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2009-02-22 8:31 AM

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Subject: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

I just finished my first Triathalon and unlike most the swimming is my best event compared to the biking and running. My issue was that I had never worn a wetsuit. I didn't even practice with one cause I trian in a pool and since I don't have a partner I didn't want to attempt swimming alone in open water. I have swam in open water many times although not recently because after all it is winter still.

The race started off like i expected, being bumped by others left and right although I expected it, it still thorugh my stroke off. Well half way into the swim I noticed that I was getting very tired. At first I thought that I started off too quick and the first thing that came into my head was to slow down. So I did and thats when I realized that my arms weren't tired so I made my self take a breath on every other stroke to catch my breath and even so I found my self not being able to hold my breath even for a second. I didn't panic but I almost felt like waving my hand at the lifeguard to come and get me I almost wanted to quit. I literally felt like I was going to drown. I deiced to stop for a second to catch my breath and still that wasn't enough so I started doing the back stroke which helped but I was going nowhere. My last option was to swim with my head out of the water the last 250 meters.

My question is. Is my wesuit too tight? Is it a matter of practicing in it? or what? Because at this point I am very traumitized and my next Tri is on March 8th in Palm Springs. I heard that wetsuits will probably be Mandatory. AT this point I don't even feel like using one no matter how cold it is.

 



2009-02-22 8:36 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

If you're not used to the sensation of wearing one, you can easily panic from it.  Add that to the anxiety of open water swimming, and it happens a lot.

Just curious though.  Why don't you want to wear it in the pool?  Just rinse it out well after you wear it, and it shouldn't harm the suit.

2009-02-22 8:45 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Elite
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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

Totally normal -- you get used to it.  Knowing that I won't drown in a wetsuit because I won't sink helps me get past the panic.  I found the worst thing I can do is breast stroke because I always get hit in the face by a wave and start choking.  I try to slow down a little and breathe more often.

Nice job finishing your 1st race!!

2009-02-22 9:45 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Master
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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

Congrats on your first tri!!

Thanks for posting this.  I also come from a swimming background and this year will be my first year with a wetsuit.  Now that I know what to expect I feel a little better about it.

2009-02-22 9:58 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

It would be a good idea to practice open water swimming because the cold water, not seeing the bottom, no lane lines to follow, waves...all of that takes some getting used to. I need 2 or 3 outings before I am comfortable. Do you have a tri club that may organize lake swims? Also, lots of strong swimmers that I know wear sleeveless wetsuits because they say sleeves restrict their movement too much.

Good luck! And way to go on muscling through!

2009-02-22 10:11 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

wow, this post is almost identical to the one i made a week ago after my first Tri in a wetsuit.

i had worn my suit a couple times in open water, but i panicked during the race and ended up swimming the last  4-500 meters just like you described.   i can swim a mile comfortably in a pool, but i got in the water and had a serious meltdown.   it wasn't my first race, but the first time in cold water and a wetsuit and i nearly had to DNF the swim.

here is what i would suggest (mainly from what others told me)....

practice, practice, practice in the suit.   if nothing else, get out before the start of the race or the day before if you can and just get use to the water temp. and suit.   dunking your head in cold water if you aren't use to it can really cause your hr to jump and get you in trouble quick (like it did me).    you don't really even need to do a workout, just go for a light swim and get use to the feel of the suit and temp. of the water.

i had the exact same experience and was very upset after the race.   my other Tri's my swimming was my good event, but i just panicked last week because of the cold.   i'd bet that was what happened to you too.   good luck next month....i have my next race next month too and it's wetsuit legal.   i'll get to see how the 2nd time works for me too

at a minimum, get out in some water before your next race and feel the cold and control your breathing.   



2009-02-22 11:00 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit
Ihad the same experience my first few wet suit swims. Someone in my club told me that when I first get in the water I should pull the neck out and let some water into the suit.  It's supposed to help reduce that constricting feeling.  I did try it at my last race and did have a good swim, but that could also have been because I'd been practice al ot of OWS with the wetsuit on.
2009-02-23 11:05 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

Like others I had a similar experience.  The problem for me was that I didn't know what to expect and I wasn't prepared for it.  Wetsuits are tight and take some getting used to.  However, once I got used to it, I found my swimming to be more enjoyable becasue nothing sinks and you feel like you are more efficient.

My recommendations would be to 1) make sure you pull the wetsuit up as much as possible to ensure your arms can move freely, 2) put it on early and go warm up in the water (I like to swim a few hundred meters, if possible), 3) stretch and try and loosen up before your start.

Good luck on March 8th.  I'll be there as well doing the Int'l distance race. 

2009-02-23 11:49 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

Although I did not panic the first couple times I swam with a wetsuit I had the same issue.  I thought it was too tight as well but it was not. 

I think now that you expect it you will be able to at least prepare mentally for this in the future.  Knowing what to expect helps me a ton.  As far as the physical aspect spending more time with the suit on is a must.  I swam in my pool with my wetsuit eventhough I got alot of strange looks.  I've even seen a few others do it at the pool where I swim.  Good luck to you.

2009-02-23 12:15 PM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit
Like DRP said you want to pull the legs and crotch of the wetsuit up as high as possible plus pull the arm sleeves up high as well. Even though the sleeves on my suit are long enough to reach my wrists, I pull them up to mid-forearm. You really want to have as much loose wetsuit around your shoulders and chest as possible.

Before your next race get out in the water and just float and relax. When you realize that with a wetsuit it's practically impossible to drown, it's really comforting.



.

Edited by joker70 2009-02-23 12:15 PM
2009-02-24 12:56 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

Welcome to club.  Like others before me, I posted a similar question days after my first tri last year.  I experienced a similar panic attack and the only that saved me was ripping the suit down to my waist.  I was determined not to quit so I finished the race with the suit dragging behind me.  Very streamlined  The feedback I received was to swim more in the pool, swim more in open water and definitely swim more with a suit on. 

