Earlier in the year I wrote about my attempt to improve my swimming by adopting the Total Immersion style of swimming from a book (read about it here Total Immersion Swimming from a book).
This personal experiment actually did improve my swimming insofar as I expended less energy, splashed less and felt that I could swim for longer. However, I was still slow (compared to those around me) and I didn’t feel that I could improve my stroke or technique further by myself.
I have had some experience of swimming coaches/instructors in the past and for me personally being told to “kick-harder” or “pull-harder” did not seem to return any improvements either to my speed/technique or efficiency. My personal experience as I tried to move through the water was of wasted effort, inefficiency and personal frustration.
Intuitively, I believed that “kicking harder” or “pulling harder” was not what I needed to do to improve my stroke as it just felt so hard and unproductive.
I have always been reasonably fit (particularly my cardio-vascular fitness) and yet my hear-rate was over 180 beats per minute after trying to “kick harder” with a float after only 1/2 length when others in the group had already swam 2 lengths!
At the time I had recently completed an off-road marathon so I knew my fitness was ok(ish).
Anyway, although I was now more engaged with my swimming I had reached a plateau and was virtually resigned to the fact that I had reached my swimming pinnacle.
I then discovered that there are Total Immersion coaches in the UK and that they offer one day workshops. I decided to to enrol on the “Effortless Endurance” workshop. This resonated with me on several levels-the criteria for attending was the ability to swim 50 metres continuous front crawl, they teach foundational principles and techniques which you then practise and fine tune every time you go swimming and the focus is on moving forward efficiently.
My wife is a life-long swimmer and her technique and ability is way better than mine, however I suggested that she might want to attend as well to enhance and develop her existing abilities.
The Format For The Day
I enrolled for the course and the communication was very good throughout, from receipt of payment through to the course feedback form. In fact, James contacted us by telephone to discuss our swimming history and what we hoped to achieve on completion of the course.
The venue for the workshop was at a private school in Petersfield, Hampshire, UK the facilities from the lecture/coffee area through to the pool were of a very high standard.
The course promises a coach to student ration of 1 coach to 3 students. The coaches were present right from the start and welcomed us with smiles, handshakes from the car-park-something I had not experienced before-when attending courses or events I normally have to find my way to the room or venue and the organiser(s) are sorting out the computer or may look up and grunt a welcome.
Additionally, there was a selection of fruit, homemade shortbread and homemade cakes to help ourselves to throughout the day-a nice touch.
The day was broken down into classroom/theory via Powerpoint, videos and verbal presentation with one morning session and one afternoon session. Each of these sessions was then followed by a practical session in the pool.
This is an intense day, the aim of the workshop is clearly explained at the beginning of the day: to explain, demonstrate and to “feel” the body position, arm and leg positions, sensations and balance associated with the Total Immersion technique.
To achieve this the pool sessions consist of a multitude of principles, drills and positions, each designed to implant the correct “feel” to the student and correlating to a particular Total Immersion core component.
The pool sessions consisted of introducing the concepts then practising once or twice with input from the coach and this was sometimes done by physical corrections and moving or physically demonstrating the correct movement or position.
This “hands-on” approach was particularly effective for me as I could feel the correct angle, posture or position of my hand, wrist or elbow etc. in a way that reading or watching videos does not.
There were 5 Total Immersion instructors altogether and 15 students. The lead instructor for the day was Tracy Baumann, who is a TI Master Coach. She maintained a steady flow of information, knowledge and examples. Periodically, throughout the day the instuctors would change around to work with a new set of 3 students, this kept the interest up for students and coaches alike.
The first pool session started with gathering some video footage of each student swimming one length. The footage was then analysed and discussed in a group setting and comments, tips and advice given by the coaches.
This is the first time that I had seen myself swimming and I was pleasantly surprised with how my stroke looked. However, there were some corrections needed to bring my stroke in line with the Total Immersion methodology and I went into the afternoon session knowing where to focus.
Lunch offered some much-needed down time for our brains! It also gave the opportunity to chat with the other students and hear about there reasons for attending the workshop. These ranged from “because by wife told me I was coming”, through to a lady who had signed up for the River Dart 10km swim (an event I hadn’t heard of prior to the workshop) and an ultra-athlete revisiting his Total Immersion technique ready for the next season. The diversity of age, backgrounds and reasons for attending were more wide-ranging than I was expecting and led to interesting discussions.
