The new LZR Racer full body swimsuit from Speedo looks techno-sleek. This suit claims to be able to keep the swimmer high in the water, which is a great benefit for most strokes, but is especially helpful with the butterfly. Speedo claims on their website that this suit is made of three pieces of material ultrasonically bonded together! Who would have thought that swimming suits could evolve to this point?
Critics contest that this swim suit lends too much advantage for competitive swimming, especially at the high school and intermediate levels. In my opinion, however, no suit can overcome poor technique or a lack of endurance. The suit’s biggest bragging point is that it is streamlined and reduces friction. This is not a new concept to the competitive pool. Some swimmers will go to great lengths to achieve these gains, to include shaving their legs, arms, heads, and any other areas of the body sporting hair. Others even rub down with petroleum jelly, all in the name of reduced friction. These practices appear to be as old as competitive swimming itself. My teammates and I would have shaving parties before a state competition in the hopes that perhaps a shred of a second would be ‘shaved’ off (pun intended) the final time and provide that 1st place win. The hair cap also has a similar affect, keeping the hair from dragging in the water. It provides a smooth surface for the water to move around. I will admit that I noticed a big difference without my swim-cap, but the shaving of arms and dipping in petroleum jelly never seemed to give me a win where I had not spent months in the pool practicing.
The LZR Racer also has a ‘compression’ factor, similar to a wrestler’s or weightlifter’s bodysuit. The theory behind this is that the suit keeps the muscles in a tighter position and almost pushes the body into a better form. Some weightlifters disagree with these suits being allowed in competition and claim it’s an unfair advantage. I do not feel this factors into competitive swimming, because a static form offers limited assistance, and possibly a hindrance. The challenge for swimmers is not a short two step move, but rather one must develop a fluid motion that constantly changes shape to reduce water friction. It is a graceful relationship between the swimmer and water, working together and pushing against each other in the perfect blend of speed and rhythm.
Speedo markets the LZR Racer at $550. This is a lot for a middle school competition but not much for a collegiate competitor. I feel this is similar to a musician going from the beginner’s instrument to a professional one for college. The tool is only going to provide an advantage for the competitor who has already put in the hard work. Additionally, even the best technology does not compare with natural ability in the pool. Money and gadgets never outperform hard work and a hunger to compete well. I welcome this new addition to the pool in hopes that it will offer a new tool to those who already spend more time in the water than they do on land. Adult swimming by TriFactor will provide effective results through the hard work of the swimmers. While teaching the swimming, the teachers should use proper protection from obstacles for the person.