside out as you peel it off. This is only slightly easier than getting it on.

It didn’t dawn on me until later that day that this whole process would have to be performed in public at the race.

I will save that panic attack for a later date. Honestly I had expected to have to try on more than one suit to find a good fit, so I was thrilled to have discovered something that fit in one fitting.

There are so many times on the road of our dreams that we take things too seriously. Getting a wetsuit for my triathlon was an important task, but I can tell you that the process was so much more fun once I got a good laugh out of it.

Where is the silly fun in your dream lately?

Go get your fit on – Heather

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Heather’s dream is to share with the world her success at becoming healthy after age 40. Heather lost over 88 pounds through changing her diet and incorporating exercise into her busy life. She would like to take what she has learned about becoming fit after 40, and using her Metabolic Training Certification to help others struggling with weight issues mid-life. Heather’s post day is Monday.
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  • Catherine

    You are so brave, but you also look hot … and that’s not just the temperature of the wet suit! I bet it was exciting to be moving forward with this dream goal…

  • ImanWoods

    You look FANTASTIC!!! And this is hilarious and inspiring. I know you’re rock this triathlon! Favorite quote: “…only to discover that the thing was now choking me.”

    • Thanks Iman! I’m at that point where I vacilate between really excited and scared out of my mind… so far excited keeps winning out!