Flotation shorts/pants are quite new to the swimming world and slowly becoming more and more popular with triathletes. I’ve been curious about them for over a year after seeing a few fast triathletes on social media using them and lots of discussion about them in triathlon forums. I am lucky enough this year to be partnered up with Xterra Wetsuits. That means I get to use all their stuff, including the Lava Pants! I received my shipment of Xterra gear the day after I was in a bad cycling accident and my leg was too swollen to even try anything on. I had to sit around for two weeks while all my new gear sat there teasing me to heal faster! A month later I’m back to 95% and have finally managed to put in a few swims with the Xterra Lava Pants, including a test set to get some data for this post. Here is my review of them:
Xterra makes both Lava Pants and Lava Shorts. The pants, which I have, extend to just below the knee and the shorts go just above the knee (like swim jammers). They are made out of neoprene just like a wetsuit and are quite thick. The Lava Pants are essentially a wetsuit without the top half. They fit very tight and sit quite low on the hips. They are very comfortable and I had no issues doing a full workout or flip turning in them. Overheating in the pants was no issue either, whereas a pool swim in a full wetsuit can be. The pants are WTC legal too, so any race that allows wetsuits, you can choose the Lava Pants if you preferred.
My first time swimming with them made me chuckle. Swimming in them was so easy, I know of a few people who would never go back to the pool without wearing them! It replaces any need of a pull buoy without locking your legs together. Kick or no kick, your hips float high in the water. After a couple swims to get use to them, I decided to do a test set with and without the pants on. The first test set I did was first thing in the day when I was still fresh without the pants. I did a set of 10 x 100m leaving on 2 min. for best average. Each 100 was between 1:17-1:18. The next day I did the same set with the pants on. This time I wasn’t fresh, having already put in over 3.5 hours of cycling and running. I was shocked to see that every 100 this time was 1:13-1:15, especially when I was getting tired just putting on the pants before hopping in the pool! I’m not sure how much faster I would have been if I was fresh, but probably at least 1 or 2 seconds.
Unlike pure swimmers who are training 10-20+ hours a week in the pool, most of us triathletes only train 3-6 hours a week (some a bit more, some less). The rest of the week is spent riding and running, it’s only normal that many times we go to the pool already quite fatigued but need to put in the swim miles. It’s important to make the most out of every swim as a triathlete since our time in the pool is so limited. If you can simply throw on Lava Pants to help with body position and make you faster when you are fatigued from the ride and run earlier in the day, then go for it! As triathletes, it does us good to learn to ride and run when fatigued because that simulates race day, but why would you always practice swimming in that state? The swim is the first part of a triathlon and you should always be fully rested and ready to swim fast come race day. Wearing the Xterra Lava Pants (or shorts) are going to help you swim faster and simulate a wetsuit. I don’t recommend training in them all the time, just as you wouldn’t swim with a pull buoy all the time. For me personally, I’ll be swimming in these 1-2 times a week. I try to swim 6 times a week, so naturally I’m pretty wrecked going into some of those sessions. It’s those times when I will opt for the Lava Pants, so I can get more out of myself. Or, I’ll just put them on days when I want to go really fast!
If you want to add a pair of Xterra Lava Pants or Lava Shorts to your training you can go to their website here and use SA-DSPILLER as a discount code to save 60% on your order. I hope you enjoyed my review and that I didn’t leave anything out. If there was anything I didn’t cover and you want to know, just fill out the contact form below with your question and I’ll get back to you.