Outside of being able to stay relaxed in the chaos of open water swimming, I rate sighting as the most important skill triathletes need for the swim. If you can’t swim in a straight line you will end up swimming further and waste valuable energy. Simple.
And one mile (or 1.2, or 2.4 miles) is enough, right?
Here are 5 ways to master sighting, avoid obstacles and finish the swim faster and efficiently:
Bilateral breathing – breathing to both sides will give you a 360 degree view of where you are. Being able to switch the sides you are breathing on will give you the option to follow a marker even if it happens to be on your weaker side e.g. the shore
Match the rhythm of your stroke. Before you breathe lift your eyes out of the water and scan quickly before turning it to the side for a breath and back down again. Lift and look forward, turn to the side and breathe, and back in the water. Simple!
Just a peek – lift your head just enough to get your eyes out of the water to scan for your marker. Lifting the head up too high causes fatigue and costs you time as you pause, and will lead to you dropping your hips and legs.
Landmarks and swimmers – don’t limit yourself to the buoys marking the course. Use your fellow swimmers, although do not trust them blindly. As you breathe to the side pinpoint landmarks you can use to guide your way – this will reduce the amount of times you have to lift your head to sight. Scan the course for such landmarks before the start.
Practice in the pool before you hit the open water. Do 4x25m of “alligator eyes” drill where you lift your eyes just out of the water. “Water polo” drill: swim with head up every second length. This will get you used to keeping your stroke together with your head out of the water. Get a friend to place objects (e.g. cone, kickboard) randomly around the pool and see how quickly you can spot them. As you swim down the lane, scan for particular objects e.g. a sign on the wall. When practicing longer swims make sure you practice your sighting.
Working on your sighting will ensure you are not swimming further than you need to – save your energy for the bike and run!