View Full Version : eyes open or closed

jim thornton
December 9th, 2002, 05:41 PM
My teammates and I were discussing the following apparently inane topic, and I thought it would make a good poll question. To wit, during practices, which of the following apply to you:

1) I swim with my eyes open pretty much all the time, except for regular blinks.

2) I close my eyes when my head is underwater, but open them during breaths.

3) I close my eyes during breaths, but open them when my head is under water to make sure I am not wandering off track.

4) I close my eyes much of the time on each length, and try to remember to open them before crashing into the wall.

Note: just realized I don't exactly know how to format this as a poll. If anyone else does, please feel free to do so--or send me a note about how to do it myself.

BTW, I often swim with my eyes shut; not quite sure why, other than swimming practice seems to induce a mild level of narcolepsy in me. Or perhaps it is a reflex action from the pre-goggle days when closing your eyes during practice was necessary to keep your corneas from being eroded by chlorine.

jim clemmons
December 9th, 2002, 06:34 PM
Number 1 of course. How else are you gonna watch the babes (females) nearby? ;)

Tom Ellison
December 9th, 2002, 10:20 PM
#1 one....I count the tiles on the bottom of the pool….it helps to make sure I am still sane.......Am To, Am not, Am to, Am not...Shut up Tom...ok but I still know how many tiles their are...Do not....Do to, do not, do to...

jim thornton
December 9th, 2002, 11:14 PM
Tom and Jim, you guys are making me realize how eccentric I must be. Maybe I should cut back on the drinking a little. I find I just get so sleepy during workouts, I can't keep my eyes open continuously. Interestingly, when we do backstroke, I have no trouble keeping my eyes open. But freestyle just lulls me...

So far it looks like only two other swimming somnambulists share this peculiarity. Jim and Tom make interesting points for the majority "open eyes" philosophy.

Jim, you no doubt live in the land of the callypgean swimming nymphs, probably wearing the latest in California skin tight female swimming apparel; Tom, you, being from Texas, no doubt live in the land of the interesting pool tile. Our pool here near Pittsburgh, on the other hand, tends to have A) not that many nymphets, at least during masters practice (the ones on our team go too fast to see anyhow) and B) more discarded bandaids and hairballs on the bottom than interesting tiles to gander at.

Maybe that's the answer: swim in our pool, and perhaps you'd close your eyes too.

Tom Ellison
December 10th, 2002, 12:35 AM
# 1 I used to close my eyes....but I'd always bump into the wall.
# 2 If I close my eyes I can't see the sharks.... and trust me, sharks scare me....a lot...
# 3 We swim in a SCY pool. If I don't keep my eyes open I can't see my counter for the 50's.
#4 When I keep my eyes open...I often collect enough change off the bottom to buy a cup of Joe at the end of workouts.

Ian Smith
December 10th, 2002, 10:39 AM
Jim C,
Appreciate the reminder on why to keep one’s eyes open all the time. At my age you need to be constantly reminded of the reasons for the finer points of technique or else you fall into sloppy habits ;-)

I’ve always kept my eyes open even in the pre-goggles era. I don’t know why – you couldn’t see very clearly although there would have been more to look at than today. (of course, I’m not saying the talent at our pool is totally unworthy of observation – may not be up to California standards but sounds better than Pittsburgh)
The only time I might close my eyes is near the end of a 100m when I’m praying I’ll finish.

Jim T,
You might also ask ‘who swims in dark tinted goggles indoors?’ Does this improve performance?


December 10th, 2002, 11:15 AM
Hi Jim -

A couple of years ago this topic came up at one of our open water swims because I wondered if I was the only one who kept their eyes closed much of the time. Maybe my way of visualizing the race.

Seriously, the reason I began closing my eyes dates back to my 1st year of high school swimming when my coach would walk along the side of the pool encouraging (yelling) me to go faster. I was not sloughing off, it was his way to try to keep me going.

Well, I learned very quickly to breathe to the other side and close my eyes when I breathed.

Paul Windrath

ps - If I want to people watch, I go to the bottom of the pool and sit there for 10-15 seconds.

December 10th, 2002, 11:16 AM
My wife says its obsessive compulsive but I keep my eyes closed when breathing, open when underwater, count strokes, count lengths, calculate yards, sing songs, think about the days events, think about future to do's and maintain interval pacing (all while swimming). Maybe it's not the physical activity that makes me tired? Hmmmmm........

December 10th, 2002, 11:35 AM
Perhaps my face is oddly shaped, but I play hell finding goggles that strike a proper balance between leaking steadily and sucking my eyeballs out. I've found some that I like, but they pull on my face such that holding my eyes closed for more than a blink makes the seals leak. Therefore I MUST keep my eyes open.

