Sighting drills are useful to triathletes and open water swimmers. They are practice sets that help us to better locate and swim straight toward a buoy in open water.
Practice makes perfect. When someone is swimming an open water race or swim leg of a triathlon, emotions are high, and the ability to focus on distant targets can be difficult. The movements of sighting are unique and need to be practiced to be efficient and to disrupt the stroke as little as possible.
Safety. In open water, boats, both motorized and not, pose a threat to swimmers, even in tightly controlled race situations, so swimmers must be vigilant, looking in all directions.
Speed. Venturing off the straightest path can add unwanted time in a race. Sighting helps to stay on a more optimal path.
Practicing sighting drills in the pool beforehand allows an athlete to become comfortable with looking for and spotting the necessary buoys.
How do I Practice Sighting Drills?
There are a few different drills options that can be done in a pool or in open water. If you are new to triathlon or open water swimming, it is recommended that you practice often!
Tarzan Drill: Swim across a 25 yard (or meter) pool looking straight forward with only your eyes forward. Rest 20 seconds. Repeat 4 times. Doing this drill strengthens the neck and upper back muscles, which will make it easier to sight a buoy in open water without over-tiring. If the athlete is doing a triathlon, every bit of energy saved on the swim is beneficial on the bike and the run.
My athletes know this as the Tarzan/ Alligator Eyes Drill. This is because when I was assigned this drill by my coach, all I could imagine was pretending I was the alligator from Peter Pan.
Closed Eyes Drill: Push off the wall in a clear lane (I recommend doing this in a non-crowded pool). When your face is in the water, close your eyes. Only open them when your face is OUT of the water. This limits your eyesight, simulating open water.
If you are training for an open water swim, sighting drills are crucial to success!