Body hair, while widely considered a symbol of masculinity and power, is deemed a hindrance by many athletes. Swimmers, sprinters, cyclists and bodybuilders, to name a few, all opt for hairless bodies, with hopes of gaining physical and mental boosts that will put them on top.
As ridiculous as it may sound, those looking to eek out every last drop of competitive advantage believe that going bare is an essential part of the game. Today, we’ll look at the reasons why so many athletes make hair removal a mandatory part of their routines.
In sports, even fractions of a second can mean the difference between victory and settling for second place. A common theory among athletes is that a lack of hair results in a decrease in resistance from wind and water, thus making them faster.
A study in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that hairless runners decrease times by .01 seconds in the 100m and up to 5.7 seconds over the course of a marathon. A study on swimmers, conducted by American College of Sports Medicine, found that those without hair performed better in the 400m, showing an increased stroke length and reductions in blood lactate and VO2.
Lack of body hair provides the athlete with a variety of enhances in general comfort. For example, it makes it easier to treat wounds (e.g. road rash from cycling), wick away moisture and squeeze into those skin tight spandex body suits. It even makes getting massages more enjoyable. Athletes need to feel unrestricted and do away with anything that breaks their concentration.
You’ve probably noticed that men with muscular physiques often go hairless. Bare skin reveals muscle tone and is easier to tan and maintain. Bodybuilders, known for trying every trick in the book to look shredded, are always hairless from head to toe. A chest or abs covered in a mat of hair just would not do their hulking bodies justice.
Outside of bodybuilding, we’ve seen athletes from Lebron James (basketball) to Tim Tebow (football) to Rafael Nadal (tennis) show off hairless bodies, proving that hair removal is not isolated to a particular type of athlete. Whether a trend or fashion statement, the bottom line is, these testosterone laden hunks proudly choose to rid themselves of body hair.
The mind and body are connected and work in unison to power performance. If an athlete feels comfortable and confident both in physical appearance and athletic ability, he or she is bound to perform at a higher level. Even if going hairless doesn’t shave seconds off of a sprinter’s 100m dash time, if he or she wholeheartedly believes there is a chance it may do so, they are more inclined to push their body to limits that achieve the same results. Looking good means feeling good, and confidence is an essential part of the mind of an athlete.