Total Immersion: How I Learned to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days and You Can Too

Is it possible to get good at swimming late in life? Yes. (Photo: Shutterhack)

Swimming has always scared the hell out of me.

Despite national titles in other sports, I’ve always fought to keep afloat. This inability to swim well has always been one of my greatest insecurities and embarrassments.

I’ve tried to learn to swim almost a dozen times, and each time, my heart jumps to 180+ beats-per-minute after one or two pool lengths. It’s indescribably exhausting and unpleasant.

No more.

In the span of less than 10 days, I’ve gone from a 2-length (2 x 20 yards/18.39 meters) maximum to swimming more than 40 lengths per workout in sets of 2 and 4. Here’s how I did it after everything else failed, and how you can do the same…

At the end of January, a kiwi friend issued a New Year’s resolution challenge: he would go all of 2008 without coffee or stimulants if I trained and finished an open-water 1-kilometer race in 2008. I agreed.

He had grown up a competitive swimmer and convinced me that — unlike my other self-destructive habits masquerading as exercise (no-gi BJJ, etc.) — it was a life skill and a pleasure I needed to share with my future children. In other words: of all the potential skills you could learn, swimming was one of the most fundamental.

So why is this post only coming out now, eight months later? Because I tried everything, read the “best” books, and still failed.

Kick boards? Tried them. I barely moved at all and — as someone who is usually good at most sports — felt humiliated and left.

Hand paddles? Tried them. My shoulders will never forgive me. Isn’t swimming supposed to be low-impact? Strike two.

It continued for months until I was prepared to concede defeat. Then I met Chris Sacca, formerly of Google fame and now an investor and triathlete in training, at a BBQ and told him of my plight. Before I had a chance to finish, he cut me off:

“I have the answer to your prayers. It revolutionized how I swim.”

That got my attention.

The Method

He introduced me to Total Immersion (TI), a method usually associated with coach Terry Laughlin, and I immediately ordered the book and freestyle DVD.

In the first workout — I’ve never had a coach or supervision — I cut my drag and water resistance at least 50%, swimming more laps than ever before in my life. By the fourth workout, I had gone from 25+ strokes per 20-yard length to an average of 11 strokes per 20-yard length. Unbelievable.

In other words, I was covering more than twice the distance with the same number of strokes, with less than 1/2 the effort, and with no panic or stress. In fact, I felt better after leaving the pool than before getting in. I couldn’t — and still can’t — believe it.

Here are my notes from the Total Immersion book, which I would recommend reading after watching the Freestyle Made Easy DVD, as the drills are near-impossible to understand otherwise. I was actually unable to do the exercises from pages 110 – 150 (I cannot float horizontally and have a weak kick) and became frustrated until the DVD enabled me to attempt technique with propulsion. The theories and explanation after the DVD, however, will change how you view all of it:

Total Immersion Freestyle notes
Total Immersion freestyle notes (click to enlarge)

My Top 8 Tips for Novices

Here are the principles that made the biggest difference for me:

1) To propel yourself forward with the least effort, focus on shoulder roll and keeping your body horizontal (least resistance), not pulling with your arms or kicking with your legs. This is counter-intuitive but important, as kicking harder is the most universal suggestion for fixing swimming issues.

2) Keep yourself horizontal by keeping your head in line with your spine — you should be looking straight down. Use the same head position as while walking and drive your arm underwater vs. swimming on the surface. See Shinji Takeuchi’s underwater shots at :49 seconds at and Natalie Coughlin’s explanation at :26 seconds. Notice how little Shinji uses his legs; the small flick serves only to help him turn his hips and drive his next arm forward. This is the technique that allows me to conserve so much energy.

A good demonstration of a TI crawl.

3. In line with the above video of Shinji, think of swimming freestyle as swimming on alternating sides, not on your stomach. From the TI Wikipedia page:

“Actively streamline” the body throughout the stroke cycle through a focus on rhythmically alternating “streamlined right side” and “streamlined left side” positions and consciously keeping the bodyline longer and sleeker than is typical for human swimmers.

For those who have rock climbed or done bouldering, it’s just like moving your hip closer to a wall to get more extension. To test this: stand chest to a wall and reach as high as you can with your right arm. Then turn your right hip so it’s touching the wall and reach again with your right arm: you’ll gain 3-6″. Lengthen your vessel and you travel further on each stroke. It adds up fast.

4. Penetrate the water with your fingers angled down and fully extend your arm well beneath your head. Extend it lower and further than you think you should. This downward water pressure on the arms will bring your legs up and decrease drag. It will almost feel like you’re swimming downhill. I highly recommend watching the “Hand Position and Your Balance” video at the top of this page here.

5. Focus on increasing stroke length (SL) instead of stroke rate (SR). Attempt to glide further on each downstroke and decrease the number of strokes per lap.

6. Forget about workouts and focus on “practice.” You are training your nervous system to perform counter-intuitive movements well, not training your aerobic system. If you feel strained, you’re not using the proper technique. Stop and review rather than persist through the pain and develop bad habits.

7. Stretch your extended arm and turn your body (not just head) to breathe. Some triathletes will even turn almost to their backs and face skyward to avoid short gasps and oxygen debt (tip from Dave Scott, 6-time Ironman world champion).

8. Experiment with hand swapping as a drill:

It’s difficult to remember all of the mechanical details while swimming. I short-circuited trying to follow half a dozen rules at once. The single drill that forced me to do most other things correctly is described on pg. 91-92 of the TI book: hand swapping. Coach Laughlin’s observations of the Russian Olympic team practice were a revelation to me.

This is the visualization I found most useful: focus on keeping your lead arm fully extended until your other arm comes over and penetrates the water around the extended arm’s forearm. This encourages you to swim on your sides, extends your stroke length, and forces you to engage in what is referred to as “front quadrant” swimming. All good things. This one exercise cut an additional 3-4 strokes off each lap of freestyle.

Gear and Getting Started

Ready to give it a shot? If you have a phobia of swimming or just want to feel the difference a few counter-intuitive techniques make, here are some starter tips:

1. Gents, don’t swim in board shorts. I tried this in Brazil and didn’t realize it’s like swimming with a parachute behind you. Terrible. Get some Euro-style Speedos and streamline. Be cool on the beach and opt for efficiency in the water.

2. Get good goggles. I am now using Speedo Vanquisher goggles, which I find effective if you use a latex swim cap to keep the straps in place. I need to tighten the nose bridge straps every 100-125 meters or so to prevent chlorinated water from blinding me, and leakage with all three goggles I tested seem to be due to eye pieces spread too far apart. I’ll be experimenting with the much-acclaimed Aqua Sphere Kaiman swim goggles, which are simple to adjust and tighten without removing them from your head.

