top of page

The Triathlete Blueprint Newsletter #59-Say Goodbye to Zigzagging: Swim Straight in Open Water

Read time: 2min.

By Coach Yan Busset

Open water swimming can be exciting but challenging for triathletes. It’s useless to be a fast swimmer if you end up behind because of swimming extra distance. Here’s are some tips on how to stay on course and swim efficiently in open water.

The Importance of Symmetrical Swimming

A balanced swimming style helps you swim straight. Focus on making sure your stroke on both sides is symmetrical. This will help you avoid drifting off course and swim more efficiently. 

Developing a Sixth Sense of Navigation

Being able to sense your direction in the water without always looking up is very useful. Here’s a practical drill: swim with your eyes closed for 10 to 15 strokes, then open them to check your direction. This will help you become more aware of any natural drift and correct it. Over time, you’ll be able to feel when you're drifting and adjust your course.

Sight Often Enough

Lifting your head to check your direction (sighting) is important to swim straight. If you have hard time orienteering well, it’s best you look more often than going in the wrong direction. It’s also important to practice sighting during training. In a long distance race, you might need to lift your head more than hundreds of time, and if you're not used to it, it can be quite tiring. Practice sighting drills in the pool or open water before your race to make it a natural part of your swim. Make so that your head don’t lift too much or you position high be affected, especially if your mobility is not top notch, if you lift your head too high and too long it’s like pulling on the hand brake of the car. Use a technique called "crocodile sighting" where only your eyes are pooping out of the water (possible only if the water is not to choppy).

Know the Course

Get familiar with the course before the race. Identify key landmarks and aim points. This knowledge will reduce the time you spend looking up and help you swim a more direct path. Without clear targets, you might zigzag more, adding extra distance to your swim.

Breathing Technique

Learning to breathe on both sides can help with navigation and swim symmetry. I don’t recommend  to breathe every third stroke, but alternating sides to give you better awareness of your surroundings. Most age-group swimmers should breathe every other stroke. This is because holding your breath for too long can lead to a lack of oxygen, making you tired quickly. Switching sides from time to time also helps keep an eye on the course and your position.

Don’t Blindly Follow the Swimmer Ahead

You can gain a lot from drafting behind another swimmer, but don’t assume they’re on the right path. Check your own direction occasionally to ensure you’re not following someone who’s off course. Compare the benefits of drafting with the risk of swimming extra distance.

Swimming straight in open water requires good technique, regular sighting, and smart navigation. By practicing symmetrical swimming, developing a sense of direction, and using effective breathing techniques, you can swim more efficiently and confidently. Remember, the shortest path between two points is a straight line, make sure your swim stays on that line.

Happy swimming! If you found these tips helpful, please share this article: we all know a training mate that makes zigzags in the water and tat could use these guidelines.


Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

2. If you are in the Helsinki area and looking for the best training group check here

3. If you are looking for an online coaching service check here.


Join our newsletter subscribers and

get actionable training tips every week

91 views0 comments


Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.
bottom of page