And what a tragedy that is! I swim in a horrible, crowded YMCA where I wish I could keep them closed. There are a few lovely swimming nymphs that appear on occasion, but they are small in number compared to the truly frightening sea monsters that crowd the lanes. I realize that's a terrible thing to say, but it's true. I'm also frightened of the creatures moving around in the layer of scum on the bottom of the pool. What ARE those things? I don't want to see any of this!

Luckily, even though I'm terribly out of shape, I'm fast enough to avoid all the creatures in the pool, most of which appear to be too wrapped up in their struggle against drowning to attack the swimmers. When viewed from the relative safety of the deck, it appears most of them are locked in some violent life and death struggle against the water itself, endlessly beating against it and making a terrible ruckus whilst making almost no forward progress. Look away! It's horrible!

And Tom, when I was a kid I used to get a good jolt of speed in the deep end because of the sharks. I thought I was the only one who saw them.

December 10th, 2002, 11:43 AM
Reading this thread has been therapeutic! I thought I was nuts because I swim mostly with my eyes closed (except for backstroke). I say mostly - I have them closed and blink them open frequently to do a spot check and then close them again.

I've been doing it for so long I can't remember when I picked up the habit. I'm thinking it is either from swimming in the mornings or swimming in warm pools (or both). I find it difficult to force them open for a whole length. In a race I have no idea what I do but I think they are wide open.

Jeff Roddin

Leonard Jansen
December 10th, 2002, 01:41 PM
I used to swim with my eyes mostly closed, but one of the guys who used to be in our lane had a habit of crowding in toward on-coming traffic. Several collisions later I found that my eyes were almost always open. Absolute paranoia is absolute awareness. If I am in lactic acid agony, I do tend to close my eyes and grit my teeth.

My issue is that when I am working on technique, I forget to breathe. I just get so relaxed and focused that I forget everything else and suddenly snap to while inhaling a mouthful of water. In line with that, when I was a kid my mother used to make me carry a card with my address and phone number on it so I could get home if I got on my bike, forgot what I was doing and ended up a long way from home. We lived in north/central NJ and she once had to retrieve me from PA. She still chews my ear off about it.

jim clemmons
December 10th, 2002, 02:42 PM
I was doing a little thinking about this last night and realized that probably one of the most important reasons I keep my eyes open (besides the babes) is to keep track of the clock. I watch on all swims where I am in relation to the interval. Constantly. It helps for counting laps on longer swims.

Rain Man
December 10th, 2002, 10:05 PM
Open all the time! Hay-Zues! Where are you going if you are not watching??? Nose-dive into wall 1 during the 200m fly! Keep 'em open, that's why we wear goggles. The greatest, I stress GREATEST invention as far as swim training and racing is concerned in the 20th century!

Keep it real.


Phil Arcuni
December 10th, 2002, 11:42 PM
Rain Man is right - the greatest invention of the latter half of the twentieth century.

I learned my lesson when I was eleven. We were swimming fly across the short way of the pool when it was getting dark.


I hit my forehead on the edge of the pool. 10 stitches later and I still have a prominent scar across my forehead (and it gets more prominent as my hairline recedes.)

Ion Beza
December 11th, 2002, 11:03 AM
I swim without goggles, and I open my eyes all the time.

However, in races I need to close my eyes more often, because if I keep them open, psychologically I get into pacing the opponents that I see to my immediate left and right, thus holding back;
with the eyes closed I can concentrate on bringing up my maximum inner powers.

Ideally I should open my eyes right after the dive, a little bit during the race in order to know where I am going, and fully open my eyes towards the end of the racing when I try to out touch opponents who are in my vicinity.

Bill Feesh
December 11th, 2002, 02:36 PM
This is something that I have never talked about with anyone before. In fact it is a subject I have never considered. I thoutht everyone did the same thing.
It was fun to see that different people do different things. I swim with goggles and eyes open all the time during every stroke. Except when I compete, I swim with no goggles and eyes open every stroke.
I also do what waves101 does, thinks about different things going on in my life and (confession time) Yes I sing songs too. Right now Christmas songs are rampant in my head. But I get out in a good mood.
Thanks for the sharing. I hope everyone has a Merry Merry and a Happy Happy, and may all your swimming goals come true next year.

Bill Feesh:cool:

Mark in MD
December 12th, 2002, 10:30 PM
I 'spose that I am in the majority here. Since I must wear contact lenses all the time (and glasses won't work, except for reading), goggles are a must for me. So, I might as well check out how well my goggles work, to see if I am getting my money's worth. (I can be cheep.)

