Triathlon events can be quite tough especially for newbies. Having to combine the 3 sports during one event is definitely challenging and this is why you might wonder whether you can have a rest during a triathlon event.
It is possible to take a break during a triathlon at any leg of the event. During the swim, you can hold onto a boat or a buoy. During the bike, you are allowed to stop pedaling and get off your bike if needed. And during the run, you can just stop running to have a rest.
There are a few rules to follow to rest during a triathlon. The following paragraphs will go into more details about these rules to make sure you don’t get a time penalty or even get disqualified for resting during a race.
Taking a break during a triathlon swim leg
According to World Triathlon – the international governing body for triathlon (previously named the International Triathlon Union ‘ITU’ before October 2021) – it is possible to rest during the swim portion of a triathlon:
Rule 4.1.C: Athletes may stand on the bottom or rest by holding an inanimate object, such as a buoy or stationary boat;triathlon.org
And according to Ironman Triathlon:
Rule 4.01.H: Athletes are permitted to use the on course kayaks and boats as aid, as long as no forward progress is made.ironman.com
In summary, you can stop swimming and take a break as long as you are not moving forward. One solution is to rest standing still with your feet on the floor whenever that’s possible. From my experience, it is rare to have a foothold which is probably why Ironman triathlon does not mention it in its rules. But don’t worry, you can also hold onto a buoy or a boat. In many races, you will also find paddles that are here to help. They are considered stationary boats if you need a break.
Taking a break during a triathlon bike leg
According to World Triathlon, it is possible to take a break during the bike leg of a triathlon. You must follow the two following rules when taking your rest.
Rule 5.1.a: An athlete is not permitted to make forward progress without being in possession of the bike.
Rule 5.2.g: If an athlete moves the bike off the course for any reason, the athlete may not unfasten or remove the helmet until after he/she has moved outside the boundary of the bike course route and has dismounted the bike; and he/she must fasten the helmet securely on the head before returning onto the bike course or before remounting the bike;triathlon.org
Let’s recap: if you need a break while on the bike leg, you can stop on the side of the road as long as you keep your helmet on fully fastened. Be careful of where you are stopping as you are not allowed to block or obstruct the way to other participants.
But what if you have pains in your legs, knees and you really need a break from cycling, or if something is wrong with your bike. Is it possible to walk with your bike?
Can you walk your bike during a triathlon?
You can walk your bike during a triathlon event without being disqualified or getting any penalties. Actually, as long as you keep your helmet on fully fastened and you have your bike with you, you can walk. This can be useful also to know if you have a mechanical issue with your bike. In this case, you can walk your bike or carry it to the next transition and still finish the event.
World Triathlon only specifies that you are not allowed to make any forward progression without your bike. TeamUSA specifies the rule a bit more in detail to make it more clear:
Rule 5.2: Participants shall not make any forward progress unaccompanied by their bicycle. If a bicycle is rendered inoperable, a participant may proceed on the cycling course, running or walking, while pushing or carrying the bicycle, so long as the bicycle is pushed or carried in a manner not to obstruct or impede the progress of other participants. Any violation of this section shall result in disqualification.teamusa.org
Taking a break during a triathlon run leg
There is nothing preventing you from resting during the run portion of a triathlon. According to World triathlon, you can:
Rule 6.1.A: The athletes will:
– run or walk;
– not crawl;
– not be accompanied by any non-competing athletes, team members, team managers or other pacemakers on the course or alongside the course;triathlon.org
According to Ironman triathlon:
Rule 6.01.a: Athletes may run, walk, or crawl;ironman.com
It is not forbidden to come to a complete halt. You can stop running if you need to, even sit down on the side as long as you do not obstruct the way to others. But the best way to rest during the run portion I would say is just to stop running and walk instead. Slowly at first, a bit faster when you feel better. And if you can’t, just keep walking at your own pace and you will make it to the finish line.
Fun fact: for ironman triathlons you can even crawl to the finish line if you need to.
What about resting during transitions?
People generally want to transition as fast as possible. But there is no rule preventing you from taking your time or having a little rest.
There is one rule about it though (identical for Ironman Triathlon):
Rule 7.1.N: Athletes cannot stop in the flow zones of the transition areatriathlon.org
This means that you can only rest in your ‘individual athlete area’ where your bike and/or shoes are located. So, you cannot rest in the common flow zones (running corridors) where you run in and out of your individual area.
So if you need a break, or want to take your time, be mindful of others in the area. Do not slow down the flow of athletes and in your individual area be careful not to block the athletes next to you from getting to their belongings.
Should I take breaks?
Triathlons are challenging sports events where you are constantly trying to push yourself harder than usual. So it might happen that you need to slow down or even take a rest. And there is nothing wrong with that. It can even be what you need to get you to the finish line.
Of course, if you are competing for the podium that’s not really an option.
But remember triathlon is supposed to be FUN! So take a break if you feel like it! There is no shame in it!