The afternoon began with some theory and then another pool session. Again, the intensity was high and it was important to focus to extract the teaching, methodology and principles behind each drill and exercise.
Think of the workshop as a toolbox…
Tracey gave the analogy of thinking of each of the practice drills as a tool, then as
soon as we’d carried out and “felt” the proper execution of the drill to then tidily “place the idea/concept into a toolbox” and then to focus on the next one, then pack that one away. Then after the workshop the toolbox could be taken away and each tool taken out when needed
“Be assured that by the end of the day the toolbox had been loaded to bursting point with a massive array of tools to pull out, examine and use at a later date!”
Video Analysis by TI Master Coach Tracey Baumann
During the video analysis the coaches use a particularly effective analysis tool which pauses and compares videos and allows arrows and lines to be overlaid on the video to highlight actual body and arm positions and then to compare to where the optimum positions would be. I found this tool to be particularly useful for gaining personal insight as to where I need to focus in the future.
Using the analysis tool Tracey explained how my elbow during the recovery was wasting effort by going back and up rather than forward and to the side.
In this slide the Total Immersion Coach explained that my head position was good at the time of breath, however my head did tend to fall too deeply in between breaths. I had noticed that I was having difficulty turning my head quickly enough to breathe and this would explain why.
In contrast to my left arm recovery (see slide 1 above) my right arm recovery was closer to the Total Immersion ideal. Apparently, it is unusual to for this to occur in
the early stages on the same side as the swimmer is breathing.
My takeaway from this is that now I know that one side is close then I can focus on the other side.
The TI method is not to fixate on one thing for a long time, it suggests that intense focus for a small amount of time, on one particular aspect is the way to go.
I had arrived at a “make or break” point with my swimming. I had reached a plateau of ineffectual stroke and a feeling that no matter how many lengths I swam in training that I would not see any improvements. It was with this mindset that I attended the workshop-if it didn’t go well then I was prepared to stop swimming.
I am happy to report that the Effortless Endurance workshop did match and exceed my expectation and that, yes, I have continued swimming.
The greatest personal outcome from the workshop is my perspective has shifted to now view swimming in a wider view and to see it as a part of my life and something I just “do” rather than as a poor or secondary alternative to running.
Additionally, rather than becoming frustrated with my perceived lack of progress I am now able to think of swimming as a “practic” knowing that as long as I focus on some of the Total Immersion principles demonstrated and “felt” during the workshop that every time I swim I will improve some aspect of my swimming stroke.
Update-A new PB (Personal Best)
Latest update- I managed to continually swim front crawl for 3500m (140 lengths) this morning which is a new personal best. I don’t generally worry about the time it takes, however it took me about 75 mins. which I was pretty pleased about.
I felt that my form and technique held up throughout the swim, I could have gone on for a bit further, however I had to get back home to attend a meeting!
This was only possible due to using Total Immersion, so a big “Thank you” to the team.
The only pre-requisite for the “Total Immersion-Effortless Endurance Workshop” is the ability to be able to swim 50 metres front crawl.
The coaches were friendly, supportive and knowledgable. If you have an interest in improving your swim then I would throroughly recommended attending the workshop.
Links and further information.
| The cost for the Effortless Endurance Workshop is £225 per person (2016).
They are held at various venues around the UK. For future courses and further information please visit http://www.totalimmersion.co.uk/workshops.php#effortless-endurance
|Total Immersion Swimming UK-http://www.totalimmersion.co.uk/
Tracey Baumann Total Immersion Master Coach(Surrey)
Tracey was the lead coach and is very focussed and has a wealth of knowledge and experience.
James Ewart Total Immersion Coach(Chichester)
James was very patient and instructed in a clear, concise way.
Iain Walters–Total Immersion Coach (Warwickshire)
Iain was very encouraging and instructed with humour and enthusiasm.
Susan Cheshire–Total Immersion Coach (Essex)
Susan is a superb athlete and brings a grace and efficiency to swimming which is a pleasure to behold. She naturally takes a holisitic view of swimming and identifies tensions and inefficiencies in balance and positioning.
Stephen brings applies his engineering background and is very technical and analytical in the way he instructs.