Though FINA has said that the high-tech rubber suits that tore up the World Record books in 2008 and 2009 will be revisited in 2013, after the London Olympics, for now the polyurethane supersuit industry is dead.
Or is it?
More and more teams have found a way to incorporate these ultra-fast suits into their training regimines. Over the past few weeks, both Trojan Aquatics and the Gator Swim Club (which are, without much argument, two of the three top post-grad programs in the country) have been slipping on their old LZR’s and X-Glides, though not in competition.
Gregg Troy and Dave Salo are two of the hottest names in coaching right now, and both have run “race-pace” sets recently that incorporate these suits to give swimmers a whole new feel.
The idea makes a ton of sense, and have resulted in some spectacular practice-times. Eric Shanteau, at the end of a set of (50 br, 50 br, 100 br) x 6, reports that he went a 1:00.8 100 breaststroke wearing an Arena X-Glide. That’s a much faster mark than he’s been in a meet yet this season in a legal suit.
Last week, Ryan Lochte shared a similar story. He had a set of four 100’s (one free, one back, one breast) on a 4-minute interval in a full-body suit. His times were 48.6 on the free, 54.2 on the back, and finished with a 1:03 on the breast. The backstroke mark was right at his season-best time, and the other two swims were easily the fastest he’s been in 2011.
These suits, when used judiciously, can provide some psychological benefit – think the effect you get on the second-half of a stretch-chord swim.
The question is whether or not there’s a long-term marketing opportunity for the suits for training purposes. If the suit manufacturers aren’t worried about shaving off every last .01 from swimmers’ times, can fast-suits be made economically enough to use them on a regular basis? My guess is no. But for the time being, this is a highly creative use for a suit that’s otherwise just taking up closet-space. This is a great example of coaches using some inginuity to make the best use of the materials and circumstances that they are given.