Why Swimmers Shave Their Bodies

Do you shave your entire body?

So goes one of the most frequently asked questions that a swimmer must endure when talking to a non-aquatic inquiring mind. As trivial and prurient a question as it can be (depending on who is asking it, and why), there is a lot to be said for the importance of a pre-race shave.

While most recreational swimmers could not be bothered, world-class swimmers depend on their once- or twice-annual full-body shave to, well, shave seconds off their times.

Regardless of your ability in the pool, you may want to consider trying the process, as the full-body shave can add a psychological—and not just a refreshingly physical—boost to your racing.

Why They Shave

Triathletes shave out of necessity: Should they fall off their bikes and skid on the road, their body hair acts like Velcro when it contacts the pavement, hooking into the road and tearing out patches of skin. Smooth legs allow for slicker, slipperier contact with the ground, allowing one to escape less-scathed in a spill.

For swimmers, the importance of shaving also ties into slicker, smoother benefits. However, a popular myth that needs to be dispelled is that swimmers shave to rid their body of excess hairs. This is only partially true; while removal of hairs is definitely helpful in making one's body more aerodynamic in the water, the real purpose of shaving is to remove the thin layer of dead skin cells that coat the outer layer of the epidermis.

This reveals fresher, more sensitive cells and results in a heightened feel for the water. While the body is constantly shedding its top layer of dead skin cells anyway, the use of a razor speeds up the process and removes cells all at once, not a few at a time. As anyone can attest, putting on a pair of jeans or getting under the sheets after a fresh full-body shave is a refreshing sensation that translates into feeling faster in the water.

How to Shave Your Body

The first step in a good shave is identifying a brand of disposable razors and shaving cream. Double-blade razors are inexpensive and much more effective than single-blades (as the TV commercials indicate, the second blade picks up any stray hairs that the first blade misses and leaves your skin smooth).

As far as shaving creams go, a menthol-scented cream works best: The menthol has a cooling effect on your skin and intensifies the sensation of a new shave. If you have sensitive skin, Edge Gel for Sensitive Skin will help you avoid razor burn, although it doesn't leave you feeling as alert and refreshed as the menthol-based cream.

While none of this is really rocket science, there are details to note if you plan on taking full advantage of a body shave. Eventually you will find the brands of items that work for you, but I suggest the double-bladed razors and menthol cream.

Depending on the extent of your hirsute nature, an efficient way to start your shave is to use clippers (those electric blades that barbers and sheep shearers use) to trim down the hair on your legs, chest, and arms. This saves time and spares razor blades, for to shave a pair of legs with full-grown hair can take up to four razors.

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