Newest Workout – Putting on a Wetsuit

Two thumbs - not necessarily way up.

Two thumbs – not necessarily way up. What have I gotten myself into?

I am up to my mid-shins in what is, in theory, a full body wetsuit.  The experience I’m having bears little resemblance to that of the woman who cheerfully pulled on her wetsuit in a couple of minutes in the video I just watched called “How to put it on,” helpfully created by the company that rented me this ridiculous contraption.

The wetsuit has been a point of quite a bit of stress. We couldn’t find a triathlon wetsuit in my size. Going without is not an option since, according to the IRONMAN website the water temperature will likely be in the “low to mid 60’s” for my full. They don’t have the course info posted yet for the 70.3 this October, but according to the triathlon forums that I read it looks like the average temperature in mid-October is a little less than 70 degrees. (Wetsuits are permitted without restriction up to 76.1 degrees.)  There are companies that make custom wetsuits but they are just ridiculously expensive.

I was looking around at rental companies and I found, which promised that it could fit people from 95 pounds to 300+.  Excellent, I’m definitely included in that spread.  I entered my size information, thanked them for having body descriptions that were funny and not body shaming, and they shipped a wetsuit. An Akona 3xl 3mm wetsuit arrived very promptly today.

Since before I even ordered the suit I had been getting advice from triathlon friends. The most common, from triathletes of all sizes, was “Try this on with your air conditioning as low as it can go and give yourself plenty of time.”  The information that I got from said “get ready for a workout.”  Tales abound in forums about the cardio and strength workout that is putting on a wetsuit for the first time.  I cranked up the AC, unfolded the wetsuit and thought “Let’s get this party started!”

What followed was an ungodly combination of what felt like pilates, yoga, resistance band strength training, and putting on dance tights that are two sizes too small. There was pulling, there was tugging, there was simultaneous pulling and tugging.  There may or may not have been praying to the gods of no perspiration that I not start sweating because that would be the icing on a “never getting into this suit” cake (thankfully, the gods of no perspiration smiled upon me.)

“Try pulling from the inside” the directions had suggested. Alrighty then, let’s give that a try. As I finally pulled the wetsuit up over my ass (the legs are too long so I just let it bunch at my knees for now) I had two terrifying realizations.  First, the thing was only half on and, second, I was somehow going to have to get this off at some point.  Then I realized that I could just give in and accept one of these reality TV offers – they would get more than they bargained for with the show about the fat girl who lives her life in a wetsuit.

Luckily the second half was easier than the first and I got it on and realized that the good news is that the wetsuit is likely to cure my tendency to make too big of an arc with my arm on the recovery motion (or, as my swim coach likes to call it, my “dancer arm.”)  since that kind of motion was, if not impossible, dramatically more difficult.

I mentioned earlier that they don’t make triathlon suits in my size, or at least, I haven’t found any.  This suit is no exception, it’s not a proper triathlon suit but rather a scuba suit that’s made for warm water diving that meets all of the requirements of the IM.  I found a review of the suit for use in triathlon that does call into question whether it would be warm enough for a long swim in very cold water. I’m waiting to hear back from both coaches on their thoughts about the suit but at least now I know that there are possibilities.  And now I can add to the swim achievements of my first mile swim, my first mile in under an hour, and my first mile in under 45 minutes, getting myself into a wetsuit without injury and in under 30 minutes (and getting back out of it as well, so I guess the reality show will have to wait.)  The next challenge is imminent – I’m signed up for an open water course next month where I can practice a mob start and swimming in open water in a wetsuit.  Can’t wait!

More Cool Stuff:

If you have questions about my IRONMAN journey  the FAQ might help!

If you’re looking for a place to talk about fitness from a weight neutral perspective, check out the Fit Fatties Forum. and the Fit Fatties Facebook page.

Book Me!  I’m a professional speaker and I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Buy my book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

About danceswithfat

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be IRONMAN, Activist, Fat Person.
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16 Responses to Newest Workout – Putting on a Wetsuit

  1. They are a nightmare to put on and off aren’t they? I used to have one and I once got stuck in it and had to ask a woman in the ladies bathrooms to help me. (I too had visions of spending the rest of my life in my wetsuit before this kind stranger came along 😀 )


  2. Ps Good luck with the open water swimming! 🙂


  3. Jody says:

    lol – you crack me up. I love reading your adventures for this Ironman. You inspire me – not to jump on your crazy pants bandwagon but to change my views on fitness. Just cuz I’m fat doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do things I enjoy!!


