Navigation Tips for the Triathlon Swim

No matter your swim speed, one crucial element to the swim portion of a triathlon is navigation.

Swimming the shortest route requires attention to the course design and environmental conditions. The best way to improve your open water navigation skills is to practice in a lake, river or ocean.

However, many athletes don't have the luxury of having regular access to these bodies of water.

More: 5 Secrets of the Triathlon Swim

Luckily, there are drills that you can practice in a swimming pool to help you prepare for open water conditions.


A cardinal rule of competitive swimming is to never lift your head to breathe, but open water swimming is different.

Without black lines, lane ropes and walls to guide you, it's imperative that you pick your head up occasionally to glance forward and make sure you are on course. Always spot-check to ensure you're headed in the correct direction.

MoreHow to Stay on Course

Often, swimmers decide to blindly follow the person or pack in front of them and assume they're going in the correct direction. This strategy may work depending on the course. More often than not you'll wind up swimming extra yards if you don't personally verify your trajectory. It's helpful to practice sighting in the pool or your neck will be sore on race day.

Practice Set:
Swim 500 yards, picking your head up to sight every 8th stroke. Next complete 10 lengths of 25 yards (10 x25). On the odd laps, swim with your head up the entire length, on the even laps, sight once per lap.

More: Race Rehearsal Tips

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