Ask the Coach – The Post Swim Wobbles

Ask the Coach – The Post Swim Wobbles

Continuing on the swim theme from last week – Dean asks: “When I get out of the water after a long swim I am not able to run well or straight. What can I do in training to help with this problem?”

If you’ve ever been a spectator at a triathlon watching the swim exit, you are sure to have seen many swimmers wobble their way up the beach to transition. This is because our equilibrium is a bit off. This can be caused by a few things:

1) Water in our ears – our inner ears control our balance so getting water in them can disrupt the function.
2) Being horizontal and/or in choppy water. While we swim our equilibrium system is adjusting to the position we are in. If we are in choppy water, our body tries to compensate. Some can handle this better than others (why some get sea sick and others don’t). But if you’ve ever been on a boat for an extended period or just played in the ocean and still “felt” the waves once you were back on solid ground, it’s the same effect.

Here are some articles about how the ears control balance

So what can you do to prevent this.
1) Wear earplugs to prevent water getting into your ears.
2) While swimming (after a relatively hard set, say a fast 300 or 400) get out of the pool as fast as you can and walk around it a few times. I would say run, but running is typically neither safe nor allowed on a pool deck. Do this a few times during a workout, and about once a week during training starting a few weeks out from your race. It’ll help you adapt going from the horizontal to vertical position quickly.

Coach Nicole is the author of The Triathlete’s Guide to Race Week. She is also the founder and head coach for NEO Endurance Sports & Fitness, a Colorado-based endurance sport coaching company. She is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and also coaches triathlon for Team In Training. Learn more at You can contact Coach Nicole with your questions for the Ask the Coach column on facebooktwitter or via email at

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Nicole Odell

  • Dustin
    April 14, 2011

    Interesting! I definitely feel wobbly after the swim (I just thought it was because I had just practically drowned!) Something else I was surprised by during my open-water swims is that I got very dizzy and disoriented while doing back stroke to recover for a brief interval. In fact, almost immediately felt sea-sick, but never has happened in a pool. Will try out your suggestions to see if it helps!