This article originally appeared on Triathlete
As more and more people discover their love of swim-bike-run, the idea of the "typical" triathlete's body is changing. American women aged 20 years and above weigh an average of 170.6 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and American men weigh an average of 197.9 pounds.
But finding triathlon gear that fits larger bodies isn't always easy. Kyle Smith, an age-group triathlete from New Jersey, says that through he normally doesn't have trouble finding his size in regular clothes, buying a tri kit posed a challenge for him.
"I normally wear an XL men's shirt which can actually be baggy sometimes," Smith says, "but with a tri top, I had to get a 3XL to have something that fit, zipped and I wasn't falling out of."
For someone in a larger body, finding clothes that fit is only half of the battle. Comfort is key for triathletes, and tri suits in expanded sizes aren't always designed to accommodate the unique considerations of a larger body such as increased friction and potential for chafing. Smith says that on his larger chest, a one-piece tri suits remind him of "a wrestler in the 80's" which he finds "disastrous." As he begins his second season as a triathlete, Smith is hoping to discover brands that offer more stretch and that are more friendly for athletes with larger bodies.
Triathlon brands are getting wise to the business sense of catering to athletes with larger bodies – after all, expanding the range of sizes offered means reaching more athletes and removing a barrier to entry for some new triathletes. That's good for the sport, and good for an apparel company's bottom line: More triathletes means more money.
But being size-inclusive isn't so easy as simply taking a size medium tri suit and adding a few more inches to the pattern. According to Sehlah Ahmad, designer for Varlo Sports, challenges with offering sizing comes down to two factors: "We’ve heard that it’s a lot--production-wise, money-wise--because they [larger sizes] do need more fabric. The other factor is the lack of knowledge and having people who work within those companies who understand what is needed for plus-size people of all genders."
Ahmad believes that if brands conducted surveys and did thorough research, they'd find that there are plenty of athletes in double-digit clothing sizes who participate in triathlons, and even more who want to, but can’t find the right gear.
While the market still has a long way to go to be truly size-inclusive, a few brands are striving for a more diverse sports space. When it comes to finding the best plus-size gear for triathletes on the market today, a variety of options are available in triathlon kits, wetsuits, shoes, and more.
Plus-size tri kits
Though most tri kits are notorious for running small, Varlo Apparel is generous with its sizing, and kits and separates go up to a men's XXXL and a women's XL with plenty of stretch. The brand also offers cross-training gear like running tights. The company is still fairly new, and with time and demand, founder Soj Jibowu vows to expand sizes for women.
The Coeur brand has made it its mission to cater to athletes from all walks of life. That includes a sleeved tri suit that goes up to a size XXXL. Coeur also has tri separates, including tri shorts and sports bras.
Santini's tri kits go up to a 4X for men or women, but what makes their skin suits size-friendly is that they offer every size in three fits: sleek, or a skintight fit; slim, which is form-fitting; and classic, or regular/loose.
RELATED: How To Choose The Perfect Tri Suit
Running and cycling clothes for plus-sized triathletes
Under Armour makes great cross training gear for days when you don't want to wear your kit. In addition to offering sizes up to 5X, the brand provides expanded sizes for tall athletes.
Athleta offers a wide variety of gear in extended sizes up to a 24 (3X). That includes swimsuits, running tights and shorts, and tops. Athleta is also known for generous sizing, so customers can be confident about trying your typical size, rather than sizing up to accommodate the form-fitting nature of athletic wear.
This badass brand does it all. Whether you're running a road race or an XTERRA, or prefer form-fitting or looser shorts, Wild Rye can cater to all of that, and in extended sizes. Their Freel Flex biking short has recently been upgraded and goes up to a size 24, and founder Cassie Abel hopes to expand, depending on the demand that is created by the short.
Running and bike shoes in wide sizes for triathletes
On has at least four of their popular models that run in wide options in stylish and quality race-day options.
If you're looking for a wide-fit bike shoes, give Specialized's road shoes a try. The brand has gained a reputation among athletes requiring a more generous fit across the entire foot.
Plus-size triathlon wetsuits
In 2014, BlueSeventy became the first wetsuit brand to design a suit specifically for plus-sized triathletes. The women's Athena wetsuit, which is height of the women's medium but the same weight grade as the women's large, is now one of BlueSeventy's top sellers, along with a men's XXL graded for athletes up to 300 pounds.
Offering up to size XXL in sleeved and sleeveless wetsuits, Zoot suits also come in tall sizes for those who need extra vertical room as well.
Some plus-sized triathletes prefer a two-piece wetsuit design, like those offered by DeSoto. Seven sizes of tops and bottoms offered within their T1 wetsuit range means 49 possible size combinations from which to choose – perfect for body types where weight is especially concentrated in one area of the body, such as the hips or chest.
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