January 22, 2018

Staying On Course When Swimming in Open Water

Swimming in open water is much different than swimming in a pool. Yes, you’re still swimming and it requires most of the same muscles but it is different. To be effective in open water swimming you need to get adept at staying on course.

A good friend of mine, Scott Calender, wore his Garmin at the Desert Triathlon a couple weeks ago and downloaded the route he swam afterwards. While he thought he was swimming on course he was amazed at how much distance he added by not swimming straight.

So here are a couple tips:

  • Wear good goggles: Old, scratched up goggles impair your vision. Pony up the $10.00 for a new pair.
  • Get some defogger: New goggles aren’t any good if they’re all fogged up. Yes, they make anti-fog goggles but use the defogger in case.
  • Wear the appropriate goggles: I always take a pair of clear and a pair of smoke goggles and wear the ones that are appropriate for the light.
  • Sight: Effective sighting is the best way of staying on course. Check out the course early if you can to find out what landmarks you can use to help you stay on track. At the Desert Triathlon there was a palm tree I used on the way out and the peak of a mountain on the way back.
  • Sight frequency: Early in the race, and as you approach a turn buoy, you should be sighting more. I generally start out sighting every four strokes and stretch it out to six, eight, 10 then 12 as I go. Sighting slows you down and takes more energy so you want to minimize it as much as possible but not to the detriment of staying on course.
  • Practice swimming without looking: Most people favor their left or their right. As a result, if you don’t watch where you’re going you’re going to veer off a straight line. You can practice swimming in a straight line by swimming in a pool, in your own lane, with your eyes closed. You’ll find out very quickly which way you favor. Try this in open water as well. When you know the direction you favor you can compensate for it during your races.

I hope these tips help YOU stay on course during your next race.

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