The Pro’s and Con’s of Shaving

Posted: May 21, 2012 in Bike, Lifestyle
Tags: , ,

On a strictly weird and personal level, I tend to classify triathletes into one of two categories; there are either the “shavers” or the “non-shavers”, and up until this point in my tenure as an avid triathlon participant I have never seen the need, nor understood for that matter the point of shaving my legs.

I mean, seriously, what’s the point?

But I recognize that the whole act of shaving before an Ironman race has almost become a tradition.  It’s right up there with carbo-loading, pre-race hydration and peeing in your wetsuit. It is now the instantly recognizable signal that another serious triathlete has arrived on the scene.

Well, yours truly aside, that is.

So for what it’s worth – I am currently a non-shaver.  And not because I frown upon the act of shaving, but because I just haven’t understand the need to shave but, lately, I’ve been doing some thinking.

When I polled other triathletes on the subject, namely, those that I train with, I tend to get typical responses justifying their personal choice to shave or not to shave.  The thing I have been able to learn for sure, is that shaving is only really ever intended to assist with two of the three triathlon disciplines – the swim and the bike.  Just my luck, as I would have eagerly jumped at any opportunity to make my runs less sucky…but whatever.  And of the two, cycling is the most common.  And I guess that considering myself as an ‘official’ triathlete after four years of competing in the sport; I can also then consider myself as a “cyclist” by proxy.

But do I really want to go there?

Okay, I wonder how does Rupaul does it exactly?

For guys, admitting that you’re a “shaver” is not an easy thing to announce to the world – at least for me – as there is a very feminine connotation to it.  And despite calling it a “tri-thing”, other men will still inevitably look at you as if you have just signed up for a breast augmentation or something.  Nowhere in the ‘Man Code’, does it say that shaving your legs is a cool or acceptable thing to do.  You may as well just hand over your “Man Card” altogether and declare your intention to be addressed as ‘Sally’ by all your guy friends going forward.

Do you remember the scene in the cult 80’s film “Mr. Mom” where Michael Keating goes shopping for feminine products?  Yeah, well, I’m not sure I can even go there; much less actually choose to go there.  I just can’t picture having to deal with the extreme embarrassment of bumping into someone I know while browsing the ladies aisle at the drug store and checking out the boxes of Nair hair removal products.  Sure I “manscape” from time to time, but this takes it to a whole new other level; one which I would never relish explaining to another living human being…ever.

So why then do male triathletes put themselves through it?

There are four commonly accepted reasons for shaving among triathletes.

  1. Aerodynamics – With regards to cycling, this I had a difficult time buying into.  I’m never going to be competing at such an advanced level that I would ever be interested in shaving (pun intended) mere seconds off my finishing time…not yet, anyway.  Nor I am not likely to qualify for the Tour de France anytime soon.  However, it is rumored that shaving also improves your swim ability and I will touch on that momentarily.
  2. Bike Crashes – This is, really, the only reason why I giving the whole shaving thing a second look and possible consideration.  There is an old adage among avid cyclists that “there are cyclists that have wiped out and those who will”.  And the more mileage I put on my bike – particularly given the distances I need to be covering this summer – so do the chances of this happening to me eventually.  In fact, it already has but I was fortunate enough to have fallen on a grassy shoulder and didn’t have to deal with the whole nasty skin against asphalt road rash scenario.  So should this occur, having smooth legs I am told, will aid the healing process as there is no hair to contribute to the spread of infection and the wounds are easier to clean and dress.  Not to mention that Band-Aids will peel off much easier.  This sentiment I can get behind as I have worked hard on developing these killer calves and I would hate to have ‘ol Thunder and Lightning marred by a poor split-second miscalculation in timing and/or braking.
  3. The Pre-Race Rub-Downs – I have been told that rubdowns and/or massages are more affective when performed on a silky smooth leg.  Furthermore, masseuses’ actually prefer to administer their healing touch on hairless legs.  Personally, I could care less what the masseuse prefers.  For the money they typically charge for their sessions they can just deal with it.  I’m not about to completely alter my lifestyle and risk ridicule and humiliation just so they can enjoy themselves more.  And as far as being more affective is concerned, I also call ‘bullshit’.  A little bodily hair isn’t going to hinder anything.  As far as I’m concerned, the rubdown and/or massage is all about me.  So the comfort level of the masseuse just doesn’t even register.  Suck it up, princess.
  4. Keeps You Cooler – This I also have a hard time believing.  Nor am I hairy enough for this really to be an issue.  If you have the all-encompassing body hair of a Sasquatch; then perhaps.  But as it is now, this is really not an advantage as I see it.

Now for swimmers, shaving has always been considered as something as both a benefit and a tradition.  It is claimed that it provides both physical as well as psychological benefits.

Traditionally, most swimmers – both men and women – will remain as hairy as possible through the most intense periods of their training.  Then, during the days before their big swim meet, they shave their entire bodies including their arms, legs and chest; creepy – but true.  The removal of hair is said to reduce drag or water resistance allowing the swimmer to slip through the water easier and faster.  And even if doesn’t necessarily make you faster, I’m sure psychologically it may give you that slight advantage.

After all, believing is half the battle, right?

Now I will admit that the feeling of slipping into a lukewarm pool of water with zero body hair does sound tempting – but not enough to get me to shave anything.  But how does this help me when I’m wearing a wetsuit?  Well, it doesn’t.  Does it?

So, once again, I’m back to square one on the whole shaving dilemma.

Truth is, as far as I’m concerned…it’s an ego thing.  And that’s totally cool.  I’m sure it all feels pretty neat and that my girlfriend may like the feeling as she might if she were, say, petting a hairless cat.  And why wouldn’t she?  I’m not sure how I would feel pressing up against a wiry, bristly body at night – but I digress.

So what’s a novice triathlete to do?

I know that there is the risk there for a total emasculation of my uber manliness, but the thought of my needing skin grafts after an unfortunately wipe out is not a pleasant one either.  Part of me thinks I am already riding on borrowed time in this regard and that my number is about to come up sooner than later, so why not be ultimately prepared if/when it does happen?

Whatever the decision is, I’m sure you will all be the first know along with actual video documentation should that event ever occur in the near future.  As of right now, however, I’m still on the fence and there are still too many uncertainties for consideration.  What if I really like it and decide to keep it?  What if that leads to a raging Nair addiction that leaves me without even so much as eye-brows?  What if that inspires me to change my name to ‘Theresa’ and take up a new lifestyle as a professional drag queen a la Pricilla, Queen of the Desert’?


  1. Carolyn says:

    I would shave minutes before a big race when I was swimming in high school. I didn’t want to have smooth legs for my warmup or events that didn’t matter. But for the big race, the race that *might* take me to the State Championship, yes, I was in the community shower shaving!

    I remember my guy friends in high school would life up my jeans to see how long my leg hair had gotten. It was so gross. It hurt when I would sleep at night because it was so uncomfortable.

  2. Jan says:

    You are an absolute NUTCAKE! But one thing I know. This is the prelude to the “Shaving Video” that you will soon be preparing and I just can’t wait for that!!!

  3. mom says:

    Be prepared for the stubble!!!
    I bet Simon is au natural!

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