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Cloudy water, not being able to see the bottom, crashing waves, and strong currents are the main obstacles to staying on track when swimming in open water. And with every "navigation error" comes the inevitable "getting back on track”. A substantial waste of time and energy as I am sure you will agree..
To properly tame this natural element and its environment without losing your bearings, it is therefore important to be aware of a few tricks to keep you on track from beginning to end.
Today we will concentrate on the techniques used by open water swimmers before and during a swim for orientation, how not to deviate from your course, and especially how to reach your destination!
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Whether for a competition or for an open water training session, swimmers must take some time before setting off to analyse their future playing field. It is essential to visualise and memorise the route you plan to take as well as the exact location, shape and colour of the buoys.
This step is paramount, whether you have decided to swim inside the designated swimming area or outside of it. In addition to locating the buoys, also look for landmarks that are high up and visible from a distance (pylon, tree, building, etc.).
This is particularly important if you are swimming in the sea, because of the height of the waves. Indeed, once you are several metres from the shore, they tend to block your vision of the coastline and therefore your landmarks. And as for the waves, the best solution is to make them your friends! Use them to gain height and find where you are more easily. Memorising these key reference points will help you to subconsciously, and without necessarily needing to lift your head every ten metres, maintain consistency in your route.
If you are then able to combine your spatial awareness with a good breathing technique, you will be a real-life compass!
As you may have already noticed, open water swimmers tend to raise their heads very high when they take a breath. This is in fact a very effective way to simultaneously combine orientation and taking in air. This technique is used by all experienced open water swimmers. Moreover, at sea, in addition to breathing and orientation, it lets you give your arms and legs a rest as the wave passes under you.
However, looking in front of you in this way while open water swimming without losing efficiency in your stroke requires a special technique:
Now you know how to get your bearings and stay on course in open water! But before you begin, to be able to orient yourself effectively, the first prerequisite is being able to see clearly! To be sure of this, choose swimming goggles with mirrored lenses to protect your eyes from the reflection of the sun on the water. And one more tip: to avoid a foggy session, put some shampoo on your swimming goggles and rinse them before you head off! Enjoy your open water adventure!
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