Those who can swim WITHOUT goggles simply amaze me. I've tried doing it with out goggles and contact lenses. I hate banging into the wall. (Now I know what the cross on the wall is really for . . . it's the spot where you bang your head.) :D

Goggles vs. no goggles
Eyes open vs. eyes closed . . .

Sound like different strokes for different folks to me! De gustibus non est disputandem.




Anyone interested in starting a thread on their favorite goggle and why? That might be interesting!

December 12th, 2002, 10:42 PM
Mark, MD I'm nearsighted now. And I use the goggles during workouts but not meets. I don't want to have them fall off from a dive. It isn't worst than when I was a kid, since I see things blurry and it doesn't bother me during a meet. I usually keep my eyes open. And for the holiday's I'll give you my poor latin and greek. Deus amat or Theos agape, in the two languages of the Roman Empire.

December 13th, 2002, 12:28 AM
I swim wearing goggles and my eyes open if I am in a pool. I may wear goggles in the ocean or lake but I keep my eyes closed then--I don't want to know what is down there.

December 14th, 2002, 12:52 AM
I never actually thought about this idea before the thread came up. When I was last in the water, I noticed that in the beginning, I kept my eyes open except for blinks. Towards the end of the workout, I noticed my eyes were spending more time closed. I was tired, but not sleepy....or at least I don't think I was!:o

Mark in MD
December 14th, 2002, 01:45 PM
Originally posted by cinc310
Mark, MD I'm nearsighted now. And I use the goggles during workouts but not meets . . .

Hey Cynthia!

Have you tried corrective goggles? One of my teammates uses them and they seem to work well. I can't use 'em, unfortunately, 'cause I must use contact lenses.

Hey, thanx for the Latin again.

December 14th, 2002, 03:09 PM
I second Mark's suggestion of corrective goggles. I've been using them for years and I don't how I was ever able to swim without them. They're not very expensive either -- they don't need to be made to order and you can get a good pair over the counter for $20 to $30.

I would never even think about swimming with my eyes closed, particularly in the pool -- I want to know where the wall is and where the other swimmers are.

December 17th, 2002, 11:46 AM
Like Jim, I live in "land of the callypgean swimming nymphs, probably wearing the latest in California skin tight female swimming apparel" and it is true, I spend a lot of time with my eyes looking around during boring distance sets. We have had several of our "babes" on the cover of Swim magazine. Thus the absolute requirement for a good set of goggles and Eyes Wide Open. Do we have a great sport of what? Has anyone else noticed the best babes wear worn out - see through suits?

Like Ion, I really need a set of goggles with Horse Blinders so I won't look around during races. Breaststrokers who look around lose half a second or more for each peak at our competitors.

But the real reason I wear goggles and Eyes Wide Open is that breaststroke and butterfly have no leway on turns, you have to look for the wall five yards out so you hit the wall on a kick and not a pull.


December 17th, 2002, 11:02 PM
Wayne, I think your talking about a sterotype. I'm an ex-Californian as you know and don't look that great in a swim suit. And during my age group years in California most of the girls look average and I think the guys were better looking. Anyways, I image that many young people don't fit the tan blond in southern California since the largest ethic group in the LA area is more likely to come from a hispanic backgound. There are of course good looking hispanic girls and guys. However, master swimmers tend to belong to the older generation which is more likely to fit the image of the blond surfer.

Bob Boder
December 18th, 2002, 05:04 PM
I swim with my eyes open. My goggles fog so I really don't do a lot of looking around. All I see are dark shapes.

amber pigman
December 20th, 2002, 07:29 PM
I have to agree with Rain Man on this one I mean what if you run into a wall. From one response it sounds like it could cause some real serious damage. Although its kind of funny because when I ran track in highschool I would run with my eyes closed: when at practice a lot of times, when it would get real intense, and also even when pushing myself really hard at the meets. I think it was because if I kept them open I would just get discoraged about the amount of distance I still had to run. And also reading the back of one of my teamate's shirt that said "if you see this your in second" I didn't like that shirt very much because I was slower than her. That could be why I kept my eyes closed, I still do it when I run real hard. But in swimming they've always stayed open unless I'm in the lake and then I don't neccasarily want to see what I'm swimming next to in the first place.

Ian Smith
December 22nd, 2002, 03:21 PM
I am surprised that with all the responses so far, only one (Ion’s) alludes to the real reason for keeping one’s eyes open all the time. The reason being: to keep an eye on your opponents in a race - except in a 50 where you only look for the wall for the turn/touch.

This is especially important when you are going for a win rather than a potential ‘best time’ which always carries a risk of misjudging the pace. In Masters racing this can come into play in the Nationals where your age group competition is in your heat (and assuming winning or beating your favorite rival is more important than a good time!).

