A major difference between swimming in a pool and swimming in open water is visibility. In a pool, it’s easy to swim in a straight line because the water is clear, you can see the bottom and you likely have lane lines to help you stay on track. In open water, you don’t have any of that! It becomes easy to swim way off course and end up swimming much further than you planned.
How do you fix that and learn to swim straight? Check out these tips for practicing open water spotting!
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What is Spotting?
Spotting (also called sighting) can help you stay on your chosen route during an open water swim, and also ensures you’re aware of your surroundings. To spot, you’ll lift your head up every 10-12 strokes and look for a reference point in the direction you want to go, such as a tree, a dock, a buoy, a mountain — you name it!
Open Water Spotting Tips
Don’t Lift Your Head Too High
Related: How to Put on a Wetsuit
You just need your eyes to break the surface of the water — no need to lift your head up super high! Doing so will cause your hips to sink, putting you into an inefficient body position for your swim.
Spotting properly takes practice. If you’re training for an open water race and can’t get to the lake or ocean frequently, practice spotting in the pool!
Plan Ahead if Possible
If you can, pick at least one spotting point before you hop in the water. Do this while planning your route and you’ll stay right on track!
Try the Closed Eyes Drill
Another way to keep yourself on course is to close your eyes while your face is in the water. It seems like a crazy idea, but hear us out! Swim 10-12 strokes with your eyes closed, and then open your eyes, lift your head and spot your reference point in the distance.
After doing this a few times, you’ll begin to figure out if your body typically veers off in one direction. Once you’re aware, you can make a conscious effort to spot and avoid drifting off course. Keeping your eyes closed can also help you become more comfortable in open water.
This method is ideal for bodies of water that are calm, have minimal current and are not busy with watercraft.
Fares hit the beach at Lake St. Clair in Michigan to work on sighting. Before he dove in, he ran through a quick dryland circuit to warm up his body for the chilly water!
Warm Up Circuit (3 Rounds, 10 reps of each exercise)
- Arm Circles
- Arm Swings
- Dynamic Hamstring Stretch
- Split Jumps
Fares logged his swim using MySwimPro on his Apple Watch. During the workout, he was able to track total distance, average pace and real-time heart rate!
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