Natural Health - Peak Performance - Longevity - Adventure
1Vigor logo

Eney Jones finishing 3rd at the 2012 2.4 mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim. Photo courtesy of The Hawaii IndependentOpen Water Swimming on 1Vigor
Eney Jones

Head Position for Open Water Swimming

Eney Jones - Open Water and Pool Competition Champion

Open water skills to combat the elements

There are many techniques that will work and are advisable in the pool, but in open water you need to have access to combat whatever elements Neptune might throw at you. That includes where you put your head in these elements:

Rage: Where the wind is going in one direction and the current in the other direction
Washing Machine Sea: Where there in no pattern to the sea
Cross Current: Where you are actually swimming perpendicular to the current
With and Against the Current: At the turn around you need to adjust your stroke to the conditions. Distance per stroke with the current and a higher cadence working against it.


Many swimmers and triathletes are taught to press their chest and keep their head in line with their chest. Picture a burrowing animal, this is what it looks like; it is confining and not very productive.

Posture. Instead, lift the sternum, stretch out the diaphram. Think Roger Bannister breaking the tape.

Alignment. Your head lifts to stay in line with a lifted chest. This is the position you want. A wide catch. Think Duke Kanhanamoko, relaxed trapezius and deltoid muscles. With good posture and alignment that would be good standing upright, your head is naturally higher on land and will be the same when you lie down in the water.

This alignment offers the following three benefits:

1. A higher head position offers less resistence. It is easier to move through air than water. Air is 800 times less dense than water (water is 1 gram per cubic centimeter).

2. A "breaking the tape" body position allows breathing to be easier and not as constricted.

3. There will be better access to sighting in both water polo and alligator position- you won't have to break your stroke or strain your neck.

Density breathe. If it is rough you might have to density breathe. Lifting your head out of the water to breathe might not be possible so you breathe in the air with water in your mouth. They are different densities. Practice breathing air with water at the base of your mouth.

How to manage a higher head position

A higher head position can lead to (i) a strained neck and (ii) dropped feet. However you will have better sighting capabilities.

How do you deal with these difficulties?

Relax your neck, lift your sternum and widen your catch. Keep your neck in line with a lifted sternum and it will be higher without any effort.

To deal with the dropped feet, swivel at the navel, this will give you more length in the back of your stroke where you want it. The back of the stroke is where you will find the power and propulsion. Add a cross over kick for additional length. Many runners and triathletes can not do a cross over kick because they are locked in their lower lumbar region and have tight IT bands and hip flexors. Stretch.

In a pool you will always reach the other end without sighting or having easy access to sighting. In open water without sighting or easy access to sighting you might never make the shore.

If this goes against everything you have been told and have been reading, remember there is one thing we can agree on . . . . . .

Content. What is in your head is much more important than the position of your head!

Eney Jones has achieved remarkably diverse success as a leading pool, open water and Ironman triathlon swimmer.

  • Masters National Champion 100-200-400-500-1500-1650 5k freestyle 2009
  • Open Water 5k Champion Perth Australia, May 2008.
  • National Masters Champion 200-400-1500 freestyle Champion, Portland Oregon, August, 2008.
  • Overall Champion Aumakua 2.4k Maui Hawaii, September 2008
  • Waikiki Rough Water Swim 3rd place 2006, second place Overall 2009, 3rd place 2012
  • European Record Holder and Masters Swimming Champion, 2005. Records included 200, 400, 800, 1500 m freestyle
  • Over twenty time finalist in U.S. Swimming Nationals, including Olympic Trials 1980
  • Gold medal NCAA 800 yd freestyle relay 1979, silver Medalist 200 yd freestyle 1979. United States National Team 1979-1980.
  • Professional Triathlete 1983-1991. First woman out of the water in every Hawaiian Ironman participated (6).

More about Eney Jones

<-- back to top

1Vigor Log Contest 1Vigor Log Contest Win Prizes! Prizes to the Male and Female who logs the most distance running, hiking, swimming, cycling, pushups on the 1Vigor Log . . . Read more

Run Training Plans
Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Triathlon,
5k-10k races
2008 ITU Duathlon World Championship in Rimini, Italy Build Speed and Endurance
Jan Raphael, Ironman Champion
Chris Harig, Duathlon National Champion

Books on 1VigorMudford England, by Ralph Teller Recommended reading on swimming, running, cycling, adventure, natural health, nutrition, brain power, nerve force, men's health, hiking, women's health . . . See Books!

Daily News of Open Water Swimming

Articles on Open Water Swimming

PublicationA Pool Workout to Increase Open Water Swim Finish Speed!, Trent Grimsey, 1Vigor

PublicationCold Water Distance Swimming - How to Acclimate to Cold Water, Ryan Stramrood, 1Vigor

PublicationDistance Open Water Swimming Tips, Trent Grimsey, 1Vigor

PublicationPool Workouts to Improve Open Water Swim Speed, Thomas Lurz, 1Vigor

PublicationHydration and Electrolytes - Impact on Athletic Performance, Paul Bennett, Jr., Ph.D., 1Vigor

PublicationSwimming Hydration and Electrolyte Strategies - Improved Performance and Muscle Cramp Prevention, Ralph Teller, 1Vigor

PublicationOvercoming Anxiety During Triathlons and Open Water Swimming, Ralph Teller, 1Vigor

Copyright 2013 1Vigor, Inc. All rights reserved.