Sunday, April 29, 2012

Improving Performance with Total Immersion Technique

I Just finished the 8-week beginner program for Total Immersion Swimming with Coach Grant (Grant Molyneux) at the Vecova Pool in Calgary. I must say, I am really impressed with this program.  I read the book about Total Immersion several years ago but did not get a chance to take the program until now.  Now, I have already signed up for the intermediate level.

Even when I first read the book about total immersion, I found the concept to be very logical. Basically, it is based on the idea of swimming deeper in the water to reduce resistance, while at the same time streamlining the motions of the body. Just as a submarine can move faster under the water, than up on the surface, so also can the human body. The overall concept sounds simple, but it soon became obvious to me that the implementation of this concept would take some retraining.

Total immersion is like doing Tai Chi in the water; the concepts and ideas are remarkably similar. With Tai Chi, you learn how to move without resistance, how to breathe naturally, and how to reduce the overall energy expenditure of each motion. Total Immersion is exactly the same, except it is performed in the water.

The lessons

It may sound strange, but we spent the first 8 weeks learning drills that taught us how to just balance in the water, how to float, and get started on the path of moving in water without resistance. It literally took us unitl the end of the course before we were allowed to swim one length of the pool properly. It wasn't until the 2nd last lesson that we started to introduce breathing into our strokes. This may sound like very slow progress, but it was not. We were breaking all the bad habits that have been accumulated over the years. I have been doing triathlons for over 30 years, swimming with master swim clubs, and have taken numerous stroke improvement courses; yet in 8 weeks, I learned more about the importance of balance and body position than in all those other courses combined.

The Total Immersion program does this by starting out with some very effective drills such as:

Superman Glide (Click for Video)

The Superman Glide is a great drill that teaches you how to streamline your body and move through the water without resistance.  It teaches you about body alignment and balance, andshows you how the water will support you, if you are in the right position. In a sense, it is the first exercise that makes you consciously aware of head, shoulder, arm, hand, torso, leg, and foot position.  Click to view this video to see just how deep in the water the swimmers head position should be.

Skating Drill (Click for Video)

The Skating Drill enables you to reduce the drag on your body by learning how to lengthen your bodyline. When you watch this video see how the swimmer starts out in the Superman Glide and then goes onto her side into the Skating Position. This Skating Position is incredibly hydrodynamic. This position will literally make you travel faster and farther with each stroke you take. This position is one of the reasons why efficient TI swimmers can reduce by 50% the number of strokes they take to swim a length.

These are just a couple of the drills that we learned, but they serve to demonstrate the type of training we experienced in the beginner section of this program.  It's really important not to underestimate the importance of these drills, as even at my beginner stage of this program, I have seen remarkable changes in my own swimming efficiency.

In Conclusion

Bottom line, I highly recommend taking a course in Total Immersion Swimming.
  1. Triathlons: If you are doing triathlons, the course will not only improve your speed, but will reduce your energy expenditure so that you have more energy for the bike and the run. Anyone, like myself, who has ever done Ironman length races, knows that every last bit of energy is pure gold by the end of the run.
  1. Life Skill: Total Immersion Swimming is a great benefit for anyone. It is is an exercise that you can perform at any age. It is a no impact exercise. But the most important reasons is stress reduction.  We live in a very stress-driven society, and stress is a major contributing factor in just about any illness or injury. Learning a skill such as TI would greatly help you to reduce the impact of these stresses.
Since taking the Beginner TI course at the Vecova Pool in Calgary I have started to recommend this program to many of my patients. I cannot say a big enough Thank You to Coach Grant; not only have you introduced me to a great program, but you have given me a great option which I can recommend to many of my patients.

All the best in health, Dr. Brian Abelson DC.

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