  4. I’m not sure if these meet the requirements for IM but I ordered my wetsuit from this company. I love the fit and that the zip is in the front. They have sizes up to 26 plus they do custom sizing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I grinned while reading this because I think all triathletes can empathize with the wretched experience of pulling on the wetsuit. I refer to it as the first workout. It’s the primary thing that has led me to make friends among the women in my age group prior to a race; they are all so helpful and patient in getting the arms to fit around the elbows and zipping me up. I am very short-legged and big-chested, so my suits all bunch at the ankles and give me uniboob. I learned with my first suit, why it’s important to tug from the inside rather than the outside. My first wear of my first suit at my first open water swim practice was on a hot day in July. I yanked and tugged on the legs of my suit from the outside and the neoprene just melted off and tore in my hands. First wear. I ended up having to use wetsuit glue to paste the suit back together. Now it looks like I’ve been chewed on by sharks or something, but it’s on an old X-Terra suit that doesn’t fit as well as my race suit. Taking it off after the swim is WAY easier than putting it on!!


  6. GratefulGran says:

    I had the same trouble when I was looking for a wetsuit for my Alcatraz swim several years ago. I ended up in a scuba shop in Denver and found a VERY helpful guy. I knew I wanted a sleeveless suit because I get really HOT when I swim. Counterintuitive, but there it is. A guy at a tri shop I went to gave me a great tip on how to get into the suit: Turn the legs down/inside out about mid way and use that point to GRAB on the inside (kind of like putting on pantyhose) and then pull the suit up on your legs as high as you can. Once it’s on your legs, about thigh level, getting it up the rest of your body does get easier. Also, I got my suit in May/June and by the swim in September, it had stretched enough to where I could get it on pretty quickly (with help though, I could never do it alone. If you did that alone, you are a GODDESS!) I did try on some full wetsuits, but never got enough arm movement to be comfortable. The sleeveless one was awesome, though. I still have it. Who knows, I might decide to finally do a tri! Happy Swimming!


  7. MTMS says:

    So does putting on the suit count as at lease a little bit of your cardio conditioning/training? Thanks for sharing, I needed the giggle this morning! Good luck on more training and good luck in advance on your events! I will be cheering you on for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lisa says:

    Continued positive energy coming fron you, I love it!


  9. Anon says:

    You have my sympathy, Ragen. I’m not actually fat but I have enormous boobs and hips and getting into one of those things is a crash course in contortion skills. Will you need to train for that in order to prevent losing time?


  10. fierymon says:

    Haha, much love. I, too, am struggling to shop for a wetsuit, even as a straight size woman. My height/weight measures spread across 4-5 disparate sizes on every sizing chart for every brand. I was desperately hoping I could rent one for my aquathlon this Tuesday evening since I know I can’t handle the cold, but the shop in my area only rents them out from Thursday, due back Tuesday. I’m currently weighing the memory of my last miserable open water swim against the social anxiety of going to the shop to beg for special treatment. Yay sports. /s


  11. Mary says:

    Yay! That’s a win! And it will help you float, which is awesome, though actually swimming is slightly more difficult, at least for me. Congrats on another step accomplished!


  12. Amber says:

    I think you have a new thing to train for – wetsuit donning and removal within the span of less than… hours. Haha 🙂


  13. This might be super obvious and probably everyone is doing this already, but I pour a mix of soap free bodywash and water through mine to make it easier to get on. Not sure if everyone does it or it’s just what spearfishers do (we have a hood on our suits too!) So apologies if this is patronizing!


  14. I highly recommend giving TriSlide a try. It’s a spray lubricant that will help you to slide the wetsuit off and on as well as cut down on chaffing (and you probably thought chaffing was reserved for land sports only, ha!) I like to use it around my shoulders, which aids in rotation and around my neck to cut down on the chaffing that creates the “wetsuit hickey”. Good luck and Just Keep Swimming 🙂


  15. Anne says:

    Hi there, just found this lovely blog of yours so it might be a little late for a comment:)
    I did lots of open water swimming, too, and I definitely can’t put on a wetsuit because of lipedema: once my legs and hip are safely accommodated and I pull up the rest, I have a huge bubble of air at my back which ruins my position in the water and makes me slower.
    So, I’m swimming without, everyone declares me a hero (good side effect, that is) and I have no trouble getting anything off;) The water I used to swim in was in the mid 60s, too (17°-18° C). Putting on Vaseline (petroleum jelly my translator calls it) on the back helped against the cold, but I only used it once and couldn’t be bothered the other times. I swam like that for up to 5 kilometers and I was fine and I liked the sensation of the water on my skin.
    So, maybe it’s worth deciding on the day before the triathlon what works out for you best and if the water is warm enough for not using a wetsuit.
    Anyway, I wish you all the best for your triathlon!


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