The Right (and Wrong) Way to Sight – Video Tips

Vicky and I put together a video that demonstrates the right and wrong way to sight. She is wearing the green cap. In a pool, it is easier to control sighting and breathing than it is in open water.

Obviously, there are times that you might have to adjust for a wave or another triathlete. The important parts to remember are:

  1. Lifting your head all the way out of the water to breath is easier for beginners but it causes your hips to drop from the surface and creates drag. It also creates an obvious hiccup in your stroke.
  2. Proper sighting involves “alligator eyes,” aka lifting your head only enough to get your eyes out of the water and then rolling that head lift into a smooth breath. This keeps your hips closer to the surface and eliminates a lot of drag. It also results in a faster/smoother stroke.
  3. The more symmetrical your stroke is, the less stress you will be putting on your shoulders, which can help prevent overuse injuries.

Categories: Miscellaneous

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19 replies

  1. Great video! I really like the “alligator eyes” analogy. And gosh, she is fast!

    • Thanks! Her “alligator eyes” is really the perfect description and you are right, Vicky is so fast! I have it on good authority she was doing 100 repeats the other day on the 1:10 and I wouldn’t be surprised if she was swimming meters. There’s a reason she swam in Olympic Trials three times!!!

  2. Great post and video. This is something I have struggled with in the past so I will be trying the ‘alligator eyes’. Thank you so much! – Simone

  3. This video is so helpful!!! Vicky, great demo…I think everyone can learn from your technique. Also, Maria, thanks for doing such a nice job explaining everything that’s going on!

  4. Alligator eyes….AWESOME que!! Who will ever forget that!

  5. Great video! One quick question from someone who is hoping to dip his toe in the water (excuse the pun), by attempting open water swimming this summer for the first time….. Do you “sight” on every breathe, or is the video just an exaggeration in order to demonstrate the technique?

    • Mike, that is a great question! You do not need to sight every breath. She is exaggerating it so that it is easier for us to see what she’s doing. In open water, you only need to sight when you’re gathering information to help you swim in a straight line. Depending on the situation it could be every breath or every few breaths and it is going to change even within the same race. Sometimes the water is choppy, sometimes you’re in the middle of a pack, sometimes it might be rainy, etc. Just go by feel and if you start to get disoriented, sight!!!

    • Good question Mike! I see that Maria got you set up with a great answer! I did over exaggerate for the purpose of demonstrating in the video, but I can honestly say that the number of time I sight can vary on the conditions. The “alligator eyes” method really doesn’t feel much different than regular freestyle breathing and can be comfortably used as often as necessary. When swimming head up, I can actually feel my body position effected, a hitch in my stroke, and a loss of efficiency. It’s definitely something to play around with until you find the frequency that feels natural for you.

  6. Easy to understand – can’t wait to try it out in the water! Thank you! BTW, love the term ‘alligator eyes’!

  7. I hope you don’t mind – I’m sharing this with my tri team. Great video. By the way, sometimes I just do the alligator eyes thing to site and DON’T breathe! It all depends on what’s going on around me at the moment.

    • Yay! I’m so glad you’re sharing the video!!! You are right that you don’t have to breathe every time, and it is so dependent on your environment. She was exaggerating the motion for the video so it is easier to see what she’s doing. I will clarify that in a future post though because you made an excellent point. Thanks~

  8. How timely. I just finished my first triathlon of the season which included my first ever ocean swim. After the swim portion I realized my sighting was terrible and that I really should be dedicating some quality time each week working on sighting and love the alligator eyes!

  9. Great video!! I so needed to see this because the last person I watched taught to bring your head all the way up … BUT, I can see how this will slow me down. I will practice this!! Thanks so much!


  2. Open Water Swim Advice for Beginners | IowaTriBob

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