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8672 Views 13 Replies Latest reply: Jan 27, 2011 6:07 AM by Anthony5450
Barry11 Legend 332 posts since
Dec 5, 2007
Currently Being Moderated

May 18, 2008 5:33 PM

Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...


This past weekend when perfoming the swim portion of an olympic tri (.6 mile swim), I felt like I could not get any air.  I was wearing a new wet-suit and this was the 1'st time ever wearing a wetsuit.  The water temp was 54.  I had to "backfloat" for a long time to catch my breath.  Previously I have completed sprints and not had any problems (no wet suit) and in the pool, 2000 meters is not a problem (no wet suit).



Any thoughts on my problem?









  • Renee In Motion Amateur 7 posts since
    May 12, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. May 18, 2008 7:48 PM (in response to Barry11)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...


    It is not uncommon for first-time wetsuits wearers to complain of breathing difficulties. Barring any size issues, sounds like your problem is simply that you need to get used to the wetsuit.



    I'm a lifelong swimmer and the first time I put a wetsuit on I really hated it. Found it difficult to breathe due to my chest being compressed by the suit and slight constriction around my neck. You get used to it eventually.



  • Anthony_All3 Legend 237 posts since
    Aug 8, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. May 19, 2008 3:44 AM (in response to Barry11)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...








    Which Tri did you do, I have never heard of an olympic being .6 miles, standard olympic is 1 mile(1500m)?  One other thing to remember is the water temp, I was in the lake yesterday swimming and the temps are still low, was about 53.  No matter how seasoned you are or become you will always have difficulty breathing in these temps, especially if you didn't warm up prior to the race(in the water).  One important thing to remember, never try anything new on race day, no matter how fool proof it may seem, train like you will race, and race like you have trained, you can't go wrong.  Good luck!









  • Gregory Goodman Rookie 1 posts since
    Dec 1, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. May 19, 2008 12:51 PM (in response to Barry11)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...


    My first olympic was Saint Anthony's which I was pulled from the ocean in the "ride of shame" to shore.  My 2nd olympic was Memphis in May last weekend.   I had the same issue both weekends as you have had.   I did train in open water in my wet suit but on race day I couldn't breath.   I finally caught my breath hanging onto a canoe and this lady of wisdom finally told me what I was doing wrong.   I was having a panic attack due to being in a race and having so many people around me.  I was swimming faster than I was training and I was taking shallow breaths.   She had me close my eyes and take large deep breaths for about three minutes.   She then said to concentrate on my breathing and to swim as slow as I could.  Dont try to outswim anybody!  The next thing I knew was I was seeing the swim finish and I felt like crying out of joy!  



    Hope this helps,






  • Doc Tri Expert 46 posts since
    Apr 4, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. May 19, 2008 1:22 PM (in response to Barry11)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...


    A tight wetsuit is a possibility but that would be lower on the list.  Going out too fast is possible.  A panic attack is very possible.  It is probably the most common problem at the beginning of the swim for many triathletes and newbies.



    The water temperature sounds like it could have been a big factor.  Until your face becomes numb from the cold water temp you can have a gasp reflex where you reflexively "gasp" for air.  (This is actually one of the causes of drowning when people fall into cold water.  They gasp underwater and inhale the water.)  If this sounds like the problem, make sure you get in the water well before the start of the swim and get used to the cold water temperature.  Right before the start, make sure you get your face in the water and can hold it submerged without gasping.



    Doc Tri

    When it hurts, smile.

    If it doesn't hurt, you're not going hard enough.

  • Michelle - Pinnacle Multisport Coaching Rookie 6 posts since
    Aug 13, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. May 19, 2008 4:03 PM (in response to Barry11)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...


    As a swimmer and triathlete coach I have all my athletes practice with the

    wetsuit several times prior to racing. It is challenging for us since I live in

    Miami, Florida

    and we don't have cold water.   As others previously have mentioned make

    sure your wet suit is the correct size, practice with it prior to racing as

    well as getting comfortable with the temperature of the water.  Always

    remember pool swimming and ocean swimming are two different animals! 






