>> Thursday, February 04, 2010
(Note: it’s been a few years since I’ve used Total Immersion [TI], so I might get some small details wrong. And I don’t have our TI kit in front of me as I’m writing this, so I might get some bigger details wrong. My apologies. God help me.)
Pharmie (my wife) got into triathlons in 2004. My attitude was always “Good for you, but you’ll never get me swimming like that. So I’ll cheer for you, but don’t try to push me into this.” She did an Olympic Distance tri in 04 and 05, and her sister and I cheered her along.
In December of 2005, she was going to “re-teach” herself how to swim. She bought a “Total Immersion” kit, which included a book, a DVD, and waterproof flashcards to take to the pool. With no pressure from my lovely wife, I said something like “You know, I think I’d be up for going through this program with you... and then trying a triathlon next summer...”
Pharmie read the book. We sat down and watched 1 section of the DVD each time before heading to the pool to work on that specific drill. (Each section of the DVD was only about 3-6 minutes long.) She would give me the theory behind that movement or drill from the book (I skimmed parts of the book, but never read it cover-to-cover).
Doing this with a partner was GREAT! In the pool, we could watch each other’s form and yank each other’s body around saying “...but it looked more like THIS in the DVD...”
We spent 15-40 minutes at the pool for each drill. There were around 15 drills (maybe 14, maybe 16, but close to 15). I did NOT rush it: if I was on drill 3, I’d do a quick lap of drill 1, another lap of drill 2, and then move on to the new movement. Sometimes, I’d spend 2 or 3 days at the pool working on 1 drill until it felt more natural. I REALLY took my time. I think Pharmie wanted to go faster, but I wanted to really “get” each step before moving on.
For newbies, it’s great because you don’t actually put your face into the water until around step 5. Before that, you’re on your back the entire time. And even for a few steps after that, your face goes in and out of the water, but you’re not face-down for long.
I got to the final drill, but I didn’t master that. It was how to breathe. Yeah, kinda a big one. So I did my first Oly, my first sprint, my first half IM, and my first full IM doing this: 3 strokes, quick breath, 4 strokes, roll to my back for 2 quick breaths, repeat. Swimming like that, I was SLOW, but it was easy. Here were my swim splits for 3 out of those 4 races:
- Oly, 2006: 42:25 (my first triathlon)
- Half IM, 2007: 44:35
- IM, 2007: 1:29:10
Notice in that half IM and full IM, that I had 1 pace: my full IM swim is EXACTLY double the time of my half IM swim! To the SECOND!
I mastered my breathing with the help of Andrea, the swim coach at the Y. I met with her twice, and she got me the rest of the way. Last year, my half IM swim at IM 70.3 NO was 37:53 (38:44 officially, once I got “stripped” and ran up the beach to the timing mat). And my 2 Olys were 28:07 and 29:38. So I’m still a pretty average swimmer, but I’m working on that speed.
I really couldn’t have started swimming without TI. You can’t just “figure out” swimming without some instruction. TI got me comfortable. It taught me to be smooth in the water. It taught me to “shoot” into the water better when I want to go faster, and that pulling and kicking harder will just tire me out.
Here’s a video of a BT member taking a TI class. (You can take a TI class that usually last 2-3 days and is usually around $500.) Here you can see a BIG change from day 1 to day 2, and even more improvement by day 3:
Direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shOM8BunXCM
Total Immersion for someone just learning how to swim: Grade of A. You’ll get comfortable in the water. You won’t be freaking out. You’ll be slow, but with a little work, you’ll be able to go forever. Really. And as a beginner, the thought of just being able to go for a long time seems impossible.
Total Immersion for an “intermediate” swimmer: Grade of B-. It will be helpful to master some of the drills. You’ll be able to cruise through some of the first sets of drills. But (at least initially) it won’t make you faster. Smoother? Yes. More comfortable? Yes. But not necessarily faster.
Have you used Total Immersion? Has a close friend used it? What do you think? And don't forget to check back at 2 am and 2 pm every day this week for more “Does It Work” posts. Click on the “Does It Work” tag to see all posts in this mini-series.
BTW, tomorrow I'm doing my normal "Friday Funny" post, but I'm going to do 2 of them (at 2 am and 2 pm like I've been doing) that will still fit in the "Does It Work" week of posts. But they'll be lighter / funnier than most of these (but still very true). So check back!