Overcoming Female Athlete Woes, Part 2

by | Updated: December 3rd, 2016 | Read time: 3 minutes

Q: I’m a woman training for my first triathlon and need help deciding on clothing. I’m a little top-heavy, so what can I wear to help support me?

Amy Marsh answers:

A: We women can be fickle. Our bodies are all different shapes and sizes. What’s comfortable for one woman may not be for another. And what’s comfortable in one race may not be during the next. What we can rely on are things changing ““ for the better.

Triathlon clothing has come a long way over the years and will continue to adapt as the needs of the athlete changes. In an earlier blog, Brandon discussed the various triathlon suits and the pros and cons of each style. But women have very specific needs and can run into challenges beyond the one-piece/two-piece debate. Here are three ways to tackle the most common tri clothing conundrums:

1. Pick your padding ““ Manufacturers now make women-specific cycling shorts and tri suits, which are cut to accommodate our hips, waist and chest. Plus, the padding is situated in a different location than the men’s style, helping to reduce chafing in delicate areas. Keep in mind tri suits and tri shorts have less padding than cycling-specific shorts. If you’re a beginner, air on the side of extra padding. As you spend more time in the saddle, your body will likely adjust and you can transition to the thinner tri shorts design.

2. Show your support ““ Bustier female athletes will absolutely need a good bra, or you just won’t be comfortable (particularly on the run). Some trisuits have a built-in bra. If that’s not enough support, I recommend wearing a two-piece tri suit with a sports bra under the top. It may be a bit bulky but completely worth it. Also, don’t hesitate to splurge on a more expensive sports bra if it’s made of top-quality material and offers the support you need. A durable material like Lycra is a little pricier but will last longer.

3. Change clothes ““ A few women literally change clothes for each leg of a triathlon. Obviously you wear different clothes to swim than you do to bike and run, so why not change and be comfortable during each sport? It makes sense, especially if you’d rather not bike in a soaking-wet swimsuit (Chafing? No thank you!). I suggest wearing a two-piece swimsuit if you plan on completely changing. Wrap a towel over your waist and shimmy the bottoms off and your cycling shorts on. Do the same on top by wrapping the towel around your chest and pulling your supportive sports bra and cycling jersey over top.   For the run, swap those bulky, padded shorts for a good pair of running shorts, using the towel again to stay covered.

If you’re OK wearing a wet swimsuit but just want the extra padding while cycling, slip your shorts right over your suit. This is what most first-timers will do to keep their transitions smooth and fast without sacrificing comfort. As long as you’re comfortable in your clothes, you’ll have a good race!

Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at ask.the.triathletes@gmail.com. “˜Like’ them on Facebook or follow on Twitter: Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and Amy @AmyCMarsh.