Swimming in a straight line sounds easy but is actually harder than it seems. Even in a pool with lane ropes either side and a line on the bottom we see people weaving about all over the place. So how do we get better?
Well, if we look at our bodies and how we use them to propel ourselves we get a better understanding of what may cause us to not swim straight.

We are not built with the same strength and flexibility on both sides. One arm may be stronger and the other may be more flexible. Or one may be longer. Your left leg may me more efficient at balancing out your stroke. Or your right hand may come under your body pushing you to the left.

Having a symmetrical stroke is very hard to get unless you have amazing proprioception and muscle control (or have been swimming since you were 3) so what we have to do is make allowances. If you regularly drift to one side (let's say the left) then you need to ease off the pressure on the left hand and right leg and apply a bit more on the right hand and left leg. This is easy in training but during a race you have all that adrenaline flowing so we would advise you try to relax both arms and kick a little bit less. This will also help with any anxiety and also pacing better.


Without the comfort blanket that is the line at the bottom of the pool how do we know where to go? 

Knowing the course is a good place to start. We encourage people to swim at the venue if possible and at the same time that they will be swimming during the event so they know what to look for and what the sun will be doing. If this is not possible then spend time on land looking at the course. Usually there are big buoys lining the route. If the water is calm then just swim from one to another using them as beacons to guide you. If it is a bit choppy or they are small then look for immovable objects above them. Such as trees, buildings, mountains, piers or pontoons that are easy to spot. These are often easier to sight on as they tend to be the first thing we can see rather than buoys. The other land marks to look for are the shore line or river banks. Being able to breathe to both sides is important for this to be successful.

Once you have your route planned and your objects to sight on the next thing to practise is actually getting the rhythm of looking up. We would recommend looking up every 12-15 arms strokes is a good ratio, but if you do struggle with going off course maybe increase the frequency to every 6-9 strokes.

There are two main ways of doing it. Firstly as you go to breathe bring your head forwards with your eyes out of the water. Then as your arm comes over you are back to head down. The other way is do that in reverse. As your arm starts the recovery lift your head a bit up then as it comes through turn your head and breathe in. The first method tends to give you more time to look where you are going but drops your legs for longer and the second is better for a quick glance.

Some people rely heavily on following the bubbles in front. Which is great if you know and trust they are going in a straight line. Which isn't always the case so we suggest that you practise sighting so you can see for yourself every once in a while.

Finally if you are swimming in the sea or a river where there are currents or tides involved knowing where to aim for can make or break your ability to go in the correct direction.Look for boats anchored. They will be pointing towards where the current is coming from. If there are no buoys then look at anything else floating - birds, debris or even other swimming. Aim accordingly to take this into account. Swimming slightly wider may seem like the strange thing to do but it will eventually mean you will actually swim less distance than others.

Hopefully that has given you some things to go away and work on.

Happy swimming (straight)