Shaving for Triathlon

A few years back, I got hooked on the notion of shaving my legs for triathlon. I remember hearing about it and the supposed benefits of shaving my legs. Some of these were:
1. Biking – if you get in a crash and you need to put a bandage on, pulling it off is less painful due to having no hair.
2. Biking – aerodynamics is improved by not having all those pesky hairs on your legs to create minor turbulence in the air as the air flows past your legs.
3. Swimming – less resistance through the water with all those hairs on your body creating drag.
4. General – It looks better than having hairy legs, and more consistent with the look of a healthy, motivated triathlete/cyclist.
One morning in 2003, I decided to shave my legs in the shower. It was a messy affair. Fumbling about with shaving cream and a women’s razor, I proceeded to take clumps of hairs off my legs and watch them slowly go down the drain (I hoped that my shower drain wouldn’t get clogged!!). I remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking that it looked very weird to not have hair on my legs any more and that it felt almost…more naked.
The day after, I jumped in the water for a swim and I recall having this funny sensation of “feeling” the water more. I felt faster in the water, and unfortunately had no conclusive proof that I was faster than with hair on my legs. But I did feel better when I swam.
As for cycling, I somehow felt more like a real cyclist, and it’s funny that I noticed guys who didn’t shave their legs more out there on their bikes and thought they looked very…well…non-cyclist.
Then in the July-August 2007 issue of USMS Swimmer magazine, there was an article called “The Naked Truth About Shaving Down” where they give some scientific basis for why shaving is good for swimming. They claim that it helps swimming by reducing the amount of stimuli that your nervous system is receiving from the environment and that your motor output is improved when you remove that stimuli through shaving. So I guess this means that you control your muscles better through your perception of what is required to be slippery through the water and your ability to feel the water when you stroke. While I was definitely more sensitized to the water environment post-shaving, I cannot verify if my motor output is improved simply through shaving. And because I shave every week, my body has since gotten used to environment with my no-hair-on-my-legs level of sensitivity and I don’t perceive any additional sensitivity due to shaving now.
In the sidebar, there is reference to a study that showed that blood lactate accumulation was reduced significantly. If I were to read this small snippet correctly, does this mean that I am being more relaxed and efficient through the water simply because of the positive feelings that one gets while swimming with shaved legs (and/or body)?
Who knows. I try lots of things and don’t have conclusive evidence that everything I do improves my performance, such as taking certain supplements or the research that shows that having protein in your sports drink is better than not. Some of it is just insurance. That which does not hurt me might just help me.

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  1. mq Avatar

    admit it, you shave because it makes you feel sexy