Dizziness after the swim in a triathlon is common – here are six ways to help avoid it and get through transition with a clear head.

Getting out of the water after your swim only to find that you’re wobbly legged and light headed can seriously affect your triathlon; leading to blurred vision, sickness and even a premature end to your race.

Even if the effects don’t mean stopping your event, a long transition as you get over your dizzy spell can be a real frustration, especially after a great swim.

Here are six of the best ways to mitigate dizziness in transition.

Practise going swim to bike in training

Outside of racing, we rarely get the opportunity to experience going straight from swimming to cycling but this is crucial if you tend to suffer from dizziness or nausea in T1 during events. Giving yourself as much practise as possible – whether in a pool or open water setting – not only allows you to find out what works best for you but can even just increase your tolerance to the disorientation or nausea so that you can get through it better on race day.

Transition orientation

Practising run-throughs of transition on race morning is essential for a quick change onto the bike, but it’s also a great way to avoid post-swim disorientation. Knowing exactly what row your bike is in and using a landmark outside the transition area that lines up with your spot will help get you to your kit with minimum fuss.

Go to the swim exit and walk or jog through transition several times until you’re totally clear on your place – and don’t forget to memorise your race number so you can make sure you’re on track.

As you’re nearing the end of your swim, visualise going through transition in your mind and repeat the row number of your bike so that you don’t go the wrong way even if you are a little dizzy.

Kick at the end of the swim

When you’re swimming, blood flows into the working muscles in the upper half of your body and because wetsuits position us so well in the water, there’s little need for more than a gentle balancing kick. Even if it’s a non-wetsuit swim, the majority of blood will be in the arms. To prepare for the run to transition it’s essential to get some life back into your legs, especially in longer swims such as Ironman 70.3.

In the last 150m or so, increase the power of your leg kick to get some blood flowing into your leg muscles. Beware that the increased leg speed doesn’t mean your arms go into sprint mode though – you should maintain the same smooth stroke you’ve used for the majority of the swim.

Take time getting to your bike

Once out of the water, your heart rate will start to spike as your body tries to compensate for the different muscles being used and the redistribution of blood this causes. Sprinting through transition will only exacerbate this jolt to the system, so unless you think that this extra bit of running is going to get you on the podium, keep it to a gentle jog.

Use the time to get your breathing under control, remove your hat and goggles and peel your wetsuit down to your waist – both to speed up transition and to reduce constriction across the chest and help you breathe more easily.

Keep your head up

A sure-fire way to trigger those waves of dizzying nausea is to bend over in transition so try to keep your head above your heart as you ready yourself for the bike leg. This might require some transition practise in advance and practical positioning of your kit in T1 – such as hanging your helmet from your bike’s handlebars – to make this possible.

Start with your head – helmet, sunglasses – and move down the body, trying to keep your head up as you put on your race belt and pull on socks. If you’re able to have your shoes already clipped in on your bike, this will speed up transition and mean less bending over.

If you’re already feeling dizzy as you enter transition, sit down while you put your kit on. Not only does this help calm the body down but it allows you to get socks and shoes on more quickly than several failed one-legged balancing attempts.

Save nutrition until you’re settled

If you’ve still got that uneasy feeling in your stomach at the start of the bike leg, take time to settle in before eating or drinking. Your heart rate will be going wild following T1 and it’s all too easy to get carried away in the racing and go far too hard in the early stages. If you force gels and energy drink down too soon, you might see it come back up even faster.

If you’re wearing a heart rate strap, you’ll be able to see when your heart is settling down and if you have a power meter, you’ll be able to tell if you’re riding too hard. Alternatively, just pay attention to your breathing – once breathing is slow and natural, the nausea usually starts to disappear.

Give it a few more minutes, then take in some plain water and see how that sits on the stomach. If the water stays down, then you should be OK to continue with your nutrition plan.

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