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Why Swimmers Shave: A Very Comprehensive Guide

To shave or not to shave?

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Removing body hair really CAN enhance your swimming performance.

Many competitive and Olympic swimmers shave (or even wax!) head to toe before their meets.

Of course, many women use these forms of depilation on a daily basis without knowing that if they competed in the water, they would have an advantage! For our male readers, we, at Zone, understand this may be an experience many of you prefer to avoid, but stay tuned if you want to get a silky smooth* leg up over the competition.

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"My face is hydrodynamic!"

The 50+ year history of shaving down:

  • 1953: Australian Jon Henricks won a series of national meets after his father suggested “shaving down.”

  • 1956: At the Melbourne Olympics, Henricks and his compatriot Murray Rose both shaved down and won a combined 5 out of the 7 gold medals the event had to offer.

    • The two stars subsequently took the practice to the University of South Carolina where they went to train, and shaving down quickly became commonplace.

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Murray Rose: 4 time Olympic gold medalist and shaving pioneer.

Okay, but how?

In short: Shaving heightens your senses.

Shaving removes a layer or two of dead skin cells from the epidermis, making superficial nerve endings more accessible, thus sensitizing your skin to water as well as adding a feeling of speed.

Many studies have shown that shaving leads to more efficient swimming, increasing some performances by 3-4%. This may not seem like much but in a world where the wins can be razor-thin*, it can make all the difference.

For optimum results, some swimmers even go the extra distance and shave their backs, palms, and soles of their feet!

The University of Indiana conducted experiments supporting statistical evidence that shaving increases strength on a neurophysiological level. After you shave, those incredible sensations make you stronger, which translates into you going faster!

If you choose to try this out for yourself… here are a few Pro Tips:

  • If you haven't shaved in a while (or ever), start off with an electric razor to for a close trim, then use a razor blade to attack the remaining stubble.

  • Using shaving cream and warm water, shave in the direction the hair grows. Going against the grain might appear to give a closer shave but it is not worth the discomfort and/or pain of the ingrown hairs it will likely give you.

  • Try stretching the skin as taut as possible when shaving:

  • For calves, flex your foot to tighten your calf muscle.

  • Bending your elbows and knees is the best way to smooth skin in those pesky areas.

  • For chests, lying down will do the trick.

We, at Zone, would be remiss if we didn't remind you that there is no perfect hair removal process, and shaving or waxing are not without cons.

  • As previously mentioned, ingrown hair is a condition where dead skin cells cause the follicle to curl around and grow under the skin. Exfoliating every 5-7 days with a gentle product will help prevent pesky ingrowns.

  • Using a moisturizing shaving cream and going slowly will lower the possibility of cuts… but keep an old towel at hand for clean up just in case.

  • Waxing is a slightly more painful process than shaving. For the readers who choose this route, know that the open pores make way for bacteria to enter, thus leading to possible infections. Waxing also irritates the skin to the point of soreness and redness.

  • Please use caution and wait at least 12 hours before participating in any personal interactions!

  • WARNING to our ticklish readers: You may want to avoid shaving your palms and feet as it may induce uncontrollable laughter! This is not an exaggeration. Trust us.

Of course, some people doubt the hydrodynamic effects of shaving down. We however hope this tidbit can help you win your next meet, even if by a close shave* ;)

*All puns intended.



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