My feeling, and others probably would agree was that the wetsuit needs to fit properly.  I had rented my first suit and had a lot of difficulty zipping it up.  i even returned it for a larger size only to experience the same issue.  Not only must the suit be donned correctly but some suits will fit you better than others.  Get out there and try a bunch on and talk with the sales reps at your local tri shops.  They will help get you into the best suit for you.

 Once you are assured a proper fitting wetsuit, practice, practice practice.  Its the only thing that that helps.



2009-02-24 11:10 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit
Nothing to do with a wet suit but I have experienced exactly the same situation. For me it was race day excitement – lots of adrenaline and panic. I never could get my heart rate down and I was hyperventilating. I had swum a lot in the pool (and a little bit open water) but it was just such a new experience. I still get excited but I am better than I was – I remember looking at my heart rate monitor prior to the start of a race and it was at about 65 % of maximum just standing there!

I have my first wet suit races this year – I will make sure I wear it in the pool and lake prior to the race. It is a ½ ironman and I cannot imagine feeling that panic for 1.2 miles. Talk about feeling exhausted.
2009-02-24 11:23 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

aren't wet suits optional in races?

 

call me crazy, but when I got my wetsuit, I tried it on and noticed it was really tight around the chest.  I wore it around the house for about 30 minutes (doubles as a suit for making you sweat a lot!) and I wore it a couple of times in the pool before my first race.

i had a lot of race day issues (e.g. jellyfish in the Hudson river, swimmer next to me dieing in the river, etc.), but by then I was pretty comfortable with the tightness of the suit.

2009-02-24 1:19 PM
in reply to: #1975494


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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit
This totally happened to me!! There is a video on youtube on "how to put on a wetsuit".  Watch this...it helps if the seams are in the right place.
2009-02-24 2:54 PM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit
You should be able to go to a store and get it sized correctly.  The guy should be able to tell you if it is too tight.  If your told it isnt too tight, you likely are just high strung like the rest of us.  I know when I put mine on it feels tight, when I get in the water it feels tighter and when the horn blows I am surprised my head doesn't pop of from the preassure.

Edited by BigDH 2009-02-24 2:54 PM
2009-02-25 9:11 AM
in reply to: #1975494

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

I'm among the stronger swimmers at most triathlons, but I had the same problem at my first OWS race two years ago.  I'm fairly sure it was caused by a combination of:

Cold water - it's hard to start breathing properly without a warmup

Starting off too fast - HR got too high before I could start breathing properly

Almost no OWS experience - it's kind of freaky hardly being able to see your hands while swimming, and no lines on the bottom and no walls in sight!

Improperly fit wetsuit - definitly too tight around the chest and shoulders. 

This is what I do now....  I have a wetsuit that fits properly.  I use a sleeveless which I think is good if you live in warm climates and/or have shoulder flexibility issues.  I always warm up well in the water before the race.  I start at a moderate pace, then increase after I'm feeling more comfortable. 

The good news is that your problems can disappear quickly.  After a couple more races I stopped worrying about the potential problems on the swim.  Now ¡n smaller races I'm usually 1st or 2nd out of the water in my AG, and in more competitive larger races somewhere around the top 10%. 

Brian



2018-09-18 4:12 PM
in reply to: skarl


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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit
Originally posted by runswMoose

Totally normal -- you get used to it.  Knowing that I won't drown in a wetsuit because I won't sink helps me get past the panic.  I found the worst thing I can do is breast stroke because I always get hit in the face by a wave and start choking.  I try to slow down a little and breathe more often.

Nice job finishing your 1st race!!




I don’t think that edgar03774's breathing difficulties while swimming in a wet suit are normal at all, especially for an athlete and a triathlete at that! As explained below, I had the same problem with an oldish wetsuit which I never wear and which must have shrunken a bit..

I am not a triathlete, but I am physically very fit, at least by the parameters of my age ( 76) (I run 5 km 3 times a week, I swim, I windsurf( in a wet suit) and I never had problems, also because windsurfing is not very demanding on the cardiovascular system as compared with running.

I was out windsurfing yesterday. Water is getting cooler here and I decided to wear a long sleeved wet-suit which I had for about 7-8 years and I never use, because usually I wear another one, which is more comfortable.
When I put it on, I noticed it was a bit tight and I even had some difficulties in zipping it up.

As soon as I put it on, I could breathe O.K, but after an hour or so on the water, struggling with strong winds and choppy water, I felt unusually tired.

I am sure It was the wetsuit, because I had windsurfed many times in the same conditions, sometimes for three hours without feeling so so tired after only one hour.

I think that that wet-suit prevented my lungs from fully expanding in response to the vigorous effort of holding the sail against the winds, keeping balance in the waves, getting back on the board after falling and uphauling the water-laden sail, not easy tasks in strong winds.

True, I am not young, but I don't think that old age creeps up so fast that you can no longer do what you used to only two weeks earlier.
There must be a reason and I think a tight wet-suit is a plausible one.

Ittiandro
2018-09-18 7:25 PM
in reply to: ittiandro

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit

Well I certainly hope that OP has got it figured out by now.  9 years of breathing difficulties would really be unpleasant.

2018-09-19 5:28 AM
in reply to: edgar03774

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Subject: RE: Difficulty Breathing in Wetsuit
It could be your wetsuit is too small. I had the same wetsuit for 7-8 years and by the end it had shrunk . I bought a more suitable size and it was much easier to breath.

I have found that it has been useful to wear the wetsuit for a pool swim before the first race of the season. In the pool you can gauge the effort with and without the wetsuit and feel the differences in buoyancy.
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