Use a variety of strokes
There’s no rule in triathlon that says you have to complete the entire swim in a standard crawl stroke; technically, you could dog-paddle the whole thing. There’s nothing wrong with switching to breast stroke or side stroke for a portion of the swim if it helps you regroup and remain calm. These strokes may not be as fast, but they get your face out of the water and keep you moving forward. Sometimes that’s all you need when you’re anxious or tired to bring your heart rate down a bit or catch your breath.
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