3. Start practicing in a pool that is short and shallow. Use a lane in the shallow end (4 ft. or less) and opt for a pool that is no longer than 20 yards. I’ve since progressed to 25 yards but found focusing on technique easier with shorter pools. Since I’ve adapted to 25 yards, I plan to move to an Olympic-sized 50-meter pool once I can do 10 x 100 yards with 30-45 seconds of rest between sets.

To Finish Up…

I never ever thought I’d say this but: I love swimming.

This is RIDICULOUS, as I have always HATED swimming and avoided it. Now — after one book and DVD — I make time whenever possible to do laps like moving meditation.

I’ll swim for two hours and sneak out to get in an extra session a few hours later. I still can’t believe it.

I encourage all of you — whether you want to overcome your fears or win the Ironman — to give TI training a test drive. It’s the first instruction that’s made sense to me and is 100% responsible for the fastest transformative experience I’ve ever had in the world of sports. Just incredible.

Now, if I can just get from 100-yard sets to 1 kilometer 🙂

[Postscript: The creator of TI himself, Terry Laughlin, has left additional tips and observations in the comments.]

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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454 Replies to “Total Immersion: How I Learned to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days and You Can Too”

  1. in response to nathan kloster: while im sure your well aware of this havening competed since age 8, it should also be pointed out that while your body is cooled by the water, you still sweet as you pointed out, so it is important to have a Bottle of watter at one end of your lane to rehydrate.

    in response to Tim Ferris: thanks for the response. i should have thought of the contacting them by email idea, its in your book after all!

    ohh and as an added note to your suggestions for swimming.

    while i agree it is much easier to swim in a speed weather the old banana hammocks or the more modern European shorts design (They are much less revealing and more comfortable than the banana hammocks for those who would be uncomfortable in them). dont just rule out wearing the bord shorts while training. once you have gotten the form down, they are a great way train endurance and strength, because as you stated, its like swimming with a parachute. you can train in them, and get used to havening that extra drag, then when you jump in the water for the race with your speedo, its like takeing pounds off. i cant realy think what the name of the methodi w would be callled, but its like running while pulling a dragging tire, it makes your muscles work harder, and builds up their strength and endurance.

    i will say, after getting used to the speedo type suit, i much prefer it to the bord shorts style, its so much more comfortable than the lining in those things, and if you want, you can very easily wear a normal swim trunks over them.

    ohh and if your useing a swim cap, spend the few extra dollars and get a good one. the cheap ones tend to pinch and pull the hairs, and will rip easier, not to mention are harder to put on. they arnt that much more to get a good amount of improvement, i think i paid about $10 more for the cap i used then the cheap ones, and i used the thing for several years before it riped on me, and as i said, was much much easier to put on by my self, and wouldn’t pull on the short hairs on the back of my head.

  2. Hi Timothy,

    please contact me! Linando needs you!

    Greetings from Germany

    cu Marco

    PS: I love your book, honestly!

  3. For WIlson S. If you are very lean you may have trouble trreading water. It is not uncommon. It may be something you willnot do well. It does not impact your ability to swim. TI Teaching Professionals have to deal with these body types frequently and do so very successfully. You can go the the dicussion forum on TI’s website and search sinking and you will see many responses as to what someone with a lean body mass can do. You can be a great swimmer with that body type as most elite swimmers are lean. When you learn good balance and body positionas well as a relaxed stroke, your forward momentum will add to allowing you to swim well.

  4. Dear Tim, I’m so excited to read your blog about you finally learning to swim. That is so great. I’ve just published my first book, June 1, Beach Chair Diaries, Summer Tales from Maine to Maui. It’s a collection of

    short travel essays and the first few are about water sports. I really hope

    that you get to try boogie boarding and surfing, because it’s a wonderful

    world. Everyone should swim, it’s makes summer perfect.

  5. Very inspiring, Tim. I never learned to swim, and even though I can somehow propel myself through the water, I always feel like a dork.

    I tried swimming lessons in my 30s and thought I was making progress, until a substitute instructor showed up one day and asked me, “Who taught you to do THAT?” like I was the biggest freak in the water. Never went back.

    I’d like to swim for fun and actually enjoy it, so maybe I’ll check out these resources. And I’m sure they’ll be helpful for my former-triathlete husband as well.

    1. Well for what ever it is worth I love swimming I dream about being in the water floating diving effortlessly having fun at the beach in summer and use the indoor pool to exercise (real Bad Back) and that would be my greatest dream come true .But I am ashamed to admit that I have tried and tried to swim from the age of 4 and I am 44 and all I cam maybe do is if I am luck and the pool is only a 1.5 in height I can walk up and down you see I have this great fear that if I can’t feel the ground I am going to drown and I panick at just the thought of it I have tried adult classes only to be made to fell stupid and unedequet I have researched to no end to find and instractor that could teach me one on one but that doesn’t exist for adults an less you are training for an Olympic medal and are a pefesional swimmer so you see I am so stuck so to all you people that can just jump in to that beautiful water with out a second thought try and remember that there are some of us out there that would give anything just to be able to stick they head under water or just do a simple thing as keep a float thank you just think yourselfs as very lucky

  6. **What did you learn about breathing?** It seems like these Olympiads barely take a breath, and that is one of my biggest problems with swimming – the breathing and water in my nose, lol.

    I think that Michael Phelps has inspired many people to take up swimming. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed watching the Olympics like this before. I signed up for Pilates at my Rec Center and swimming might get added to the mix depending on my budget.

  7. I have always been a swimmer, not competitive but I have enjoyed swimming my entire life. I have never been able to quite grasp the butterfly stroke, but now after seeing your achievements, I am going to give it another go…

  8. Very excited about this post. I’ve been in a similar situation for years. Many failed attempts to improve left me feeling dejected. But I refuse to have kids who don’t love water, and if dad can’t lead then they are off to a poor start.

    I’m in Vietnam at the moment, hitting the beach daily trying different methods. Today was the first day I felt at ease, I focused on taking longer strokes( like you mention) and noticed I was getting so much further on my usual energy reserve.

    Then I log on this evening and here it is in black and white for me to follow. I’ll continue to follow the tips and will certainly get the book once I get settled again.

    Thanks for sharing the hope.

    – Richard

  9. Tim–

    I have the same hatred/fear of swimming, and I’m watching the DVD right now. One question though: did you use a coach, or did you just try to remember all the tips and figure it out on your own?

  10. Hi All!

    I’m now also working on back stroke the TI way and loving it as a recovery period between freestyle. Seems to balance the antagonist muscle groups well.


    I have not used a coach yet. I have only used the DVDs and book, attempting to focus on a single principle for 2-4 lengths at a time. I know it’s working if stroke count decreases and/or if each length causes less oxygen debt.

    @Ron Turner,

    Thank you so much for the comment. I’m honored to have a national team coach reading my very novice attempt at describing swimming! I’m sure all the readers would appreciate any tips or suggestions you have for pool swimming or longer (1km+) open-water races.

