I recently came across Total Immersion swimming and started training with Shinji Takeuchi, the head coach for TI in Japan (he also teaches in the Bay Area). My background in swimming is that I was a recreational swimmer who thought I knew how to swim (still mostly true). I mostly did lots of laps to train up for triathlons, and became an “expert” once I learned how to flip turn without veering into the neighboring lane.
Kidding aside, my entire approach to swimming has changed due to TI (I just wish it didn’t have such a gimmicky-sounding name). In my experience, in TI they beak down the swim stroke in reverse. For example, instead of trying to keep your head up, you are trying to keep your head down with TI. Instead of focusing on kicking to gain speed, you hardly kick at all. Instead of using a sweeping motion with your arm to thrust yourself forward, you don’t push your arm at all, you instead focus on the placement and motion of your forward (spearing) hand. Its all backwards – and for the first few times you try it, you may make lifeguards nervous because it sort of feels like you’re drowning.
Once you get the core parts of it down though, it starts to feel, as Borat would say, *very nice* – it feels smooth and not like you’re wrestling something to death while gasping for air after 150 meters. Its actually very relaxing to traverse the pool, and you can swim a lot without getting tired. I’ve gone down from 22 strokes to 14 strokes to get across a 25 meter length pool (on a good day).
I have yet to try TI in open water, but I can tell its going to help my swim, and my entire race, a lot. Less effort, faster swimming – can’t complain. I recommend checking out TI for any triathlete. Shinji is also an awesome coach for those in the Bay Area (he trains in Fremont).
Here’s his video so you can see what a TI stroke (is supposed to) look like: