Swim start tips

Swim start tips for beginner triathletes.

Triathlon Swim Start

If you have already done a triathlon or (half) IronMan you know that a swim start can be somewhat like a washing machine. Everybody wants to go in the same direction and there is only a little space available. Expect a foot or two in your face, or an elbow to the shoulder. Even somebody swimming on top of you is not uncommon! To help you survive this madness we’ve gathered some tips.

Triathlon swim start tips

The tales of horrific swim starts can be daunting, but you have nothing to worry about, not every part of the pack during the swim start is as hectic as being in a washing machine. You can survive the swim start easily if you stick to these swim start tips.


A good warm-up is valuable in any sport and also for triathlons. A warm-up allows your body to get ready for action by opening the blood vessels to your muscles and helping you to give everything from the start. Before the start you get in your (dry) wetsuit and have a jump in the water. Every triathlon allows athletes to get in the water before the start. Sometimes it’s in a little designated area, sometimes it’s in the start area itself. Get in the water and get your wetsuit wet. Especially when the water is cold it’s important to get the water in your wetsuit. Float on your back and pull your wetsuit open a bit. The cold water will seep in and cold shock you, gasping for air. Because you’re on your back you can breath easily, so don’t be afraid, just let it seep in. Once you are comfy, do a couple of laps, free stroke, breaststroke, etc. Not too fast, just a simple warm-up. Then get to the start area and get yourself ready.

Location at the start

A good swim start is set by your place in the field. Make an estimate on where you’ll end up after the swim. Do you expect to be in the leading pack? Then go to the front. Do you expect to be in the back, then go to the back. And last if you have no idea, go to the back. The 5 seconds you lose at the start will make your day a whole lot easier if you compare it to being in a washing cycle.

The swim start

When the whistle, cannon or horn sounds, off you go. The whole pack around you starts to swim, so get to it, free stroke is by far the best choice. Get into an easy pace and forget about being comfortable. After a couple of minutes the whole pack will have spread out and you can stick on somebody’s heels. This is a good practice as now you can draft, if they are too slow for you, that’s excellent, just move up a spot. You can teach them a lesson by swimming over them, but let’s be nice and swim around. Please refrain from reverting back to a breast stroke, you are definitely not making any friends wielding around those feet!

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