For many, especially those new to triathlons or less confident in their swimming abilities, the question of whether breaststroke is allowed during the swim leg arises. This concern is particularly pronounced in open-water starts, where the challenge of managing crowds and maintaining steady breathing can be daunting. Let’s explore the rules and possibilities of using breaststroke in triathlon races.
Are you allowed to swim breaststroke in a triathlon?
Swimming breaststroke is allowed in triathlon events. This is not the fastest swimming stroke but nothing prevents you from using it: either partially or even during the entire swim leg.
You are not required to swim freestyle in a triathlon. All strokes are accepted in the rules, and you can switch strokes at any time during the race. Generally, people prefer freestyle as it is the fastest and most efficient stroke. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, just use another stroke.
Indeed, according to World Triathlon – the international governing body for triathlon (previously named the International Triathlon Union ‘ITU’ before October 2021) – it is clearly stipulated that you can use the stroke of your choice in a triathlon:
“Athletes may use any stroke to propel themselves through the water. They may also tread water or float. Athletes are allowed to push off the ground at the beginning and the end of every swim lap.”World Triathlon Competition Rules
If you race with Ironman Triathlon, their official competition rules do not specify any swim stroke for the race. This means you can use any stroke.
Note that you can also take a break during the swim leg during a triathlon. Want to know more? Here you will find the detailed rule and explanation.
When to use breaststroke in a triathlon? My strategic insights
Breaststroke is generally taught first to children, so when you are an adult, breaststroke generally feels like an easy and reassuring swimming stroke, even though not the fastest. When it comes to triathlon, a non-confident swimmer will appreciate swimming breaststroke for the entire swim leg, while a beginner triathlete will appreciate switching to breaststrokes temporarily for sighting or to manage the crowd fight at the beginning of the race.
It is best to use breaststroke in a triathlon:
- If you start panicking: as you can keep your head above water and not struggle to breathe
- At the start of the race: to let people overtake you and free yourself from the crowd, or if someone knocked out your goggles to replace them
- During the entire swim leg: if you are better at breaststroke than freestyle for instance
- If you start being tired with freestyle swimming, you switch strokes to keep moving forward
- To help you get directions to the next buoy
Just a heads up: breaststroke uses the legs much more intensely than freestyle. Be careful to still have the legs to carry on with the bike and the run legs afterward.