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The Triathlete Blueprint newsletter #10-How to Survive the Swim Start With a Smile!

Updated: Apr 8

Read time: 3min.

By Coach Yan Busset

Triathlon swim starts can appear wild, crazy, and chaotic! To be honest, in many races these days, they make it easy (too easy?) for you by placing rolling starts instead of the iconic "washing machine like" mass start. But sometimes you don't need 2,000 overexcited fit people in neoprene to make it difficult. I recall from the days when I was "fast and furious" (these days I am just furious…), that my most challenging swims were not due to the number of participants but from the density of the field. But fear not, dear "triathletes-to-be," because I'll show you how to tackle that swim start like a pro. Keep in mind what they said: "Nothing is impossible." I was afraid of water before I started my triathlon journey (more on my story here), and the swim start is now my favorite part of this sport! So tighten your swim cap, and let's dive in!

Mental Preparation:

Get your game face on! Before you jump into the water, it's time to mentally gear up for the swim start battle.

Visualisation: Close your eyes and imagine yourself gracefully gliding through the water, dodging flying limbs like an aquatic ninja. Visualise a successful swim start with a smile on your face, because why not?

Embrace the Chaos: Remind yourself that the swim start is like a crowded water park—crazy, unpredictable, but fun. Embrace the madness and get ready to make some epic memories!


Find Your Sweet Spot: placing yourself strategically can make all the difference in the swim start madness.

Choose Your Tribe: Assess your swimming skills realistically and find your swimming tribe. If you're a speedy dolphin, swim towards the front to ride the wave. If you prefer a more relaxed swim, hang towards the back where the water is calmer. The same goes with rolling starts; seed yourself according to your realistic swim level to get more chances to not be swum over by faster swimmers.

Partner in Crime: Grab a fellow triathlete friend with a similar pace and swim side by side. Together, you'll conquer the swim start like synchronised swimmers (minus the artistic figures).


Move your body before jumping onto the dance floor! A proper warm-up will help you feel at home in the water. If you skip the warm-up part, you might feel out of breath very fast.

Wet and Wild: Dip one foot (and the rest of your body) to get used to the water temperature and adjust your wetsuit.

Mini Swim: Swim a short distance to get your muscles warm and your heart pumping.

Technique and Breathing:

Center your focus on the process so that you will forget the chaos.

Stealth Mode: Lift your head enough to navigate correctly without looking like a confused sea turtle. Stay on course and avoid any unexpected encounters with fellow swimmers.

Riding the Wave: Take advantage of the swimmer ahead of you and let them break the water for you.

Breathe Easy: Don't hyperventilate like a pufferfish. Remember to relax and focus on breathing out.

Stay Calm and Go with the Flow (Literally!):

During the swim start, anything can happen. Stay cool, calm, and go with the watery flow

Bumps and Splashes: Expect a bit of contact with your fellow swimmers. If someone accidentally gives you a love tap, don't take it personally. They most probably didn't mean it and are as confused as you, so keep swimming with a smile. It's all part of the fun, right?

Plan B: If you feel overwhelmed at some point or if you suddenly drink the delicious water of that lake, switch to breaststroke or swim on your back if necessary to take time to catch your breath and then resume your swim.

Surviving the triathlon swim start is a wild ride, but it's part of the fun. It's about attitude and preparation. Train your technique during winter, practice in open water, learn to enjoy it, and have fun in it. Swim with a squad or with training buddies to take you out of your comfort zone. Repeat, over and over, until it becomes second nature. And stay positive. You've got this. You have a floaty wetsuit on. Take your time to navigate your way out, and with experience, you will be able to do it with ease to save your energy for the bike and run. Because remember, the party is just getting started!


-Be prepare mentally, visualise a positive outcome and embrace the chaos.

-Place yourself strategically, with swimmers of the same level.

-Warm-up correctly.

-Get used to the water temperature.

-Adjust your wetsuit properly.

- Look up to navigate right and avoid other swimmers.

-Calm your breath, don't over ventilate, focus on breathing out.

-Expect a bit of contact with other swimmers, stay calm.

-Change stroke style if needed to catch your breath.

-Practice in group in open water, repeat, over and over, until it becomes second nature.

Thank you for reading and see you next week!


Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

1. If you are looking for support for your triathlon journey, I recommend you book a 30min 1on1 video consultation with me here.

2. If you are looking for an online coaching service check here.

3. if you are in the Helsinki area and looking for the best training group check here


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