Open Water Swimming – Sighting for Beginners

Today, I’m going to review “sighting”or how to look where you’re going during an open-water swim. For a lot of triathletes, this is all they see during the swim, the feet of the person in front of them. Now, if the swimmer or pack that you are following is swimming straight, that’s great… But… What if you have to chart your own path?

How do you look where you’re going? Incorporate it into your breathing pattern. I like to get my side breath first, look forward for a couple strokes, then down. Breath,forward, forward, down. Try practicing it breathing to the right and/or left to see if one side feels more natural.

How high I lift my head and how often I look forward, depends on a number of factors. How wavy is it? How well do I know the course? How crowded is it? Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, and no matter how often you look, you want to be comfortable doing it.

For example, some congestion the first 100 meters or so of the swim is to be expected, but there have been a few times where I’ve consciously left the pack in search of open-water.  Drafting is not effective if you’re swimming on top of one another. Ocean swims require some adjustments. You’ll need to time when you look with the rise and fall of the waves. Otherwise, all you’ll see is more water.

Ideally, you’ll want to practice swimming open water in actual open water.  However, there are somethings you can do in the pool that will help. If your practice facility will let you,taking out a lane marker or two will create a rougher/choppier water environment.

Also, if your triathlon club has the pool time, setup a small open-water course in the pool itself.  Try some intervals around the course.  4 x 5 minute swims with a minute rest in between could prove challenging (no pushing off the walls).

You can’t win a triathlon on the swim, but you can lose it. Now, I’m not talking about having a sub-par swim. My swim split on probably my worst triathlon competition wasn’t that bad. However, I expended so much energy and effort during the swim that it adversely affected my bike and run. Don’t put 75% of your energy into 1/3 of the race. Swim your race not the race of the feet in front of you.


What do you think?

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Written by Chris B.

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