Thinking about picking yourself a brand new racing suit for yourself or for the competitive swimmer in your life? Here are three things to keep in mind when shopping for a new tech suit:

1. Each racing suit has varying amounts of compression. One of the big features of the racing suits is their compression benefits. What happens is this: the suit squeezes your skin with varying degrees of pressure, helping to circulate blood to specific areas. The reason for this? When we are swimming at top speed in competition, and our leg muscles are dying for more oxygen, the compression helps to push more oxygenated blood to areas that need it most. While there are recovery benefits to compression (actually—the evidence supporting this is more robust compared to the performance benefits), the reasons swimmers should seek a suit that is tight is that it will help you maintain a better body position in the water. One of my favorite tech suits, the Arena Carbon Pro jammer, for instance, has “stiffer” compression that makes my kicking feel border-line effortless. A good rule of thumb for swimmers looking to buy a new jammer: the more compression the suits offer, the shorter the events and the less turns you want to have to perform. High amounts of compression are better suited for sprint events, while a lighter compression squeeze is more suitable for longer events.

2. It’s made of fragile lycra. One of the banes of the life of a competitive swimmer is the short shelf life of the average racing suit. Depending on how well the suit is cared for, swimmers can expect to get about 20-30 races out of a racing suit. The reason that they degrade so quickly is that one of the main fabrics used in their construction is lycra or spandex. Racing suits vary in their amount, from around 30-40%, while the rest of the suit is usually constructed of nylon. Lycra is sensitive to chemicals, particularly solvents, and guess what pools are almost always treated with? Chlorine, a world-class solvent. In order to lengthen the life of your racing suit, rinse it out with cold water after each of your sessions of competition. Don’t throw it in the dryer, or even hang dry it. (These things are that sensitive to wear and tear.) After rinsing it out, wrap in your towel and air it out when you get back home or to your hotel. The suit dries quickly, and unless you leave it wrapped up in your bag will dry out within a couple hours.

 

3. Do your research. Even though almost all racing suits are made of the same core materials, and while they may look the same, the cuts and fit of each suit vary by manufactoruer and even line of suit. The Arena Carbon series, for example, have a line of three different suits that all have different features. They don’t even fit the same. While the Pro is a stiffer and tighter fitting suit, the Flex and the Air are both designed for greater range of motion. (Hint, hint: breaststrokers and individual medley specialists should stick with the Flex or Air.) Fortunately, there is a ton of jammer reviews and information online from fellow swimmers who have purchased and raced in the suits you are thinking about picking up. Search the swimming forum in Reddit, and the reviews from sites like SwimOutlet to give you an idea of what to expect with the suit. Doing some research is especially key if you live in an area that doesn’t have a swim shop where you can try on your prospective suits.