    I can’t seem to hit the flip turn at all. I have trouble with choosing flip distance and have trouble planting my feet high enough for a good freestyle flip (I sink too far as I’m trying to flip and slightly turn).

    Thanks to all! Just had my first open ocean practice today and LOVED it. Pool again later tonight.

    Good luck and have fun everyone,


    1. Tim-

      Good solid advice for novices wanting to swim. I was a competitive swimmer for 11 years (long course, short course) and distance (mile +) was my race. After two shoulder reconstructions, I took up coaching.

      The only things I would add:

      1. Kicking: the most common mistake is that people kick from their knees. You don’t have to kick “hard” or “a lot”, but you do need to kick from the hips, using your quad muscles. Also, it shouldn’t feel like you are kicking the water down, but rather lifting it up. (Let your ankles go floppy and imagine you feet as duck fins, pushing the water up on the last little bit of the kick that started from your hip) While kicking isn’t the key, it does help especially with distances to keep your stroke going. And you’re using some big muscles to stoke the engine per se.

      2. Flip turns: When I coach kids, I always have them do this drill (they think it’s fun). Swim up to the wall and do a somersault. Let your feet hit the wall and STOP. Do this a TON of times until you can be upside down and NAIL the wall both feet pointing straight up. When you get that, then add the turn and swim away. When that all makes sense do it as fast as you can, and then get faster. I’ve seen 4 year olds get this in one 30 minute session, so I’m sure it will work for you. 🙂

      Good Luck and happy swimming!

      1. hi tim

        tnx for all d tips….i really jst started learning how to swim this year..i really dont av intructors to tel me wat to do, i jst go to d pool nd try any tin dat cums to mind…i av started movin in d water but not more dan 10ft long b4 i run out of breath…d real problem i av is dat i cant last more dan 5-7mins in d water b4 i start to shiver dat i ll b forced to quit swimmin for dat day…i rilly dnt knw d reason but ppl are sayin its bcos am slender nd i dnt av enof fat to contain d cold….i rilly wanna knw aw to swim but d cold is d only defect holdin me back…dnt knw wat to do…pls help me out…

  11. This is encouraging. I have been trying to learn swimming for the last 5 years and for reasons unknown to me, I am not able to.

    I tried TI too through a TI instructor. But for some reason, we were not successful. I am taking a temporary respite from training.

    After reading your article, I feel resuming my training.


  12. Well, just got out of the pool after trying the TI method for the first time, and im simply stunned. With my normal method of swimming, i was only able to do about 100-150yrds at a time at most; shoulders would be burning, i’d be out of breath, and my HR would be through the roof.

    I watched the TI video a few times, and memorized a couple drills to work on, mainly the balance and rotation. I did 250 consecutive yards without pause, the only reason i stopped is because i realized how far i’d swam without being winded – it didn’t even feel like i was working out!

  13. Hi Tim!

    Thanks for the inspiring work. I might just have you next martial art challenge. I know you’ve been in Brazil and you played Jiu-Jitsu. But another widely practiced martial art in Brazil is the Capoeira (

    After you are good you can take a trip to Salvador, Bahia. In my opinion that is the capoeira capital in Brazil.


  14. brills on swim troubleshoot i get more i cant swim right more than anything. i hope u do 1 on run/jog most people do it wrong and can suffer for life even prez. bush. i dont really swim i do ‘tabata’ HIIT deep-water sprints to get my lo/no impact cardio but da 0-gravity flying oceanic mind+body is great 4 da eGo

  15. Congrats! As you’ve learned, you’re never too old to learn to swim!!!

    I taught swim lessons for years and one of my favorite students was a grandma (65) who wanted to learn to swim, so she could swim with her grandkids. Had her swimming (barely) by the end of the lesson and comfortably swimming in 4 lessons! So cool!

  16. Great Comments,

    Which googles have you decided worked best for you? Did you try the Swedish ones?


    Jose Castro-Frenzel

  17. Tim this is a great posting and should be read by all those either fearful of or in my case not necessarily swimming that efficiently. I think if more people approached a problem such as you did and look for ways to solve it rather than simply give up, they would lead happier lives. As you experienced yourself, a new way, idea, or alternative process may be the key. I intend to follow in your experiences here and see if this will help me become a more efficient swimmer. I happen to enjoy swimming so there is not fear or reluctance on my part. I just simply want to get better. Thank you for sharing.

  18. One question for TI advocates. I swim as part of my cardio routine, I enjoy getting my heart pumping, this post, and the TI vids make it look fairly effortless. The thing is, I don’t just want to be better swimmer, I want to be a fitter one too. Does the heart still pump like a mo’fo’?

  19. the flip turn can be tricky, but you can learn it, id say its best if you get some one to show you the method and possibly watch what your doing wring

    if your sinking to far, it sounds like your not flipping over fast enough, so practice that. as for getting the distance right, that takes some practice and really varies based on your body. you generally want about half a body length between you and the wall when you do the flip. best way to do it it is take a breath a stroke or 2 before that, when you do the flip, have your body follow the arm as you stroke. i generally would hit the wall about mid way up, you want to push off straight, not angled down, and not much up, you want to use the push off the wall to streamline through the water with a dolphin kick, it will be one of the faster parts of your length.

    once you get that down, you get the fun of learning a backstroke flipturn. if youve wondered what the flags are for above the pool (Assuming the pool you train at has them) they are for the back strokers. those flags are set a standard distance from the wall, so you learn how many strokes from the flags to the wall it takes you, and on your last stroke you flip over, do 1 frontcrawl (freestyle)stoke into your flip turn.

  20. Hi Tim,

    Really interested to know – who was the ‘kiwi friend’ who started this all off for you?

    I’ve stumbled upon TI-like techniques through a combination of experience & experimentation. Specifically, after successfully competing nationally during my early teens at swimming, I ‘transitioned’ to surfing, which I enjoyed much more at the time. I also took up yoga in my mid-20’s, and got back in the pool a few years ago to stay fit once the surfing time dried up (mid-30’s now, 2 kids…)

    So, I started putting the yoga practice to work in the pool – I focussed primarily on mindfulness & efficiency, and have come up with many of the same findings and great outcomes as TI brings. While I was already a decent swimmer, the change in attitude and technique has made it much easier (especially recovery) and enjoyable.

