“So I’m competing in my first Triathlon. Do I have to wear lycra?”
This is a question that haunts new triathletes no matter what level of fitness, gender, shape or size they might be. I mean lets face it, lycra is neither forgiving or flattering unless you’re a sports model, and even then the jury is out. Traditionally the options include a one piece tri suit, tri shorts and tri top (two piece) and for the ladies you could always compete just in your swimmers. Gulp. Surely there has to be another choice?
Now being a skinny kid I was never comfortable with my body. I used to buy t shirts one size too big to try and hide the fact that I had no muscles underneath. This got even worse as I grew older and the only thing that got bigger was my belly. My wife used to rub my stomach and say “I’m rubbing the Buddha belly for good luck.” It took me 5 years of riding in “modesty shorts” (mountain bike pants) before I had the courage to don a pair of nicks. The thought of going out in public in a skin tight lycra outfit terrified me.
But when it comes to competing in a triathlon there are limitations to what you can wear in order to feel comfortable without having to change your clothes during each transition. So when I wanted to compete in my first tri you can be assured I carried out a thorough analysis of the situation to determine what to do. First step was to look at the things I couldn’t influence:
– I can’t swim in pair of shorts and a t-shirt, especially when I’m slow enough without adding even more drag
– I have to wear a top of some sort on the bike and the run (it’s in the rule book)
– I know it’s not comfortable to run in a proper pair of nicks as the padding is thicker than in tri shorts and they get especially waterlogged after the swim (yep, I gave it crack)
Then I looked at the desirables:
– I’d love some padding between my cheeks during the bike leg
– I really want to run in socks
– I want to be as fast “I” can possibly be
Dam it, I’m gonna have to “Lycra Up”!
The next dilemma was were do I buy it and what size do I get? I didn’t want to spend too much at the start so I jumped online to check out the sales. Coincidentally (or maybe not knowing Mark Zukaberg) a couple of days later my Facebook feed popped up an add for 2XU’s online sales store. Good gear, and relatively cheap. To check sizes I sheepishly went into the 2XU shop and asked if I could try on some clothes with a view to buying some stuff online. Thankfully they obliged and let me take all types of gear into the change rooms until I determined what size I was. Man, these things are snug fitting! As I didn’t fancy myself in a one piece Tri suit I decided to buy a pair of Tri pants and separate top. When they came in the mail I snuck into the downstairs bathroom and popped them on. “Double gulp”. It would appear there’s no turning back.
Now I’ll chat about my first tri in another post but it’s safe to say I wore my new gear and made it home without psychological scares or too much teasing from the fit kids. But I did have the the following learnings which might help to put your mind at ease when confronted with the same dilemma:
– if you discount the fact that you may not look great in lycra, it’s really the best option for competing in a triathlon. It’s faster through the water, padded for the bike, dries quickly and if fitted correctly doesn’t rub against your skin.
– the tri community is very supportive and understanding as they all went through the same horror when confronted with the purchase of their first lycra outfit
– there’s always somebody out there that looks more uncomfortable in their new tri suit than you do
– a white tri top is not recommended. Not sure what I was thinking when I ordered that one. (See picture)
– make sure you try before you buy. Different brands have very different sizings.
– you don’t need a lot of space to store lycra in your closet
Moving forward a couple of years I’ve learned to embrace my new outfits to the point where I have several tri suits hanging in the closet, along with other lycra based clothing.
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