Under, Over

in All Posts, Triathlons

My first triathlon of the season is a pool tri.  I used to shy away from pool tris because I thought they weren’t as ‘hardcore’ as lake tris, but then I did one and realized that POOL TRIS ARE AMAZING!  They are just as challenging and fun, and you don’t smell like lake water during the bike and run.  Win, win.


I did an entire post about this topic when I wrote the So You Wanna Do a Triathlon series:  Pool or Lake Swim?


When I did my first pool tri, I was shocked at how hard it was to coordinate swimming the entire pool.  The way a pool tri works is that everyone jumps in at the last lane of the pool (staggered with a few seconds between each swimmer).  Then, you swim down to the end, go under the lane buoys, and then swim up the second lane.  And repeat until the very end.  Going under the lane buoys is VERY challenging if you aren’t prepared for it.  You have to regulate turning, breathing, and pushing off, all while trying to sprint as fast as possible.

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I learned my lesson from that first pool tri!  Going under the buoys is something you should definitely practice.


I had the pool all to myself this afternoon, so I did 1,000 yards and swam 500 of them up and down different lanes.  When I approached the end of the lane, I would angle myself to the edge of the lane, put my hands on the edge, breathe, and push down.  I’d twist underwater so I was facing the right way, putting my palm on the side of the pool to do so, and then push off with my feet.  It took a few tries to get it right – no wonder I was so flustered during that triathlon!  But once I figured it out, it was pretty simple.  Doing the move, however, was super exhausting.


I guess you could do an ‘official’ somersault turn at the end of each lane, but I can’t even do that under normal circumstances, let alone during a pool tri!  Does anyone do this during a race?


After the swim, I banged out 2.5 miles.  With arm warmers on!  ‘Tis the season for arm warmers.  Too warm and too cold, all wrapped up in one afternoon.

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How did Add, Not Subtract go for everyone?  I had a great day.  I love a fresh start on Monday!



  • Jessica @ FromtheKitchentotheRoad March 25, 2013, 8:03 pm

    I think I’d be more likely to try out a triathalon in a pool. The thought of the open lake swim scares me right now. I’ve never done it before though so maybe it wouldn’t be so scary.

  • Kelly March 25, 2013, 8:16 pm

    My first pool tri was last year and I was DEFINITELY not expecting the difficulty of going under the lane. Ah! I can do a flip turn, but I’ve never really tried it go under the lane line. Unfortunately, I can never really get to the pool when it’s empty. I’m lucky if I have one lane, no idea how I am going to practice! Maybe I’ll just have to pretend haha.

  • Caitlin March 25, 2013, 8:24 pm

    Arm warmers are the best!! Seriously- as someone who is always freezing but warms up 1/2 mile in, they’re amazing!!

  • Shannon @ Mon Amour March 25, 2013, 8:26 pm

    Swimming up one lane and down the next is called serpentine 🙂

  • Ja @Athlete Within Ja March 25, 2013, 8:30 pm

    I haven’t trained for a tri but I’m planning to in the future. I would prefer pool too over the lake. I don’t like to smell of lake.
    I have a few of arm bands! Love those! You can easily remove them and tuck in your spibelt when you already feel warm.

  • Nikki March 25, 2013, 8:48 pm

    The pool tri that I did had us just swim in heats so we each stayed in our own lanes and had staggered heats (but there were not as many of us since it was a small race, maybe that’s the difference?). I used to love swimming snake style at swim practice as a kid though..it used to be a special treat! haha

  • Nadiya @ Milk and Honey on the Run March 25, 2013, 9:21 pm

    Oh wow. That’s something I never thought about with regards to pool tri’s. Wow I find flip-turns to be hard enough already but a flip-turn+ swimming over to another lane :S Ick! Thanx for sharing!

  • Kerry March 25, 2013, 9:26 pm

    If you flip turn close enough to the lane line it would be easy to push off into the next lane. A lot of the kids I coach accidentally do so at practice haha.

  • Ali March 25, 2013, 9:47 pm

    The only pool tris I’ve done had you in designated lanes according to how fast you were (based on previous times) so there were no swimming under the lane lines. You just went back and forth like you’d do in a lap swim and someone counted your laps.

  • Ashley March 25, 2013, 9:52 pm

    But flip turns are like a million times faster!! And easier. And let you push off the wall in one lane and streamline into the next! Seriously, you must learn to do them. Most swim teachers do private lessons…I bet you could learn in one or two sessions. It’ll be totally worth it, I promise.