    So, another challenge-from-a-kiwi for you – try using your TI techniques on this programme:

    –> you can use this programme to try a variety of kicks and stroke-rates, as its designed to mimic a typical session in the surf (long paddles back out to the break zone punctuated with short bursts to get in / adjust position and catch waves)

    Once you’ve done that, you can try surfing! (Where, of course, it gets very difficult to roll your shoulders…) Drop me a line when you’re next in Aotearoa, I can show you a few spots to get your bottom-turn humming :~)

    Best of luck


  21. Hey Tim,

    I was wondering when you were going to ask about the Fabulous Flip Turn ;). I competitively swam for around 10 years and taught swim lessons for 5. When I was teaching, I always had my students stand in the middle of the pool and do somersaults. Not wimpy, slow ones. Fast, powerful, splash the person in front of you kind. I always turned it into a game, which one was the fastest, who has the biggest splash, etc. When you flip your legs over, you want from your knees down to “smack” the water. Notice to do this your body cannot be in a tight ball. This will help with hitting the wall high enough with your feet.

    Each person is different as to how far away from the wall you need to be before you do your flip turn. Stand about 10-12 ft from the wall and swim in to get a feel for where you need to be to “flip.” Flip turns are meant to be powerful; I always looked at them as an opportunity to gain time on my opponents. Pick up the speed a bit before your flip turn. Also, after you flip and are under water, make sure your streamline is tight and you are kicking hard off the wall until you surface to start your stroke again.

    Once you get the hang of this, move into your next challenge: The Backstroke Flip Turn. There is a reason those flags are hanging above the pool and it isn’t to celebrate the UN or some 6 year old’s birthday. It is to start counting your strokes until you flip. It’s a shame you aren’t in Michigan, I would show you myself how it’s done ;).

    If you are practicing before a big event, wear multiple suits, webbed gloves with weights, even grow out the facial and chest hair, and practice “tapering” (no this doesn’t involve anything related to duct tape).

    I am also a fan of swimming while listening to music. You can purchase cases to put your ipod in that are completely waterproof.

    Speedo Swim Mits:

    Waterproof Ipod Accesories:


    Open Water Tapering:

    Effects of Shaving (not just a practice for women, fellas):

    I hope this helps! I think you should eventually video tape yourself swimming so the rest of us can see your progress :)!

  22. @Erin,

    Thanks so much for the fabulous tutorial on flip turns! I’ll give all a shot when I’m next at the pool. The mid-pool flips should be a good “comfort exercise” for those of you who have read the 4HWW.

    Just FYI, I just swam my 1km today!

    It was a total surprise, as it was a solo open-water ocean swim, and I’d expected to stop before the 1/2 mile target I’d set. Lo and behold, I hit my groove about 65% of the distance to my marker and just kept on going. Sweet feeling.

    For time: I started briskly walking at approx. 4:04pm (after texting my brother I’d probably be done around 5:30pm), I entered the water after walking 1/2 mile based on landmarks the lifeguards provided, then I swam the total distance — 1km or slightly more — and exited the water. I walked back to my beach bag over about 200 meters and sent my brother a text at 4:39pm.

    If my walking took a total of 15 minutes — I general earmark 30 minutes per mile for walking when hiking — I completed the 1km in about 20 minutes.

    Not sure what that means, but that seems to be what happened. I freestyled for about 90% of it, with two short backstroke recoveries, which I cut short because waves were throwing massive quantities of water into my nose and mouth. I felt so good after the 1k that I went for a 15-minute run, which I also never do.

    Total time from 2 x 20-yard length (40 yards) exhaustion maximum to 1 kilometer (1,093.61 yards) with no exhaustion? July 20th to August 17th — 29 days. Total Immersion rocks.

    Now I just need to get into racing form 🙂

    Pura vida,


  23. This is pretty cool, this is why most kid’s can’t swim because they don’t have the proper technique.

    Phelps won because his last 1/2 stroke was better than his opponents. By his fingernails.

  24. I’m a pretty big guy at 6’1 250lbs. and I can Run/Jog a couple miles, Jump, Jog, Kick, Soccer, Hockey, Martial Arts etc. However, I get the same way, My heartbeats 180 bpm and I can’t do more than 2 laps at a time. I get the same way tim did ever since I introduced to swimming, whe I was about 5. It is nice to know it is not just me.

  25. erin, great tips.

    i always hated taper during swim season lol.

    tim, nice time on the 1k. once you get into a good grove with swimming, and even running, you can go on for a long distance like that. i would useualy just end up thinking about random things when we did 500meter or 1k swims during practice and get into a flow.

    and if you do come to Michigan and meet up with erin, let me know, if its the same area of Michigan im from ill meet up with you 2 for some swimming, its been a few years since i competitively swam so im a bit out of shape compared to back then.

    also, you ventured on to the starting blocks yet? they are alot of fun once you learn to use em and are an important part of a swim race.

  26. It is nice to know that something scared you, I would not have believed it until I saw what you turned a fear into. Yeah, go ahead impress me some more please. Take care.


  27. Hey Tim or anyone else who knows,

    Let me start by apologizing for the off topic post. According to your contact page this is one of the only ways to get in contact with you.

    At 2:23 on Disc 2 Track 6 in your audio book version of 4HWW on the chapter about Dreamlining you mention, quite briefly, that you brought students to 10k in extra income per month within three months. You did not elaborate on this. I have been very curious how you went about doing that as I would like to learn and share with other inquiring minds.

    Thanks so much!!


  28. Hi Tim,

    Another great post. I have never been that skilled at swimming, but next time I hit the pool I will certainly attempt the hand swap.


  29. Hey Tim and Mike, I am glad you like my post! It brings a smile to my face knowing that I am inspiring grown men to swim out to the middle of the pool and do a series of somersaults!

    Tim, nice work on the 1K swim! It is amazing what you can accomplish in a short amount of time with proper instruction!

    All this talk about swimming is leading me back to the pool. I am also going to check out the TI DVD. I have friends who just finished a triathlon in Chicago and are always hinting that I need join in on the fun. So I can see this happening in the near future for sure. Plus, it is a good excuse to go somewhere warm and fun during the winter months here in Michigan!

    Here’s a couple other tips that I forgot about when writing my above post:

    If you are using a latex swim cap, after you are done swimming, dry off the inside and sprinkle with baby power. It keeps the sides of the cap from sticking to each other.

    To cut down on drying time (not to mention future laundry duty), get yourself a Chamois.

    Oh and Tim, you have blonde hair which may turn a dash of green due to a lot of chlorine exposure, which I am sure you don’t welcome unless it is around March 17.

  30. For Rich about Cardio and TI,

    As with any activity one can certainly increase their heart rate. What TI allows individuals to do is to swim farther and with practice faster with less effort. Once one has ban able to establish a streamline position with good balance and a proper spearing of the hand, arm and hip drive, then it is a matter of increasing the stroke rate to increase the speed and increasing your heart rate. It is all exercise and all good for you. If you have targets for your heart rate you can experiement with stroke rate as to what that has to be to achieve the heart rate you want. I think you will find you are in very good condition with an nice easy pace though. As with all things it depends on what your goal is. TI can help you achieve it.

  31. For Jay,

    I am sorry to hear that you did not achieve success in your attempts to lean to swim with TI. Please call TI in New Paltz, NY, explain your situation and they will see to it you succeed.

  32. TI is the best! That is exactly how I got reprogrammed for swimming about a year ago. I had terrible drag before I started a TI based swim course. My happiest swim accomplishment was when the coach had us freestyle for a half hour non stop, no wall touching, twice. I found what worked was to relax, pick a tempo, roll through the strokes, and kick minimally (for me barely kick, the coach felt that I was much smoother and faster pulling through the water and maintaining a long water line). Freestyle with tennis ball under chin and ankles tied is great drill; holding tennis balls in each hand takes away ability to grip the water with hands but forces working on form on each stroke. Anyway, am a bit envious… would be fun to try out swim skills in open water as you did, but local water is a bit too polluted!

  33. Hey Tim,

    There’s some good stuff here, but a couple things I noticed as a former All-American swimmer that will make a big difference.

    In the TI video, there are 2 minor problems with the technique as demonstrated. First, the head position is too low. This is not a huge problem, but the increased drag that comes from getting the head alignment wrong will slow you down. Secondly, the elbow is leading on the pull. It is a good idea to keep your elbow behind your hand underwater, as this opens up more of your core muscles and allows you to generate more power. It is also easier on the shoulder joint. Instead of thinking about pulling or pushing water behind you, think about creating a paddle with the arm and returning it to the body.

    Many of the observations about length of stroke rather than stroke rate and the importance of body roll are right on, but the addition of a high-elbow will increase that distance per stroke even more.

  34. Also, Speedo Vanquishers are the best goggles I ever used. They come with multiple nose pieces, so if you are having trouble with the eye pieces being to far apart, try subbing in a different nose piece.

    The way to test if your eye pieces are at the right distance is to push them into your eye socket without attaching the strap to your head. If the goggles hold your eyes for 8 to 10 seconds, you have the right fit. If they fall off before that, adjust the distance between them.

    PS – Some people love Swedes, but I always found them painful to use. They also tend to leave you with raccoon eyes for a while after working out.

  35. Thank you so much Timothy! I recently started taking swimming as part of my long term plan to learn to sail. Needless to say, I was scared to death of the water – but I faced my fear and took lessons. With me fear under control, I ‘ve been struggling with the freestyle stroke. I discovered recently that the back stroke was MUCH EASIER – because of the body roll you must do to move through the water. I can’t wait for my book and dvd to arrive. Tim – you are always ahead of the curve.

    Until we meet….

  36. Tim and other swim fans,

    (1) Finding a pair of leak-proof goggles was a challenge for me. Evan W above mentioned “Swedish” goggles; they are highly recommended by many, but I found them to be very painful. TYR makes a similarly-shaped, but only slightly less minimalist goggle called the “socket-rocket” that has a small (but very helpful) amount of rubber padding on the rim that spreads the load of the goggle over the eye socket better than the “swedes” solid plastic. Dry, comfortable and cheap (under $10).

    (2) As for Total Immersion (TI), congratulations on the find. I came from a competitive running background and blamed my swimming problem on an “inability to float.” The (preposterous) implication was that I was too lean to swim. Which, of course, is why you see so many Olympic swimmers with beer guts.

    A TI clinic (and the hours of useful practice that followed) helped turn my triathlon swims from a nightmare to a joy (the chilly, choppy Escape from Alcatraz swim is still my favorite). The workshop cost me hundreds of dollars, but considering the frustration it has saved me, it was well worth it.


  37. Tim, you say that this method worked for you after everything else failed, but do you include regular swimming lessons in «everything else»?

    I’m asking because you sound like you’ve been trying to learn exclusively from books and/or on your own, in which case it’s no wonder you found it difficult. I took swimming lessons when I was sixteen, and I learned rather effortlessly. I think it must have taken me no more than a couple of months before I could swim a mile without stopping.

    It wasn’t because I was some sort of swimming genius. I’m sure it would have been just as easy for you, since you seem to be someone who really wants to learn. There are lots of competent swimming teachers out there, so nobody should make learning to swim any harder than it needs to be.

  38. Rich asked >>One question for TI advocates. I swim as part of my cardio routine, I enjoy getting my heart pumping, this post, and the TI vids make it look fairly effortless. The thing is, I don’t just want to be better swimmer, I want to be a fitter one too. Does the heart still pump like a mo’fo’?>>

    This is a concern frequently expressed among those who, like Rich, swim primarily for fitness. It’s clearly an important question as there are far more people who do swimming as an “activity” than do it as a “sport.”

    The most useful insight for those interested in swimming for better health is something I knew intuitively for years but had confirmed when I read this article in Popular Mechanics last November

    It documents that human swimmers are typically only 3% energy efficient – compared to 80% efficient for dolphins. After reading it, I did a google search on the phrase “energy efficiency of…” for other fitness/endurance sports – running, cycling, x-c skiing, rowing. I learned that, on land, elite athletes are typically 21 to 34% efficient (Michael Phelps is 9+% efficient and the limit on human efficiency in swimming seems to be about 10%.) A bit more research revealed that recreational athletes are about 10% to 20% less efficient than elites in land sports. In swimming, recreational athletes are 300% less efficient than elites.

    The takeaway from this is that, on land, the recreational athlete improves performance primarily by “building the engine.” In water, the recreational athlete improves mainly by “reducing energy waste.” As the primary reason for energy loss in swimming is drag, the way to do that is to “improve your vessel.”

    Getting back to Tim’s experience, when he could only swim 2 x 20 yd laps, he was a “three percenter” with 97% of what he describes as quite good “land fitness” being diverted by drag, instability, reacting to discomfort, etc. Now that he’s swum a 1k, I’d guess he’s probably improved to something better than 4% efficiency. In other words, he’s now converting over 33% more energy expenditure into forward movement than before. His upside is still huge, which should keep his interest and motivation high.

    The obvious question is was he getting more fitness benefit before — working very hard for a minute or less — or now — working more efficiently for 20 minutes nonstop?

    If you’ve done mainly land sports for years, what works in the water will be counterintuitive. If you want to swim for fitness, the best route to your goal, will be to “obsess about saving energy” rather than on how long/hard you’re working.

    Here’s a more comprehensive response I gave on the TI Discussion Forum to the same question.

    >>What about Fitness?

    In writing about training I don’t mean to suggest that fitness is unimportant. But instead of training to “get in better shape,” train to “improve your swimming.” Let conditioning be something that “happens to you” while you improve your swimming. To illustrate:

    Redefine Endurance. Webster’s defines endurance as “the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.” TI defines Swimming Endurance as “the ability to repeat effective swimming movements for a duration and speed of your choosing.” That definition places as much importance on *nervous system development* as aerobic system development. The critical difference is that when you train the nervous system, the aerobic system also receives the training it needs; when you train the aerobic system, there’s no guarantee the nervous system will be trained the way you wish.

    Many of those who take up TI swim purely for fitness, rather than speed or performance. A common question among fitness swimmers is: “If I swim easier, will I lose fitness?” You won’t and here’s why: (1) A quality workout is one that makes good use of the body. Practicing efficiency makes better use of the body than conventional workouts, minimizing the chances of injury and increasing the likelihood that you’ll be able to do healthful training consistently. (2) Motivation matters. If you enjoy and are engaged by your fitness routine, you’ll continue for the long term; if you don’t you’ll lose interest. Kaizen – Continued Improvement – Swimming will keep your interest higher than training “because it’s good for you.” (3) Increasing intensity is always an option. Once you begin to master the basics, you’ll find yourself able to swim longer – and faster – with less fatigue.

    Should I Increase Yardage? In Kaizen Training, the primary reason for swimming more yards is to increase opportunities to imprint efficient movement. Will fitness increase as you do so? Yes, but your swimming will benefit only if that increased fitness accompanies improved skill. So if increased yardage causes you to compromise form, don’t do it.

  39. This is incredible. I’m a long distance runner and a cyclist and have been planning to learn to swim this coming winter during my slow season for cycling. This is fantastic timing and a great resource. I really look forward to putting it into practice.

  40. I discovered TI a few years ago when I started racing triathlon. I swam on a team for a while when I was younger, but I just wanted some refresher tips as I eased back into swim training. I found my balance in the water was already pretty good, but followed many of the tips around front quadrant swimming. Eventually I took part in some one on one swim sessions with a local coach and found that the emphasis on the front quadrant technique and the balance had forced me to forget all about what is commonly known as “the catch”, or what happens when your hand enters the water. The emphasis on the Strokes per length meant that I had basically turned my front crawl into a kind of sidestroke, spending time gliding on my side always reaching for that longer stroke. The balance and the reach are what make a relaxed stroke, but the catch is what makes a powerful stroke. So the key really is finding a balance between your strokes per length and your stroke rate. I have been using one of these lately trying to clean up and even out my stroke post-TI:

    Congratulations on your 1KM swim!

  41. Hi Tim,

    Great post. Have just had a major knee op which has brought my rugby career to a close. I have had to swim as part of rehab and have found it really boring and have struggled to enjoy it.

    I had never heard of this but have tried some of the demos on the web and it has made life a lot easier.

    I would recommend this to anyone trying to get back into exercise after surgery.



  42. The trick is not to swim 40 laps, it’s to swim seven. If you can survive seven laps without a break then there’s nothing to stop you from swimming 70. Basic advice: gets some training, practice breathing while hanging onto the side of the pool and slow down. Better to move slowly than take breaks between laps. Sign up for lifeguard training. It’s free and they’ll teach you to swim. Swimmers in the Masters (old folks) program spend as much time talking about swimming at the end of the pool as they spend actually moving through the water. These “swimmers” are called Master Debaters. If you find you really need a break when swimming instead of slowing your pace then please get out of the pool and go home. Try again another day. Already swimming 70 laps? Now try a real challenge. Switch from crawl to butterfly.

  43. Hi Tim,

    Wonderful news 🙂

    Have u tried a finis alignment board, that’s v cool to help with your stroke, and spilt fin flippers 2 help with flow?

    Wishing u happy-swimming,

    heard of Milton Nelms, he’s the swimming whisperer American based in Aus, helped Thorpey master freestyle?


    Carrie Eddins

  44. Tim thank you for posting this. I tried this in the gym and in 2 days have gone from 2 laps to 25 laps. I was telling friends yesterday, that in my entire adult life if I had to pick 3 things that have held me in awe this would be amongst those three.

  45. Congratulations, Rocky! That comment just made my day. On a related note, I just did my first 1km a few days ago. The sky’s the limit once you focus on reducing drag and put effort into propulsion instead.

    Great work!


  46. Hi Tim,

    I think it’s about time you turn such wonderful approach to golfing. Not sure if you play golf or not or how good you are. If you can come up with a program to turn a golf game around, you will be bigger hero. Please!

  47. great article last year about ‘butterfly’ in either gq or mens journal about its just about the most amazing experience in water/0-gravity,mentions how it was discovered accidently by combo of 2 strokes, and relates merlins story about how the apprentice had to be a fish first than become a bird

  48. For Kevin-

    Thanks for your response. I will try to contact TI as you suggested.

    BTW, does anybody here know of a coach in D.C. area who has been very successful in teaching Adult learners?


  49. You are such a jock I found it hard to believe you couldn’t swim. Glad to hear you got it licked.

    I took swimming in college and learned how to swim the “correct” way. Before that I was very clumsy but somehow managed to swim.

  50. Thank you sir.

    I’ve always wanted to do a tri but I can’t swim very well. I’ve tried lessons but it just hasn’t worked.

    I’m going to give this one a shot. After all I couldn’t run very well til a buddy introduced me to a program like this and I ended up doing a marathon.

  51. Hi Tim,

    I’m so glad you gave TI a test and thumbs up. I always wanted to try it but it sounded too good to be true. Thanks for being a guinea pig!



  52. Ok, so I’ve been trying to find a way to contact you, but it seems as though posting a blog comment might be my only way. I am well aware of your San Shou kickboxing national championship, and I was curious as to how you were able to find the money to be able to train so intensely for 6 weeks. If you could give any feedback i would greatly appreciate any and all advice you have. THANKS! =)

  53. Hi Tim,

    Firstly Congratulations for daring to give it another go with the swimming. I’ve been swimming since I was about 5 years old. It’s my favourite sport! When I was little I was into the distance swimming… and one thing that I always do is count… count the strokes, the turns, the breaths between strokes… The kicks off the wall when tumble turning… They all make a difference. I also did competitive swimming to Uni National level in the UK.

    Key things that come out of training are…

    Long boats move faster – stay streamined & remember to reach.

    Being comfortable in the water builds up your confidence – therefore play!

    Do breathing excercises under the water to increase lung capacity – great for those with asthma too! (hold breath and swim under water for as far as you can each length for a few as part of a training routine!)

    Getting the balance between breathing and strokes is all about timing… breathe when your body naturally pulls your head towards one side near surface… mid arm coming out of the water and over the head..

    Don’t over extend but do reach

    Never cross your central line…

    Swim like you are in a tube that is just wider than shoulder width all the way round (for fc and brst)

    Don’t roll too far as you loose your central line and end up crossing.

    Ask others that are swimming well for advice and tips. 🙂 I always offer tips to others that comment on my speed and technique. Others I know who are also good swimmers are happy to help too… not many know how to break down a stroke into easy to implement instructions. So for those offering tips in the pool, offer one tip at a time… otherwise the person implementing has too many things to think about all at once.

