body image · fitness · swimming

Starting to swim again and the first trauma is bathing suit shopping


Okay, that’s an overstatement.

I know. It’s weird. I’m happy naked. I wear a bikini without any issues. I’m pretty comfy in my skin. Generally speaking I’m at peace with my curves, my rolls, my cellulite, and even my stretch marks. But put me in a sports store changing room with a stack of speedos and other name brand serious swim suits, and ugh. Just ugh.

I’ve written before about bathing suit anxiety and why it’s different than evaluating and reflecting on the way one looks naked or in lingerie.

And it’s weird too b/c generally I like the way in look in sportswear, in active clothing. I love my bike shorts and jerseys and sleeveless running tanks and lifting shirts. I even liked my rowing clothes. So while lots of women don’t like to play sports for fear of wearing tight fitting sports clothing, that’s very much not me.

I like being identified as an athlete and given my build that’s often not clear if I’m wearing dresses and everyday clothes. But put me in bike shorts and jersey and it’s clear I’m a cyclist.

So why the swimsuit angst? Again, I suspect it’s all about identity.

Consider the comparison class. Women who wear bathing suits like these ones I’m about to try on at Sport Check look long and lean. They’re swimmers. They look like swimmers. They don’t look like me.

With my bikinis I’ve managed to change the comparison class. My newsfeed has so many cute women in fatkinis that I’ve come to see the fat girl in bikini as normal. They do look like me. They’re everywhere on body positive and health at every size websites.

But racing speedos? Scary!

And actually, at the end of the day, I’m not sure my self esteem is any worse. I’m able to say, “It’s not me, it’s them.”

I have a long torso and short legs. That’s part of my preference for bikinis over one piece suits.

Maybe I’ll look for an athletic two piece and make that my lane swimming suit. Or maybe I’ll start to think of myself as swimmer again and think of myself as belonging in that Speedo. Maybe.

The LZR Racer has been limited in length for swimmers.

7 thoughts on “Starting to swim again and the first trauma is bathing suit shopping

  1. I was going to suggest trying an athletic two-piece. I’ve always loved them, still cute but won’t fall off. 🙂

  2. Interesting post– your comments about identity and sports gear seem spot on. I happen to feel much more comfortable in speedo-type swim suits, partly because the two-piece tankinis always ride up and I feel too exposed or in clothing disarray (they just don’t look on me the way they do on other people/sports models). The speedos make me feel more like a sea animal (in a good way)– I can glide through the water, the suit adhering to me like a second skin. It’s similar to the feel of bike shorts, which it sounds like make you feel like the athlete you are. Keep us posted about swimming with the two-piece; it is great to point out to us here the importance of finding gear/clothing/other contextual features that lower barriers to participation and enjoyment of sports.

    BTW, Athleta has a bunch of tank suits that may have longer torso length (I have one I love from them) that aren’t strictly speedo-ish (they’re prettier with other details), but I found work fine in the pool for lap swimming. Maybe worth checking out.

    1. Thanks. I drool over their suits regularly but have avoided ordering due to import duties!

  3. I have to say your post surprised me! It’s not easy for you to surprise me but you did today. I had no idea that you had any body anxiety in any area at all! And sport swimsuits really caught me off guard.

    I, like Catherine, find the sport swimsuit to be my favorite swimsuit. I’m horribly self-conscious in a bikini (would rather go naked), but the one-piece sport suit provides just the right amount of coverage and holds everything in tight to make me feel lean and fast in the water even when I’m not all that lean and only moderately fast. As for swimsuit shopping, I have stopped trying on. I have found my size in Speedo and Nike, and I buy them when I see them on sale for $19.99 at Costco. And Gabbi sells polyester suits by Dolfin Uglies for $35 and they last forever–so far, I’ve had mine for over a year and no chlorine deterioration at all, unlike nylon suits. I can tell from what you said about the sport two-piece that you really don’t have a lot of anxiety, you’re just looking for something that fits. The idea of a sport two-piece horrifies me. It’s my goal to be able to feel comfortable running on a hot day in shorts and a sport bra, but I’m nowhere near that, so a sport two-piece swimsuit is just out of the question unless it’s a tankini style I guess. No bare midriff for me.

  4. I have an Athleta sport bikini that I love to wear in open water or when paddleboarding but it’s not so good for swimming laps. I also have a long torso (long torso + long legs = freakishly tall) and I’ve found that TYR swimsuits actually work really well for this purpose. I now have two and I love both of them. They definitely were a bit on the pricier side, but I’ve found that I’m happy to pay the extra $$$ if it means a comfortable swimming experience.

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