If, for example you know you are faster in the shorter distances than your opposition but your opposition is better at longer distances, you should go out slower to save energy by not pushing the pace but, at the same time, not losing contact i.e. keep watching to make sure you don’t fall so far behind as to not have enough runway to overtake at the end. Hopefully you can lull competition into feeling comfortable with a slight lead and not set too fast a pace. Of course, you also need watch for anyone in the field making a break.

Tools like Top Ten history and Best Times and meet results (with splits) help scouting out the competition to decide on a strategy. The long distance swimmer in the above example should try to ‘break’ the sprinter early in the race, in which case short distance guy has to revert to a ‘best time’ attempt and pace himself accordingly.

The key, however, is to keep those eyes open all the time and keep track of what is happening. The least you can do, as Ion mentions, is to try to reel in those you see close to you – maybe they have their eyes shut and don’t notice you sneaking past!


Phil Arcuni
December 22nd, 2002, 08:13 PM
I never had any luck seeing anyone but the fellow next to me. Not that I haven't tried!

Ion keeps his eyes *closed*, especially in a race, because seeing other swimmers could make him go slower. Ion feels his best races are self paced, and presumably he would go fastest in a time trial where he is the only swimmer.

At least that is the way I read his post, but I don't want me or Ian to misrepresent him.

Anyway, happy holidays, everyone!

December 26th, 2002, 09:00 AM
I had this discussion with someone a few years ago. I keep my eyes closed most of the time but am trying to open them more. I think it is because of heavy clorine and no goggles back in the late 1960s. In the summers, we might have had our eyes open for the first workout but come afternoon workouts, they were closed tight and only looked periodically to make sure we were not crashing. We even tried mineral oil over our eyes for protection and I remember us sitting on the deck trying to cry to get all the first workout chlorine out before the second workout. This never worked either. Our second workouts were usually miserable because all we could think about was how much our eyes hurt.

Someone also told me that it was around the invention of goggles that swimmers were able to workout longer which in turn times dropped. But that is a separate discussion. Does anyone know where the information on the history of swimming with the link between time drops and technology might be found? This discussion came up the other day.

December 26th, 2002, 04:49 PM
I remember the pre-goggle day period too since I started in 1969. But I was on novice teams which workout once a day until I was 14 and half. Its true that the mileage increase a lot during the 1970's. Shirley Babashoff went from about 10,000 yards or meters a day with Flip Darr in the early 1970's to 20,000 yards or meters a day with Mark Shubert. Goggles defintely made this possible.

December 31st, 2002, 12:45 AM
heh heh...

I like closing my eyes when I swim, but then I don't. It's hard to explain. When I get lazy I close my eyes, but then I always try to remember to keep them open. Usually, a couple hits of the lane lines with my right thumb is what makes me keep them open. The pain from the bruised thumb after multiple encounters with the lane line reminds me to keep them open...

sorry, I'm confusing when I write...good thing I'm not a journalism major!


Tom Ellison
January 14th, 2003, 02:37 AM
Has anyone purchased new goggles, put them on, see just fine OUT of the water...THEN...when you get IN the water everything is blurred?
Ok Mark, let me head you off at the pass, I did remove the tiny piece of plastic wrap that protests the goggles in shipping.

All kidding aside, I purchased new goggles last year and had to toss them because while in the water everything was blurred, but clear as a bell out of the water.
Kindest regards,
Tom Ellison

Mark in MD
January 14th, 2003, 12:16 PM
Hi there everyone!

First and only question to ask my good friend Tom: Did you try wearing them in the front? (See, you didn't completely close off the pass. :D) Now, seriously, I wonder if his question has something to do with how the eyepieces fit around the eyes. Betcha there's a sensitivity (tightness) for some folks here which relates the blurred vision.

Regarding mineral oil in the eyes to relieve burning and stinging from chlorine, I'd be concerned about not using something sterile. (Remember the long thread on the old forums about spitting on the inside of the goggles to keep 'em from fogigng?) There are plenty of over-the-counter artificial tears and ocular lubricants that help. Just ask anyone who has to wear contact lenses, we know 'em all.

'Nuff said. 'Bye for now.


Tom Ellison
January 14th, 2003, 12:47 PM
Thank you for the advice to wear them up front Mark...I knew I could count on my Masters buddies to solve this problem for me...Like I've said many times before.."They don't call us Jar Heads for nothing. :D

Mark in MD
January 14th, 2003, 12:51 PM
You're welcome for the "heady" advice. Any time.


Phil M.
January 14th, 2003, 04:59 PM
Tom: You are not optically challenged. I too have bought goggles that were clear out of the water only to blur when wet. Strangely enough, my eyes adjust after a couple of laps. Conversely I have goggles that blur out of the water and are perfectly fine when swimming. The optical properties of water definitely cause some distortion.