    And most of all have fun with it! Swimming is always best when you relax into the stroke and glide through the water like a fish 🙂 (or like Phelps)

  54. Total Immersion works. and it works well. I used this method a couple of years ago and it improved my swimming tremendously. Just the idea of taking fewer strokes by itself it a great tip. Count your strokes when you swim a length and try to take 1 or 2 off the next time you swim a length. It forces you to glide more and get more power out of each stroke.

  55. Thanks for this post! I am a terrible swimmer and have had a fear of the water for most of my life. When I do get in the water, I’m usually terrified of drowning and out of breath in just a few strokes.

    Not knowing how to swim kept me from getting a coveted, foreign military badge- the German Armed Forces Profiency Badge (GAFPB). To make matters worse, I had qualified in all of the other events to get the Gold, but, no matter how much I tried, I could not complete the 200m swim! I was so ashamed and discouraged when the majority of my class stood in formation and got the coveted badge pinned on their chests and I had to stand off to the side and watch as I fought back the tears.

    Two of my best friends just completed their first triathalon and I’d like to complete one next year. I’m ok with the bike and the run, but that pesky swimming part… not so much.

    Thank you for all of these helpful tips! I’ve passed article on to my fellow nautically challenged and I can’t wait to start training.

    I will definitely make sure that my children learn how from a very early age. It’s an important skill to have.

  56. Thanks for this post! I am a terrible swimmer and have had a fear of the water for most of my life. When I do get in the water, I’m usually terrified of drowning and out of breath in just a few strokes.

    Not knowing how to swim kept me from getting a coveted, foreign military badge- the German Armed Forces Profiency Badge (GAFPB). To make matters worse, I had qualified in all of the other events to get the Gold, but, no matter how much I tried, I could not complete the 200m swim! I was so ashamed and discouraged when the majority of my class stood in formation and got the coveted badge pinned on their chests and I had to stand off to the side and watch as I fought back the tears.

    Two of my best friends just completed their first triathalon and I’d like to complete one next year. I’m ok with the bike and the run, but that pesky swimming part… not so much.

    Thank you for all of these helpful tips! I’ve passed article on to my fellow acquatically challenged and I can’t wait to start training.

    I will definitely make sure that my children learn how from a very early age. It’s an important skill to have.

  57. Congratulations! Swimming is a great love so I’m glad you’ve found a way that works for you.

    I have a friend who is a certified TI instructor and from what he’s told me, most people would actually enjoy swimming if they knew how to do it “properly”. Chronicling your experience will hopefully encourage more people to try TI out.

    I wonder if jogging is something else you are into? If so, you may want to check out Chi Running. I hear it’s to running what TI is to swimming.

  58. Earlier this year I competed in two sprint triathlons and after each event the single aspect I felt I greatly needed to improve in was the swimming leg. So I would hit the pool and hammer out lap after lap and come away from it absolutely exhausted. Then one day I talked with another guy in the pool and he recommended TI training. I got the book from the library and have seen some significant gains in my swimming technique. I am going to get the DVD because with the book itself I can’t conceptualize and implement the practices very effectively.

    Thanks Tim for the great post – and for motivating me even more to swim better. I can hardly wait for the triathlons next year 🙂

  59. Wow…………what else is Tim going to do next!!

    My name is Helemano and I am a four hour work week junkie. Love the book, trying to setup 3 companies with help of Brickwork India……..

    I will definitely outsource my whole life……..even my niece who is presently unemployed and I got her to sign up for gigs on Gru, Domystuff, and Sologig so she can outsource her skill sets, amke some cash, and reate her own business and social networks

    ANyway, I teach aquatics for the Red Cross and came across Coach Terry at the Ironman in Hawaii where I live. I was able to purchase his products and teach myself how to TI.

    I especially teach adaptive p.e. to blind and visually impaired kids who are blind like me……………parents are at first scared shitless and when all is said and done, blind kids are going back and forth swimmingly along.

  60. I became an “advanced swimmer” (I took a course called advanced swimming) while working on my first degree in music and hope to get back to it when they finish completing the renovations on the nearby pool.

    In regard to your comment, “I’ve never had a coach or supervision,” Jim Littlefield’s reference to “inner swimmer,” and Guy Giffard’s reference to swimming lessons: I’m reminded of the Inner Game of Music by Barry Green in which he explains how his brother won in their race to learn how to ski. His brother learned through reading a book and jumping right into it. Sometimes, though certainly not always, well meaning people can have a negative impact on our ability to learn or perform through giving too many directions all at once, which can be a helpful lesson to those in the field of teaching.

    Someone mentioned they didn’t want to hear about your swimming. I can’t help but wonder if your new found ability is more than a physical break through but a psychological one as well. Whatever it is, congratulations on being able to enjoy a new activity.

  61. Congrats on this. Ever since the Olympics, I’ve had swimming on my mind. Thanks for a great post.

  62. I bought the IT book and DVD mentioned here. It works amazingly after just two session in the water, alone. Before this, I can’t swim in free style at all. Now I’m way on the way to swim like fish. Very exciting!

    I also followed Tim’s HIT work out as well and it works!

    Tim, how do find all these good stuffs?


  63. Nice article for the beginner…as a state champion, eleven records swimmer of freestyle I would like to recommend the following to enhance the speed and reduce the effort of swimming…after the initial reach on the stroke pull toward your navel instead of down deep into the water…you have MUCH more leverage which allows a faster stroke and with less fatigue. Of course complete each stroke with a flip of the hand at the end of the stroke to get maximum thrust. Enjoy being addicted to speed!

  64. Dear Tim and all,

    I read your account on the TI Newsletter which I receive now having taken a weekend workshop over a couple years ago. Your post was uncanny: I had many of the exact same experiences you had: being in decent shape, but breathless after one length; Speedo Vanquisher goggles (love them), and I also view swimming as moving meditation. When I decided to take it up (b/c of back injury), I thought I’d be bored by swimming. But b/c TI is also a well design pedagogic system, you can always concentrate and focus on various parts of your swimming. Who needs a waterproof iPod? It’s easy to be really mentally focused while getting a great low risk (of injury) workout.

    TI’s made an amazing difference to my freestyle. My home stroke is breaststroke- I could do that till the cows come home. But I wanted to improve my freestyle and it really has. I swam competitively a little in high school in FL where I grew up, so I’ve always been very comfortable in water. When I took up swimming again (my other cardio is cycling), like you, I could barely get across two lengths. And, for 25m, it took me 25 strokes. I can now do 30x100ft non-stop (maybe longer), and I brought down my stroke rate to 13-18 strokes in 25m. I never thought I could do the 2 beat kick- I used to love watching the Olympic hopefuls in my high school swimteam kick so slowly and rhythmically.

    I was on a 7 dd backpacking trip in eastern Yosemite, and brought only that book by Terry. I did the drills 3-5x/wk in the pool. I got a DVD, then decided to do the 2 day workshop. It’s really paid off.

