How Swim Training Programs Work

Total Immersion Swimming

Total Immersion (TI) swim training looks at the shape of the human body as it moves through the water, and instructors teach students to pass through the water with comfortable, graceful movements while swimming intelligently. TI instructors believe that swimmers' speed and efficiency will naturally improve as they learn to "swim with the effortless grace of fish by becoming one with the water" [source: Total Immersion, Philosophy]. TI teaches the four legal strokes -- backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle and butterfly -- and swimmers go through a series of drills to teach them both the mechanics of a stroke and how to swim the stroke better [source: Total Immersion, FAQ].

Total Immersion swim training is a school of thought that sees swimming as a source of well-being that will strengthen the mind-body connection. TI subscribes to the Japanese idea of kaizen, or continuous improvement: No matter how good you are at swimming, you can always get better. TI has a philosophy similar to that of martial arts training because of the "patient precision" that it teaches, where swimming is "a practice -- in the same mindful spirit as yoga or tai chi" [source: Total Immersion, Philosophy].

So how did this Zen-like technique begin? Swim coach Terry Laughlin was inspired by Bill Boomer, swim coach for the University of Rochester, at a coaches' clinic in 1988. Instead of focusing on the movements of a swimmer's arms and legs, Boomer talked about "the shape of the vessel" (the body) as it moved through the water. Boomer said that swimmers could improve their speed by swimming more efficiently rather than swimming harder. Laughlin, who had been interested in swimming form for many years, started offering new "Total Immersion" workshops for adults where they learn the right way to move their cores while they swim, instead of just focusing on the limbs and repeating laps [source: Laughlin].

Total Immersion is for people of all skill levels, from 6-month-old babies to expert swimmers. Those who want to compete in Masters swim meets, school meets or triathlons can use TI as a way to add to their training, and Total Immersion, Inc. offers open water camps and freestyle clinics several times a year. The cost of TI training varies, depending on the type of training:

  • Books and DVDs are mostly in the $15 to $35 range.
  • A weekend-long freestyle clinic in Columbus, Ohio, in 2010 costs $255.
  • A 5-day open water camp in the Bahamas costs from $1,295 to $1,495, depending on the season.
  • Individual TI lessons are based on each instructor's rates.

[source: Total Immersion, Open Water]