Start today and your first box will ship Friday! - Sign Up Now

Couch to Sprint Tri: Triathlon Rules

June 02, 2016

Couch to Sprint Tri: Triathlon Rules

The world of triathlon is filled with many, many rules. If you watch the Ironman Kona event, you will see people put in time-out for their bad behavior throughout the day. The best way to avoid being a rule breaker is simply to know what the rules are. Some of them are there to help you too!

The following is a summary of some of the triathlon rules and regulations from Check it out for a complete list and more details if needed.

General rules:

You must complete the entirety of the course. No shortcuts. This is important to race officials down to a few feet of distance. If you get lost or make a wrong turn, you do need to re-enter the course at the same point you left it. The moral of the story here is to know your course! Check it out, drive it, look at the maps. It could save a lot of time and embarrassment. 

No assistance during your event. No person should ever hand something to you, help you, pace you. This is your event alone. If you forget something, you go without it after the race starts. If you leave something in transition that you cannot complete the race without, you backtrack to transition. Your loved ones, coaches, and even the event staff need to know that they are simply available to cheer you on and support you post race.


Leave your mason jars at home, because glass is not allowed!


 No headphones in Triathlon. This can be a tough one if you are transitioning to triathlon from running. Learn to go music free.

Don’t ditch gear on the course.

Keep it G-rated. Nudity is against the rules.

Swimming rules:

You are allowed to rest! There are people with kayaks, paddle boards, and boats. You can use them to rest as long as there is no forward progress. It isn’t sink or swim. You are allowed to touch the bottom if possible and you can move forward using the bottom if needed.

If you feel you are in distress, there are people all around you. All you have to do is pump your fist in the air and/or yell for help. But, if you receive official assistance, you will not be allowed to continue in the event. Your life is more important than finishing an event and sometimes people can have heart attacks from the stress of trying to swim with so many other people. So, be safe and smart. Remember if you just need a break you can keep going if you are just going to rest on the support when they are not moving.

Know your event’s wet-suit rules. There are specific rules based on the temperature of the water. Your wet-suit must be a triathlon approved suit, so don’t go wearing your emergency suit from the fishing boat you work on!

If your race director provides a swim cap, it must be worn.

Cycling rules:

If you are on the cycling course, you must be accompanied by your bicycle. No leaving it behind because you are a faster runner! But, this is important if you have a mechanical issue with your bike. If you can’t ride it, you can walk or run with it, but it must be with you.

While on the course, you must still follow all cycling traffic laws unless otherwise stated by the race director. Very few triathlons have closed courses. While there will be signs, police directing traffic, and volunteers, accidents happen and you are better off being safe rather than sorry.

If you pass an another cyclist who has been in an accident you must use caution and slow down when passing. I would also suggest letting the next volunteer or police officer know so they can receive help quickly if needed.

Wear your helmet! Not having a helmet on will result in immediate disqualification of a triathlon.

Follow the signs for mounting and dismounting your bike. You must slow down when directed to and no riding your bike within the transition area.

Place your bicycle properly in the corral in the transition area. You could finish the race in record time just to have it not count because you didn’t take the care to rack your bike.

Know your drafting rules.


Running rules

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but forward movement in the form of crawling isn’t ok. We have all seen the finishes of people crawling to the end, but technically, it isn’t actually allowed.


See the couch to sprint triathlon training plan here.

Find out what gear you may or may not need here.

Get some easy tips and tricks for each event here.

Some tips and tricks for transitions here.

Read about James’ (StrideBox Founder) firstsecondthird, and fourth week of training.

Subscribe to StrideBox here.