    Best Regards,



    Michelle Garner   





  • triguy333 Expert 42 posts since
    Jul 18, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    6. May 20, 2008 7:27 AM (in response to Barry11)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...


    A lot of great things are being tossed out there as options. #1 thing to remember is practice the swim in the SAME environment the race is in. If the water is cold get in a practice swim the 2 days before etc at the race site.  Breathing can be very shallow in cold water because the cold water makes your body work a bit more.  If it is a mass start grab some friends and practice it in your local pool/lake. One thing I love to do with athletes is but 5 athletes in the same lane at a pool and make them swim together without circle swimming.  Getting comfortable with the confusion is a good thing for race day.



    Practice your pacing also for the swim, try not to go out too fast on the swim and ease into it. When you get comfortable open up the speed boost!  Remember that you are the one doing the swim, not the guy/girl you are racing at the start.  Everyone swims at different speeds so be careful who you are swimming with.



    Your wetsuit fit could be a problem but it is likely because you have not used it enough. Try to keep the neckline not as tight the first few times, I have noticed athletes get a bit more nervous with the constriction on their throats. As you get more comfortable you may tighten it up.



    Best of luck racing!



  • pcchick Rookie 3 posts since
    Jan 25, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    8. Jan 21, 2011 12:36 PM (in response to Renee In Motion)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...

    I hope the breathing gets better. I need to train in my suit but I live in Utah and everything is frozen if i swim in the pool will it ruin my wetsuit? Also I feel my suit fits well but I have breast implants do you think that might be restricting my breathing?

  • IronMakeover Community Moderator 738 posts since
    Jul 7, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    9. Jan 22, 2011 8:42 AM (in response to Gregory Goodman)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...

    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for sharing this experience, it's really important, useful info & could help a lot of first-time triathletes be safer in the swim segment.


    Would you be willing to tell me more about your swim & other experiences as a triathlete? I'm working on a writing project and I'd love to include your perspective.

    You can email me via or at sklandolt at yahoo dot com. You can also read more about me on my blog and I can answer any questions you have etc.


    Thank you,

    Sara Cox Landolt

    Sara Cox Landolt

  • IronMakeover Community Moderator 738 posts since
    Jul 7, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    10. Jan 22, 2011 8:51 AM (in response to Anthony_All3)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...

    Hi Anthony,


    I believe it's the bike-segment of a triathlon that determines which distance category that event falls under. So, you'll see a range of distances on the swim and/or run for events in the same category, which is a little confusing.



    Sara Cox Landolt

  • BT.ROB Legend 270 posts since
    May 12, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    11. Jan 26, 2011 9:51 AM (in response to pcchick)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...


    I live here in PC also and use Silver Mountain in Prospector. Although all my winter swimming is in the pool (no wetsuit), as soon as it warms up, I open water swim in the Jordanelle (with wetsuit). You can use your wetsuit in the pool to get used to it but don't do it too much as the chlorine can damage it. Be sure to rinse it well after being in the pool. I think a lot of panic/breathing restriction is getting used to using a wetsuit and being in the open water (and in tris with a bunch of other swimmers around/over you). I wouldn't think the implants would have a different effect if you have a wetsuit styled for women. But I'm a guy so what do I know?


    Good luck and have fun!



  • pcchick Rookie 3 posts since
    Jan 25, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    12. Jan 26, 2011 10:17 AM (in response to BT.ROB)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...

    Thanks I guess I jsut need practice. Also if you know anyone new to the sport Silver Mountain is holding their 1st annual indoor tri in April. We have hired a USAT coach to put together basic training programs. There will be more info in teh newsletter next month or you could got to and search PArk City triathlons and it should come up.

    THanks again for you input

  • Anthony5450 Amateur 25 posts since
    Nov 17, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    13. Jan 27, 2011 6:07 AM (in response to Barry11)
    Re: Swim portion of a triathlon - Help...

    Wet suits can be really tight so if it was your first time you're not going to be used to that feeling. Also, you shouldn't try something new on race day. ALWAYS test a new variable during training so you know what to expect. I think if you continue to practice wearing a wet suit in training then you'll feel better during racing.


    Also, make sure it's the right size!

    Sprint Triathlon Training Program

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