How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day

We’ve been talking about the effect that panic has on transferring your speed from the pool to open water.

stop triathlon swim panic attack

Panic on race day is one of the biggest reasons why triathletes fail to convert speed from the pool to open water. In the last post I showed you two ways that you can help avoid panic on race day.

But what happens if you do start to panic at some point during the swim on race day?

Here are three ways I deal with panic.

3 Ways to Calm Down From a Panic Attack On Race Day

1. Clear Your Mind Of Negative Thoughts

Close your mind off to to any negative thinking. Negative thoughts have a habit of spiraling downwards and getting worse. Feeling a little short of breath can quickly lead to thinking you’re in a life threatening situation!

Don’t allow any thoughts that don’t serve you to linger. The easiest way to do that is to be task oriented, which leads us to number 2.

2. Stay Task Focused.

end triathlon swim panic attack

Don’t allow your mind to get overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. Don’t focus on how far you still have to swim. Or the fact that everyone is swimming away from you! It will only make things worse.

Focus on the very next thing that you need to do to get your swim done. It’s usually to take the next breath and start your next stroke.

Do that. Then do it again.

Focus on the things you can control. The things you’ve practiced many times over. Is your body in a good position. Is your hand getting a good catch on the water? Are you sighting well?

You will finish the swim one stroke at a time. So take that first stroke, then the second, then the third.

3. Breathe

If at any point anything doesn’t feel right or you’re not comfortable, check your breathing. Panic and breathing are very closely linked. Re-gain

Make sure you are in control of your breathing and that it is regular and consistent. Calm yourself and center your thoughts. Now you are ready to rock and roll!

Panic attacks prevent many triathletes from reaching their full potential in the water. Learn to love the open water. Your pool speed will transfer over much better when you do!

Leave me a comment below if this is something you’ve struggled with in the past.
~ Rory


Related Advice & Tips:

I wrote this post as part of a series on swimming well in open water. Read the rest of the posts in the series here:

Part 1: The Six Culprits Of Slow Open Water Times
Part 2: How To Prevent An Open Water Swim Panic Attack Before Race Day
Part 3: How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day
Part 4: How To Swim Straight In Open Water
Part 5: Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming

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7 thoughts on “How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day”

    1. Glad it was helpful! Were you able to identify what’s causing the panic when race? Not enough open water practice? Going out to fast at the start?

  1. Pingback: Triathlon Swimming: Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming

  2. Pingback: Open Water Swim Panic Attack - How To Prevent It Before Race Day

  3. Man, I *love* this series of articles. I just swam my first 2K this morning, and what you have written is absolutely spot-on. I spent the first 15 mins or so just getting the panic under control. I’m really looking forward to re-reading all of these and prepping for my next open water swim! Thank you!

    1. Hey Mark,
      Really appreciate your feedback on this and super glad it was helpful to you! Remember that you will need to have a good foundational understanding of your stroke and solid base line swim fitness before you will feel fully confident and comfortable in the open water. Let me know if you have any specific questions, I’d be happy to help.
      ~ Rory

  4. I train in open water and have no issues. I feel very comfortable and have no problems swimming for over an hour and half at around 1:50 to 1:45. But during every tri race I go into panic mode during the swim. I race at 2:15, and have to stop several times. It makes the rest of the race very difficult, cause I’m spent. Why do I go into panic mode? I practice swim with people that I race with and they don’t have this issue.

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