Panic Attacks Kill Triathletes

If you think about your Alexander Technique directions (a free neck, the head releasing away from the torso, back lengthening and widening), it is virtually impossible to have a panic attack. You must compress to panic. If you think about expansion, you won’t panic.

Most stomach aches, for instance, come from compressing down into the stomach. Sometimes so much so that the result is regurgitation.

The solution is to stop pushing down in yourself, think up, and release into expansion of the torso.

Here’s an article on athletes dying in triathlons. They almost always die in the swim portion from panic attacks.

I did a triathlon once in Australia. I didn’t train and I finished last. An ambulance followed behind me during the ride and the run.

From the Washington Post: My hypothesis is these athletes suffer panic attacks, a state characterized by a racing heart, sensation of breathlessness or choking, and a feeling of lost control.

In the swim event, a combination of stresses can lead to a panic attack (or something like it): the excitement of the moment, the chaos of swimming into and over other people, the chest constriction of the wet suit, the darkness and coldness of the water, competitiveness and the desire not to quit when friends and family are watching. On rare occasions this leads to drowning.

Discussion threads on blogs suggest that panic attacks are common even among experienced athletes, although apparently nobody in the triathlon industry has attempted to learn how common they are. Some coaches mention them, but many triathletes train without coaches. Race directors in general don’t name panic attacks as potentially lethal but manageable hazards, though they do warn about wet roads for cyclists and high temperatures for runners.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that panic attacks leave no trace, making it hard to make them a contributing cause of death.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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