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Swim Etiquette

By Deanna Pomfret | Nov. 03, 2015, 10:59 a.m. (ET)

swimThe triathlon swim is usually the leg people talk and worry about the most. I’ve heard things like “I just need to get through the swim,” “I’m fine once the swim is over” and “I’d do a triathlon except I’m afraid of the swim.” The fact that fear for the swim can stop someone from trying this excellent sport makes me as a swim coach pause and think why and what can I do to make it less intimidating?

Only we as a group can make this sport more swim friendly. You don’t have to stop kicking or stop doing the breaststroke, but you can do things to make our sport and specifically the swim leg less intimidating. Here are six simple rules of swim etiquette to keep in mind for your next race.

1. No sudden moves. Keep calm and relaxed, and focus on your swim. The swimmers in close proximity will either slip by or find a spot that offers both of you space. 

2. Don’t get too close to the buoys if you are a nervous swimmer. Swim a wide circle around the buoy. That is where the aids are should you need one and you will avoid the more assertive swimmers. You will likely swim better without the stress of buoy traffic.

3. Swim with the other swimmers, not against. Look at the other swimmers as your personal advantage. Learn how to draft. Practice this in the open water with your swim mates.

4. Do this drill. In the pool or the open water, get three to four swimmers. Have all the swimmers except for one take off and swim very slowly, very close to each other. The swimmer left behind sprints through the line to pass through the pack of swimmers. The swimmer that is passing through practices getting very long in the water and slipping gently through the pack. This teaches the swimmers in the line how to navigate a more assertive swimmer and get used to contact in the water and this teaches the passing swimmer to do it gently.

5. Adjust your kick. Learn how to swim with a 2-4-6 beat kick in case you find yourself in a crowd and want to dial it back or pull out of a pack. A great swim coach can teach you how.

6. Keep in the spirit of the sport. We are there for competition, fitness and fun.

We are all out there swimming the same exact course and trying our best. The nicer we can be to each other in that swim wave, the more relaxed we will all be and relaxed swimming is fast swimming.

Read more tips from Deanna in “Swim a Straight Line in the Midst of Chaos.”

Deanna Pomfret has coached fitness enthusiasts, runners, swimmers and triathletes since 2005. She is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, Road Runners Club of America Certified Running Coach, Certified Functional Strength Coach and Owner and Swim Technique Analyst with Athletic Pursuits LLC. Deanna presents at clubs and symposiums on various fitness and motivational topics. 

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.