October 27, 2006

Total Immersion vs Total Drowning

Catherine and I started taking a swim clinic this week. Actually, Catherine started taking it. I was in Las Vegas during the first session, having opted instead for the three g’s (Gambling, Golfing and Getting Gdrunk - that last one being a silent ‘g’).

The clinic is called “Swim Better” – and, for the money I'm paying, I better. I did the first week’s training drills yesterday and I suddenly realized, with sudden shock and dismay, that this clinic is teaching the Total Immersion method. Wait a minute now - nobody said anything about Total Immersion!

I am a creature of habit when it comes to my sporting activities. I get into my rhythm of doing things my way and don’t always like that to change too much, especially when I feel like it's working. Although I am far from a great swimmer, I’m not a sinker, flailer or similarly spastic aqua-dork. Call it the Pisces in me, but I picked up swimming very quickly and have become fairly proficient at it – at least proficient enough for a person with little to no upper body strength. Suffice to say, I’m consistently finishing the swim portion of races within the top 25-ish% overall which, to me, seems pretty darn good. All in all, I’m fairly happy with my swimming. But being how it has suddenly turned into my strongest leg, I just wanted to take a swim clinic to tweak the missing pieces and see if it could nudge me up a wee bit faster.

To put it in triathlete speak, I believe my 1.2 mile PR is somewhere around 32 minutes. It’d make me as giddy as a galloping gazelle if I could winnie that time down to somewhere in the sub-30 minute range without leaving me gasping for breath and cursing the sport like I do now. That, to me, would be swimming better.

But, as I said, they’ve got us doing this Total Immersion crapola. You know what, I shouldn’t use such harsh words for this technique. The fact is that, aside from one session of drills, I haven’t done diddly-squat with Total Immersion so it’s not fair for me to pass judgement so quickly.

Catherine walked me through the drill session. Let it be known, that I gave it my best shot – open mind and everything. Let it also be known that it really rankled my diddly, this silly technique. If you want the God’s honest truth, it felt like crap. My head felt so far underwater, I seemed to waste twice as much energy as normal just trying to lift my head up and breathe. That doesn’t even mention the energy suck from having to raise my arms higher during the recovery what with my shoulders so submerged. Simply put, I’m not buying it all just quite yet. Hopefully I’m doing it wrong.

I should’ve asked these questions long before I signed up for the swim clinic, but with the drill frustration on my mind, it’s better late than never. First of all, is this Total Immersion nonsense primarily designed for newbie swimmers or are we going to see Michael Phelps totally immersing himself in the future? Thirdly, do I really have to keep my head so goddam far under the water? It seems like I’m actually creating more drag than had I maintained my regular form. Secondly…I’m so riled up I completely forgot secondly… Secondly, how is one supposed to rotate effectively and keep an efficient arm recovery when your body is so submersed?

This is a six week swim clinic so I have vowed to keep an open mind for the next 36 days. It is the off-season, Cat says, what do you really have to lose? When all is said and swum, if it doesn’t work out for me I could always go right back to my tried-and-true 34 minute form. If it does work out – if I do end up a Total Immersion convert – well that could change a few things I guess. Next thing you know I’d probably start taking a Pose Method running class as well.

I'll let you know my thoughts in 37 days.


stronger said...

I'm a swimmer and I fought the Total Immersion technique at first. It was very difficult to tweak the stroke I've been doing for the last 20 years. I don't put my head that far under water- I just can't conform to that suggestion. However, the extra extension and rolling makes for eaiser open water swimming. If I practice some of the TI techniques (but I don't do the endless drills) I seem to be able to swim more relaxed and swim longer without getting tired. Give it a shot. Take the good, leave the bad.

IM Able said...

Hmmm..."rankled my diddly"

I didn't know I *had* a diddly, but not it feels neglected. Or they feel neglected. Is it possible to have more than one diddly? Ugh. More to ponder over the weekend...

triathlonmom said...

if you are really gonna' give this thing 37 days, i bet you convert. I grew up a swimmer and was mad at first that they'd changed all the rules, but now i find swiming easier, maybe not faster but easier.
By the way, i'm asking Michael Phelps that question. I'll let you know when he emails me back.

carmen said...

I hadn't swum in any real capacity since I was in sixth grade until I started training with the TRIgirls last year. Our coach is TI, and I think it's fabulous. Of course, i don't know anything different, but I went from belly-down, windmill arms to 45-second fifties. And I had never before TI breathed to the right...

j. said...

wow, that's quite an improvement, carmen. i'm just starting to "get it" in terms of form. i'm told that the later sessions that get more into timing will help me with my power and speed. the jury is still out but i'm keeping an open mind! and it's always good to hear positive feedback from people.. so, thank you.

tri hard,

ace said...

I was wondering what your thoughts were now? I've never been to a TI clinic but I've had the book for years. Recently I wrote my thoughts about TI and my experience here