To shave or not to shave. That is the question (and why).

bobswimsbobswims OregonCharter Member
edited January 2013 in General Discussion
Ok I'll go first. I shave for my big swim of the year. I started this a few years back when I entered into USMS 5K OW national Championship. I can't say I expected it would help a lot, so it was more a mental thing. It felt so good to be cooler in the summer triathlons I was doing at the time. After that I just carried it over to marathon swimming. My thinking was that it provided a ritual for the big event to get my head right, and make lubricant easier to apply (and stay on longer?). Despite being a bit on the furry side, I don't think it makes me any faster.

(I suspect this has been discussed before but wasn't able to find it)
Surfyn

Comments

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    What about legs? Does anyone shave/not shave those? After years of age group and college swimming, I still feel a little twinge of guilt for shaving my legs other than for a big swim. But perhaps hairy legs keep us warmer?

    And what about armpits? I think us ladies chafe more there because we do shave. I've heard of a few who just let their pits grow for a week or so before a swim, but can't bring myself to it. I just lather up the lanolin and hope it lasts! :-D
    JenA
  • Shave, even when training. Nothing worse than skanky old Vaseline sticking unshaven hair together days after a swim. And I am not a girl.
  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    Shaving is for your feel for the water in the pool. Any "speed" advantage derived from shaving down will automatically be wiped out when getting rolled by a large wave or if/when you wear a man-o-war as a hat.

    dc_in_sfJenAbluemermaid9dpm50
  • I shave for major pool competitions. For open water the only thing I really shave is my arm pits. They are a big area of chaffing for me. Lubrication of my arm pits is more effective for me if my pits are clean shaven. Of course I shave a couple days before to give any nicks time to heal.

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited July 2016

    ssthomas said: But perhaps hairy legs keep us warmer?

    I think this is likely to be the case. It makes sense that water would move more freely over a shaven body part than it would a hairy one. So if the water is moving less freely over a hairy body part, the water that isn't moving as freely is probably a little bit warmer, and has a it of an insulating value.

    Whether or not this insulation is actually helpful is another matter. :)

    DanSimonelli
  • JSwimJSwim Frostburg, MarylandMember

    ssthomas said: And what about armpits? I think us ladies chafe more there because we do shave. I've heard of a few who just let their pits grow for a week or so before a swim, but can't bring myself to it. I just lather up the lanolin and hope it lasts! :-D

    There is also epilating (and waxing).

    Pluses: no stubble for a week or longer, hair tends to grow back finer (sometimes not at all).

    Minuses: Pain (but what's a little pulled hair to a marathon swimmer?), slow compared to shaving (but not as often, so it evens out)

    I still use grease for long swims though. Skin on skin contact can chafe eventually too.

    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • tortugatortuga Senior Member

    I'm in for comments. I've been ruminating on this lately. I have significant torso hair and have been wondering +s and -s of taking it off for a big event. One of the arguments in my head stems from years of racing sailboats where one would never enter a race without cleaning the moss from the boat's bottom. I suppose the drag theory applies to swimmers as well.

    flystormsPasquale
  • PasqualePasquale New Member

    Hi .. i have same issue.. i am doing my first 5k ow swim in two weeks..i dont expect to win or beat any recors but would like to know how much it can slow you down.. never shaved before and i hate it but if i can really gain a significant time (lets say in the order of minutes for 5km) i will go through the pain.. i have a bearb and hairy legs and chest.. quite a lot indeed.. someone did a race shaved and unshaved being able to throw some number?

  • glennglenn cape town SAMember

    I don't have real knowledge in the area but I doubt you'll save minutes by shaving, maybe a couple of seconds. I think it's more the mental benefit, you might feel fast which will give you that edge.

  • PasqualePasquale New Member

    Thanks @glenn .. after all i think i will not shave if it does not make a big difference I prefer not to try something new on the race and will not feel comfortable and wife and kids will not like it. I am also thinking that salty water could be burning all the small cuts left after the hair removal

    Bridget
  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    I would think that for the most typically hairy body parts, a coating of Desitin should help one feel slick in the water-- think seals. :) Stubble needs to be a consideration- especially on LONG swims- if you shave, will you be in the water long enough to grow stubble in a chafe area?

    Good luck Pasquale. . . :D

    As a humorous aside, my son had long hair for his first summer swim team meet years ago, and got a haircut before the next meet and set best time records, but that was for twenty five yard swims, and he was a goof-ball. ;)

    Surfyn
  • PasqualePasquale New Member

    Hi Bridget, My swim is only 5Km and I count around 1h30 in normal condition, so stubble will not grow so fast :), but I have very sensitive skin and I will get irritation very easy (that is why I stop shaving and I use scissors to adjust my beard.. ) In any case my concern was if the difference was somewhere in the order of minutes, but I understand that will not be the case so I will just try to get my beard as short as possible.... For the hair I can imagine the impact.. I notice quite some difference when I swim without swim cap...

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    My husband swims with a full beard (which is probably an inch or so long at the tip of his chin). He's faster now than he was before he grew the beard but that's probably better training.

    He does say he feels faster when he "grooms" body hair vs when he doesn't, but he's never checked times.

  • BHillBHill Des Moines, IAMember

    As someone who has transitioned from Pool competition to open water I have continued my tradition of shaving for big races. I do think it makes me feel faster and for myself it does provide a mental boost. So far I have not experienced and difficulty with rashes, etc from shaving even in salt water.

  • pavlicovpavlicov NYC USASenior Member
    edited July 25

    My former coach (2x olympic swimmer) had the opinion that shaving does not make person faster from a physics perspective.

    He saw the benefit of shaving as twofolds: 1) The suddenly 'naked skin' feels the water much more acutely and which means that the swimmer is more carefully about their technique by being able to feel more intensely when one for instance catches well the water; 2) By feeling the water more intensely on the 'naked' skin, one has a feels faster, and he always said "if you feel fast, you are fast".

    flystorms
  • GlobalSwimmerGlobalSwimmer New York NYMember

    Agreed with @BHill - I used to shave (legs, chest etc) as a pool swimmer so I keep doing it as an OWSer just for the psychological aspect, including cold and ice swims - not that a few hairs are gonna provide much warmth anyway!

  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member

    I’ve done long swims with and without a beard, and I definitely think beard is better for no chafing and colder water.

  • ColmBreathnachColmBreathnach Charter Member

    swimmer25k said: Shaving is for your feel for the water in the pool. Any "speed" advantage derived from shaving down will automatically be wiped out when getting rolled by a large wave or if/when you wear a man-o-war as a hat.

    pavlicov said: My former coach (2x olympic swimmer) had the opinion that shaving does not make person faster from a physics perspective.

    He saw the benefit of shaving as twofolds: 1) The suddenly 'naked skin' feels the water much more acutely and which means that the swimmer is more carefully about their technique by being able to feel more intensely when one for instance catches well the water; 2) By feeling the water more intensely on the 'naked' skin, one has a feels faster, and he always said "if you feel fast, you are fast".

    There's your answer. C.

    Pasquale
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