What to Wear? (or more specifically “Do I Wear Underwear?”)

Since I just did the swim in my first triathlon, I just wore a swimsuit.  Easy.  About 2 weeks before my first full triathlon, it dawned on me I had NO IDEA what I was supposed to wear, but I knew I was supposed to wear it for the entire time.  As far are I can tell, here are some options for beginners:

1. Wear your swimsuit over a sports bra and shorts.  If you wear it over shorts (either tri shorts with a lower pad or compression shorts) you can put a sports bra under your suit and pull your suit off in transition.  I have seen a couple of people do this.  It seems uncomfortable to me, unelss you have a super moisture-wicking bra, but it is perfect if you don’t want to invest lots of money in attire.  If the bike is short, you may be fine with just compression shorts you wear for both bike and run.

2. Wear your swimsuit alone and plan to pull shorts over it in transition.  Training partner Abra did this and was fine.  I hesitated to do this because I didn’t think I could run in my swimsuit without some really bad chafing.  You could get away with a low profile tri short for both the bike and run, or if it is a short bike ride, maybe just compression shorts or whatever you’d wear for running.  I have seen a few people biking in looser shorts.  If you go this route, it’ll also save you from investing in new attire, but make sure your suit won’t chafe!

3. You could wear a two piece tri suit (this is what I did and I saw lots of these at my first full tri).  I read tons of reviews online and ordered on http://www.swimoutlet.com.  The shorts have a low profile chamois which was plenty sufficient for the bike and didn’t bother me at all on the run.  I had never considered swimming in anything other than a swimsuit (yikes!) but I found a tri top that was comfortable and had a supportive bra so I didn’t need a sports bra underneath.  Look for a built in bra, beaded bands at the bottom and top of the shorts so they stay put, and maybe even on the bottom of the top!  I have an Orca top with a higher neckline which I liked to keep more icky lake floaties out of my top.  Benefits: Easy! No need to change anything in transition.  They dry SO FAST.  I’d like to wear it for all workouts and lake swims now. Drawbacks: Finding the right size may be tricky.  Test it out in water first.

4. You could wear a 1 piece tri suit. See #3 as most of the features are the same, but from reading online, the biggest drawbacks I could find are that fit might be harder than a 2 piece (but many people swear by one pieces) and the bathroom situation gets trickier.  When I read “bathroom” and “tricky” in the same sentence, it is my cue to move on to a different option.

5. Wetsuits: I have NO IDEA about these other than they are made of fabric that is fun to squish and I don’t own one…and won’t unless I take to swimming in much scarier water (rivers/oceans/under 70 degrees).

Note: Apparently you aren’t supposed to wear underwear (it took me weeks to actually find that info out, so maybe this should just have seemed obvious to everyone else…) but I only observe that rule if I’ll be wearing my tri gear in water (then in my mind it becomes a swimsuit and this seems appropriate.)

What are your favorite brands?  Any tri attire you love?  Any tips what to look for?



  1. Thanks Cassie, all good ideas. I just want to make sure the floaties stay out of top and bottom in the lake swims.

    1. Oh, Mama Chris. You’re funny. It isn’t like you’re swimming naked (please, do not go swimming naked), you’ll be fine…we’ve got to get you, Coop, and Rosie up here and I’ll just put you in a lake.

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