Just like for running, swimming has many different technique methods and schools. In running for example, you have Pose Running, Chi Running, Mind-Body Running and many more. In swimming you have just as many. The one I’m writing about is called Total Immersion (TI). Essentially TI is a good idea, but as an International Level Swimmer and a Level 3 swim coach, this technique has flaws and is not made for every swimmer.
Total Immersion Swimming’s Headline says “Where Human Learn to Swim Like Fish: well as much as I would love to swim like a fish, the human body is completely different then a fish. The unique approach of TI is to evolve swimmers and triathletes to become more comfortable in the water and swim with less effort. I support this approach but I believe that this is not methods fits all. You need to consider the distance in which you are racing, if you are in pool or open water, what equipment you are using, etc.
That being said, if you are a swimmer who as no desire to compete and only want to be comfortable in the pool, this method is for you.
The reason why I decided to write this article is because so many triathletes, lifeguard and masters competitors come to me after they read about TI and paid for video or books. They have issue getting the technique or simply have it all wrong.
Some of the things that stick to swimmers mind is, I DON’T NEED TO KICK MUCH ANYMORE. I would say, you are wrong, in fact, you need to have a much more powerful kick now, since you don’t kick as much. Kicking is the only way you get your hips to the surface, if you kick less, what do you think will happen, therefore you need to have a strong kick…
Another reason why TI is not for everyone, as an athlete, master swim competition or triathlon, lets all agree that we compete to be as fast as possible, no one like to finish last. And in many triathlon races, there is a swim cut off, plus no one wants to be in the water longer then they have too.
If you are a sprint event swimming, anywhere between 50m to 400m freestyle, the fastest technique will have you being as high as possible on the water to create less drag in the water, turning you body from side to side to get the most hydrodynamic position and the strongest pull for each arm. Personally if I swim a 50m all out using TI, my time will fluctuate around 30sec from the wall, but if I adopt the sprint position I describe, I can easily swim sub 28sec, which is you think about it on a 400m is more then a quarter of a minute without even work on your cardio.
As a coach I find that one of the most difficult technique to master for older swimming is to rotate the shoulder, it is a simple move if you think about if, but is demands a great sense of timing, coordination, strength and mobility. If you have a hard time mastering the best shoulder rotation, TI would demand a great deal of effort for you to pull your arms out of the water which could potentially create should and neck pain and injuries.
My next reason is about the water condition. If you are in a crowded pool, the other swimming create turbulence and waves, splash that could make it very hard for you to breath without getting water in your mouth while your face is facing up the way TI is showing you to do. And this is just in the perfect condition. So for triathlon who almost never racing a perfect water condition, you have to potential to breath in water and make you swim experience a complete disaster.
Finally, the swim equipment, specially the wetsuit, while most triathletes swim indoor most of the season, almost none of them bring their wetsuit in the pool, and why would you, right? Its bad for the neoprene and a little harder on your shoulder. Well as you know the wetsuit is great for two reasons, it will keep you warm and for its buoyancy. The wetsuit essentially, makes you float regardless if you call yourself a rock. This makes TI a technique impossible to do in open water swimming. So my question to you is, why working on having the best TI technique if you wont use it when comes race day?
In conclusion, my suggestion to you is, sit with a swim coach, for 5 to 10 session and get the best technique for what you want to accomplish, most qualified coach know the different methods and will get you where you need to be for the race you want to be part of. Self teaching a swim technique never worked, for anyone, the main reason is that you can’t see yourself.