Improving Open Water Sighting Efficiency

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

I am an Open Water swimming enthusiast. It’s fun, interesting, and brings a different dimension to the sport. For swimmers new to Open Water, one of the biggest curveballs is “sighting,” which is lifting your head to peek forward over the water to get your bearings from landmarks or buoys. Efficient navigation is important to avoid swimming farther than necessary but most swimmers are very inefficient at sighting when starting out. The keys to doing well are:

  • Avoid picking up your head higher than you need to.
  • Figure out how often you need to sight in order to stay on course. Less is better IF you stay on course.
  • When you do pick up your head, bring your whole body up by engaging the legs a bit more intensely than before and tightening the core.

Here is a set to test how well you are doing sighting:

9 x 200 free @:30 rest

#1 – no sighting – just swim at a moderately strong pace

#2 – sight once every 8 or 10 strokes. Try to keep your overall effort close to #1, and see how close your time is to #1.

#3 – sight once every 4 or 8 strokes, again at the same intensity. Check your time.

Repeat for #4-6 and #7-9.

The closer together your times, the better and more efficiently you are practicing your sighting.

400 Free Race Prep Set with Coach Westerberg

Gordy Westerberg, Clovis Swim Club

3 Rounds

50 chute for feel

50 from dive on :50

3×100 at 400 pace on interval ~25 seconds rest

50 push all out

E200

Goal of this set was to work on the middle 300 of a 400. I wanted them to go fast on the dive, not reckless, so they start the 3x100s with an elevated HR. Then apply pressure on all 3 100s. Once they are really tired, then sprint that last 50.

Results? They were way too conservative on round 1 in the dive and first 2 100s. Round 2 was better and then round 3 is where they should’ve been.

Freestyle with Press-Outs

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

I like incorporating dryland exercises I to practice occasionally, and deep water means it is an opportunity for one of my favorites — press-outs. A press out is essentially a vertical push-up at the side of the pool. The swimmer starts in the water with his belly close to the wall and hands in the gutter. Pressing down on the gutter, he raises himself up until his upper body is entirely out of the water and then drops back in. It is a great exercise for developing strength for all strokes. Here is one of my favorite sets to incorporate press-outs:

16 x 100 free LCM

#1 – with 4 press-outs at the 50 @1:30

#2 – with 3 press-outs at the 50 @1:25

#3 – with 2 press-outs at the 50 @1:20

#4 – FAST swim (no press-outs) @2:00

You can vary the number of press-outs and the interval to create many different interesting combinations of speed and reps. Make sure your swimmers’ shoulders are ready for the stress and don’t do too much too quickly.

4 Lanes, 4 Speeds, 1 Freestyle Set

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

This SCY set allowed us to keep the group together on the same 5:00 interval. Each group/lane swam different distances (as indicated at the bottom of the dry-erase board) based on their ability.

We started each new round together. Swimmers were instructed to descend (swim faster) across the three swims even if/when the distance might stay the same.

Race Pace and Technique Set with Video

Ryan Woodruff, Lynchburg YMCA

We use 5 lanes of our 6-lane pool during practice. We did the following circuit that used an underwater camera hooked up to a time-delayed DVR and TV. The camera was positioned to gets “head-on” look at the swimmer coming down the lane. We looked at the video immediately after each swimmer finished the 25 in lane 6. This allowed us to make some technical adjustments while still performing a challenging set. Swimmers left the wall :15 apart so that the camera could adequately film each one.