Race Tips

A Pre-Race Routine For Every Triathlon Distance 

Don’t spoil the big event by just waiting around for the race to start.

You’ve put in the training, traveled to the race and set up all of your gear. Don’t spoil the big event by just waiting around for the race to start. A pre-race warm up can help your mental and physical performance throughout the race. Here are some distance-specific morning warm-up routines.


The shortest events actually call for the longest warm-up. A sprint triathlon is a very intense race between 1–2 hours in length. Your heart rate will be elevated and your body will be producing high levels of lactate acid from start to finish. A long warm-up will awaken your body, increase your heart rate and prepare your musculature for the demands of the race.

Start on land to activate your lower body.

  • 3-minute walk
  • 5-minute easy jog
  • 3×20 second strides (build from an easy jog to a strong effort) with 40 seconds recovery walk between each

Change into your swimming gear and continue warming up in the water.

  • 1 minute getting comfortable in the water
  • 3-minute easy swim
  • 4×10 strokes fast with 20 strokes easy between each

RELATED: Train Hard For Your Next Sprint Triathlon


Focus on preparing for a 1500-meter swim. The swim is long enough (20–40 minutes) that your body, heart and mind will be sufficiently activated for the remainder of the race. The focus of this warm-up is to get the pre-race jitters out of your system.

  • 5-minute easy walk/jog (optional)
  • 1 minute getting comfortable in the water
  • 5-minute easy swim
  • 4×20 strokes strong with 20 strokes easy between each

RELATED: Get In The (Pre-Race) Zone

Long distance (half or full Ironman)

Limit your physical warm-up on race morning to muscle activation and water acclimatization. Do a mental warm-up to go over key aspects of your race. Keep your core temperature low for as long as possible to minimize the effects of heat stress later in the day.

  • 10-minute visualization of your race
  • 1 minute getting comfortable in the water
  • 5-minute easy swim

RELATED: 4 Swim Sets For 70.3 Training

Warm-up tips

  • Plan your race morning schedule the day before and leave enough time to complete a warm-up before your wave starts.
  • Start with a walk/run on dry land. Stay off your bike as much as possible in the early morning hours when it’s still dark.
  • „USA Triathlon is encouraging more race directors to provide participants with a warm-up area in the water. Check with the race organizers ahead of time to understand the in-water warm-up policy.
  • Bring a towel or jacket to dry off and stay comfortable before your wave is set to start.
  • Sip on some water or energy drink after your warm-up to remain hydrated and to calm your nerves.

RELATED: Andy Potts’ Cold-Water Swim Tips

Cold weather or chilly water

„If you are easily chilled, the water temperature is very low, or it is a very cold day, complete all of your warm-up activities on dry land to prevent catching a chill after a pre-race swim.

„Always pack a set of stretch cords in your race bag. These can easily be attached to a fence post or other immovable object near the race site. Perform a few minutes of swim-specific drills to activate your arms and upper body.

„Pour warm (not hot) water into your wetsuit before the start of the race. This will reduce the influx of cold water from rushing into your suit when you first enter the water.

RELATED: Warm-Up Without Water: 4 Stretch Band Exercises