When you wake up every morning, open your front door, and walk straight into a wall of sticky, uncomfortable humidity, what does that mean? Besides that you want to turn right back around and bask in the refreshingly cool feeling of your air conditioning that is. Summer's here in Northern Virginia! And in the summer open water races and triathlons take over a lot of your calendars, so we thought this was the perfect opportunity to have a refresher course in our favorite sighting drills.
The first place to start, especially if you're learning to sight for the first time, is Alligator Eyes Drill. This is kind of like a modified tarzan drill where you're swimming with your head and shoulders much higher in the water than you normally would. For Alligator Eyes you want to swim with just your eyes above the surface of the water, keeping your nose and mouth in the water, allowing you to see what's in front of you.
Make sure not to lift your head up too far when practicing this drill, as doing so will quickly drain your energy from having to hold your head up without the help of the water. It's important to know that lifting your head for this drill will cause your hips to drop, increasing your drag/resistance, and causing your stroke to become less efficient. Don't worry, it's just a drill! When you go back to swimming normally, with your head down and your eyes looking at the bottom of the pool, your body will go back to the proper position.
To take a breath simply put your head back down into normal position and breathe to the side, just like you would in your regular freestyle. When practicing this drill in a pool, find something in front of you to use to practice your sighting.
My next favorite progression for sighting is a Rolling Sight, which is an advanced version and the next step towards sighting in the open water. This is actually the exact way I've come to sight in open water, as it very easily incorporates into a correct freestyle. I used to swim Tarzan Drill every time I got in the open water, and let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. It also zapped my energy and I kind of looked like an injured seal...but anyway, back to the point,.
A Rolling Sight works on adding a sight to your stroke while still swimming your regular freestyle. As opposed to keeping your head up the whole time, like in Alligator Eyes, you want to lift your eyes out of the water every 4-6 strokes. This movement is meant to quickly sight an object in the distance, most likely a buoy if you're racing, to keep you on course. Keep in mind this sight is not meant for you to be able to see everything perfectly! It's a quick look up to check where you are and keep you swimming in the right direction.
Play around with this one the first time you try it out to get the right number of strokes for you. Some people swim straight without evening trying and only need to sight every 8-10 strokes, whereas others need to sight more frequently. My stroke count in between sights varies depending on how choppy the water feels and if I'm feeling jostled around. There's no right number, just whatever feels comfortable to you. However, it's always better to sight more frequently than less frequently to stay on the safe side.