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OPEN WATER – Breaststroke Sighting

OK, the summer is just about over, and most people are about to head indoors for their swimming. So, as you can see, I�m a little late with any open-water postings. If you’re a pool swimmer, like me, it takes some inspiration to jump into open water. My inspiration came in the form of the women’s triathlon at the Athens Games. Wow! I got so excited watching the race that I ventured out into the Chesapeak Bay this week.

Now, I know there have been a thousand articles on open-water sighting, but most of them are written by people who know how to swim freestyle REALLY well. They are clearly not thinking about us breaststrokers — folks who are challenged by freestyle and who have a tough time getting air regularly. And is it just me, or do other swimmers have trouble going STRAIGHT when they are breathing to the side? Wouldn’t it make more sense for triathletes to swim breaststroke, so they can head straight for the next buoy?

This brings me to my sighting solution for those of you who want to swim in open water, but happen to be breaststrokers, like me. I�ve done this type of sighting in the few open-water swims in which I�ve competed. I figure, why not use my strength to see where I�m going, rather than constrict my already challenged freestyle with an additional burden.

Why Do It:
For me, it�s simple. I use breaststroke to sight because I can really get a solid look at where I�m going. Plus, if you compare my breaststroke and freestyle speeds, I probably go faster with breaststroke anyway.

breaststroke sighting How To Do It:

1. Obviously, you�ll be in a large body of water, with no lane ropes, lines on the bottom, or walls to turn on (scary to think about, isn�t it?). You should have at least SOME point to target on — trees, an island, a tall building or steeple, the other side, a buoy, LAND! With this reference point to chart by, start swimming in that general direction, and try to rotate equally to both sides.

2. After you�ve taken a few strokes, start to feel a bit of rhythm in your body, and begin to plan your ATTACK stroke. I call it this not because you�ll do it forcefully, but because you�ll dive down just a bit more with the entering hand to move your body into an undulating movement.

3. When you�re ready to site, leave one hand out front instead of pulling it back. Continue to recover the other hand so that both hands end up in front. When the recovering hand begins to meet the lead hand, dive down just a bit with both hands extended and begin a breaststroke stroke.

4. As you�ll see in the 3rd picture, my legs come up as I�ve pressed down in front to begin the breaststroke.

5. Take a couple strokes of breaststroke, lifting your head a bit more than normal to make sure you get a good look at where you�re going. Take as many as you need, the fall back directly into freestyle, and get back to your flow! Be aware that other swimmers drafting on you or swimming near your legs may NOT be thrilled that you are throwing in a couple of nasty breaststroke kicks every few strokes. But the good side of this is that they may stop drafting on you if you keep it up!

How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):

We all know breaststroke is NOT really faster than freestyle, so the goal will always be to develop a comfortable and balanced freestyle stroke that will allow you to swim for a long time, STRAIGHT! However, currents, waves, wind, people, those little fishes and jelly thingies that STALK you under the water, may cause you to veer off course and, for that reason, you HAVE to develop great sighting techniques.

The goal would be to sight only as often as necessary to keep you on course. If it�s not wavy, and you�ve got a good freestyle, you may only have to sight every 100th stroke. Start sighting every 10th, then 20th� etc., until you get into a good rhythm that you�re comfortable with. When it�s time to sight, the goal is to maintain as much momentum as you can.

If you happen to be a really good breaststroker, this is a great way to get a GREAT view of where you�re going, plus maintain great momentum. It�s not for everyone, but I�ve yet to find the swimming skill that IS for everyone. I just know this one works well for me.