Open-water swimming: how to practice sighting in an indoor pool

Open-water swimming is stressful, no question. We spend 90 percent of our swim training between two lane lines and following the black line on the bottom of the pool. Then we are elbow to elbow with 2,000 other athletes chasing a buoy you can barely see over the chop of open water. Good sighting techniques are critical to an efficient and effective open water swim.

Here are a few things you can practice while in the indoor pool

  1. Find a fixed object (clock, door, water bottle, etc) that is slightly outside of your normal breathing pattern. Then try to find that object each time you breathe. I find that this drill helps give me a good sense of what is around me while open water swimming. My breathing pattern is close to normal which maintains stoke efficiency and the visual information indicates if I am significantly off course.
  2. Practice swimming Tarzan style. This is one of those drills that no one likes to do but it is a tremendous help when open water swimming. Having the strength and coordination to sight straight ahead while maintaining your momentum will improve your swim splits. In fact, I would recommend you also practice sighting forward with only your eyes out of the water. Another attempt to maintain efficiencies.
  3. Swim on the heels of the person in front of you. Please be courteous and let them know you plan on swimming off of their heels or you might find an angry lane partner. By swimming off a person’s heels in open water you can eliminate about half of the number of times you sight. Find a good swimmer who is at your pace, drop back about a foot from their heels and enjoy the ride. But again, please be nice and keep your hands to yourself. Nothing ruins a good swim more than a strong kick to the face.

With the open-water season ending soon it is time to focus on indoor training. I hope you find these tips helpful.

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To Greg, rest is overrated. As a CEO of a small business emerging from bankruptcy, he spends the workday applying his skill as a turnaround restructuring expert to implement business plans that achieve success. His experience with maximizing resources applies to all aspects of his life. Greg balances family, work and an ambitious training regimen as he prepares for the Ironman Lake Placid Triathlon. Like the event itself, his daily life covers lots of different terrain.

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