  • Kristina @Run and Assimilate March 25, 2013, 9:53 pm

    My first triathlon was a sprint triathlon in Lake Erie. It was fun, but I think I’d like my next tri to be in a pool!

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed March 25, 2013, 10:06 pm

    Glad you got to practice! It will definitely make you feel more confident. I would definitely want to do my first tri in a pool. I miss swimming, I need to make that happen!

  • Heather March 26, 2013, 6:26 am

    I signed up for my VERY FIRST triathlon the last weekend of April. I’m learning how to swim right now, and I’m glad you mentioned this way of swimming a tri. Because I’ve never done one, I’m not sure what to expect. I’m hoping they’ll tell us at packet pick up the day before??

  • Ebernst March 26, 2013, 8:12 am

    I did a pool tri last year and I was shocked at how difficult it was! Although most of this was my fault because I put my 100 time in a little slow (1:30 as opposed to 1:25) and found myself around a lot of other swimmers who thought they were a lot faster than they were. (And its not acceptable to swim over people in the pool!)

    But being in a small pool, with loads of swimmers and doing flip turns under lane lines was extremely difficult…so probably a good idea to practice!

    Overall, I would prefer to swim in open water any day! I can’t wait till its actually nice in NC to finally get back to open water!!! 🙂

  • Angie March 26, 2013, 8:27 am

    I’ve only done one tri with a pool swim, and it was kind-of a fiasco. It was a charity tri, so those who raised $ went first,nand then after that we stood in this huge gym and were supposed to stand in lines based on our 100 free time. My time put me in the fastest group, who went last! I ended up starting my swim almost 2 hours after the start of the very short tri and being among the last 10 people in the water. I went out very hard and got in a good rhythm with flip turns. I would flip right at the corner of the lane and it was easy to push off under the rope. My husband has done several pool tris, and a couple of them did not allow flip turns.

  • Nick March 26, 2013, 10:51 am

    Hi all, My name is Nick and I’m a pool lifeguard. I love the swimming pool enjoy watching people swimming up and down many times. Swimming is so fun and enjoyable. Ive seen a couple of tri’s at my pool. Its excellent exercise. This is a brilliant blog and nice pictures. Not been swimming for a while, I cant wait to jump back in.

  • Erin @ Living Made Healthy March 26, 2013, 11:37 am

    I did not know that! The lake swim during my first/only tri was the worst. I’d be willing to try another in a pool! But probably never again in the lake!

  • Sydney March 26, 2013, 12:30 pm

    Having been a swimmer for about 15 years, I’m glad that the option for a pool tri exists. If I ever did one (though not likely since I suck at cycling) I would totally go for the pool tri. I think I’d have the flip turn advantage and I also wouldn’t have to lift my head out of the water to see where I’m going in an open water swim. Plus I’m slightly terrified of getting beat up during the open water swim! Also, arm warmers sound like a fabulous idea… think I might give those a try.

  • Amanda K. @ Living on Grace March 26, 2013, 1:59 pm

    I’ve done several pool tris with serpentine laps and, yes, if you’re not expecting it it can be surprising, especially because people often pause at the lanes and take a break OR people who aren’t expecting the lane changes will take them really slowly.
    I always do flip turns at the end of the lanes (you gain SO MUCH TIME!!) unless I see people resting at the end of the lane, and when that happens I swim underwater UNDER them.
    Lots of things you can do when you’re in the pool rather than open water!

  • Eva March 26, 2013, 2:20 pm

    I had a bad experience in my first triathlon at the lake! I will definitely prefer pool tri now since it’s always safe. I need to get rid of my phobia first before going to the open water again.

  • Sara March 26, 2013, 2:30 pm

    Hi! When I swim laps I do flip-turns; however, during my pool-tris both times that I’ve tried to do flip turns into the next lane I’ve ended up with another swimmer on top of me when I surface. ha! I just stick with basic touch, twist, and go as I feel I can scout out the lane a little bit.

  • Alison March 26, 2013, 4:15 pm

    Flip turns are a must! I’ve never done a tri, but I have done the “serpentine” swim, and it’s really not that bad – you just have to practice pushing off a little to the side so you end up in the other lane. And with no one coming towards you in the next lane, you’re not likely to hit anyone. Flip turns are fun once you get the hang of them – I usually spend about a week working on the fundamentals with the kids I coach!

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