    One of the TI ideas I like is that you’re catching as if rowing, trying to swing your body forward past your anchoring hand, the way a rower applies power by extending his/her legs to “swing” the boat forward, past a blade just after the catch. So concentrating on plunging the recovering arm forward like a harpoon, rather than pushing hard with the power arm to move water backward, makes a lot of sense. I also like the idea that kicking is to help you with the rotation of your body, the way you anchor you feet for a racket or bat swing.

    It’s a great system and I recommend it to anyone interested in learning or improving their stroke.


  65. One thing is to swimm, one other thing is to race….

    Total Immersion technique is fine if you want just to improve your movement in the water and to understand that water is an element where you have to relate with friction.

    but if you see this video of Phelps while he does freestile:

    You can see that his head is not looking to the floor of the swimming pool and his head is half out of the water, water arrives on the forehead.

    He uses much more his legs and the moment of stop of his arms is when they arrive at the maximum lenght in front of his head.

    From Italy with love!

  66. I swim a mile a day every other day (50 minutes-66 lengths-25 meter pool) I didn’t learn by your method but it all rings true. Head in-line with spine, side to side. Stroke Stroke breath (left) stroke stroke breath (right) sometimes almost rolling over to breath deeply but its not necessary. I watched some guy swimming from my balcony one day and noticed he was kind of stabbing his hands into the water not far above his head as if he was reaching for something on the bottom and rolling side to side I tried it and worked my way up from 6 laps to 33 round-trip laps and when I’m donw I feel I could do more. I’m 49 years old and with some dieting and swimming I’ve lost 20 pounds over the past year.

  67. Hi Tim-

    Thanks a ton for taking the time to share this with all of us. You inspired me to give swimming another shot. Previously I could only swim 2 x 25 lengths without having to stop to catch my breath. After only 5 swims I did 25 x 40 this morning. I now look forward to my laps 2-3 times a week.

    Thanks Again! Charlie

    Ps. As part of my information diet I cut the data plan on my crackberry today. Big boost in concentration and productivity.

  68. After reading this post a few hours ago, I had to try it. I just got back from my gym and WOW!

    Recently, I have only been able to swim a few laps at most, and ended up winded every time.

    Trying to use the TI way of swimming, I did not get winded! I did maybe 5 or 6 laps, and I wanted to do more! I only stopped because I thought my form was slipping and don’t want to develop any bad habits with this.

    Afterwords, I felt exhilarated! This was very much what I felt like when I first discovered playing in the water. I was a little tired, but it was a good kind of tired. I’m actually remembering how fun it is to play. I know I may be gushing here, but while I am typing, I still feel GOOD from this.

    My body and I thank you for posting this, and thanks also to Terry Laughlin and the people demonstrating in the linked videos.


    (now I need to get the book/dvd and see how much better this can get =) )

  69. A few years ago, I hired B. Barnes a TI coach in Orlando, Florida and I have never been happier. I can now swim for an hour without getting winded. I can stay out of the pool for six months and get back in and still swim non-stop without being exhausted. My problem is this. I swim very slowly, everyone that gets in the pool can swim faster than I do (ok a slight overstatement but not by much). I just ordered the new TI freestyle dvd and hopefully I can pick up some speed/distance with each stroke. I think that part of my problem is that I am stroking too soon – I need to leave that arm extended longer before I begin the downstroke.

    No matter, I went from not even being able to swim 1/2 way across the pool to swimming nonstop whenever I feel like it. TI is awesome:)

  70. I can’t swim–at all. As a 40-year-old, it’s disappointing and embarrassing. I took lessons in a lake as a child, but never learned. When the teachers said they wouldn’t let go of you, they always let go of you, which didn’t help my panic around water. In college, I had a friend try to teach me to tread water in a swimming pool, but I simply couldn’t make my arms do one motion and my legs do something different at a different rate. As an adult, I almost feel I’m too old to learn now–too uncoordinated, too afraid, and would feel too silly clutching onto my teacher in a public swimming pool while adults and children swam laps. It would be nice to go into old age with swimming as a no-impact exercise, but at this point, I don’t know how or where to find the help I need.

  71. Tim:

    I was convinced in May of this year that I will learn to swim. I am 36 years old and all that my childhood swim lessons accomplished to do was to discourage me from swimming. Just last summer I was still sitting by the side of the pool or holding the pool edge.

    I started lessons at my local Y this June, and at the same time I discovered TI from doing research on line. I purchased the book and eventally the dvd’s, and was instantly hooked.

    Five months later, last night i just did 1-1/2 hours of non-stop effortless crawl back and forth at the Y’s 25 yard pool. It was the TI drills that helped me be effortless whereas the Y’s kick-pull drills tired me out.

    I hope to do a TI camp in the future. My long term goal is to learn to surf.

    I now tell everyone proudly how much i love to swim.

  72. Suggestion for those of you who have your goggles, and face mask for that matter, fog up. This is something I learned from my diving instructor. Most goggles and face masks are shipped with some kind of chemical protective layer on the plastic. The chemical has something to do with fogging up your goggles faster. A good idea when buying new goggles is to go home and wash the lens portion of them with toothpaste of all things. Inside and out just spread it on with your fingers and smear it around. Generate some bubbles or suds with water, and then rinse it off. You don’t really need to scrub it.

  73. Tim, I haven’t made up my mind about whether I admire you or despise you because you are so different from me, but for the first time I can relate to you.

    You’ve humanized yourself by admitting this lifelong struggle, and I’m happy that we both had breakthroughs this year in the same area. My friend learned of TI as a step toward her first triathlon, and recommended it to me. Neither my husband nor I can swim, such that we even put “life jackets” on our wedding registry! We brought and watched the TI DVD on our honeymoon, and the most peaceful, memorable moments of our lives were spent in our private villa pool in Phuket being able to glide through the water without panic.

    I thought it was just a fabulous swimming instruction approach until I read your more scientific and goal-oriented assessment of the method’s design for efficiency. Glad to know I stumbled on the best method, as tested by you. Thanks for sharing.

  74. Forget learning how to swim efficiently, it’s always come effortlessly to me. I’d rather know how your friend gave up coffee and stimulants – if in fact he lived up to his side of the bargain!! 🙂 Sweets and coffee are my downfall, but at the moment I’m tackling the coffee by simply cutting 1/4 a cup per week. Quitting cold turkey? Two weeks of headaches… no thanks.

    Great post though!

  75. Tim-

    I left a comment on 9.30.08 letting you know what a tremendous difference this has made for me. I am now up to a mile worth of laps a few times a week. I absolutely love it! With a fair amount of practice I have also managed to learn the flip turn. It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it.

    It’s a Good Life, Charlie

    1. @Charlie,

      Congratulations! I’m slated to go swimming tomorrow 🙂 A little cold here in SF, though. Ouch!


  76. Wow I thought I was alone. It’s quite strange that not many people in my country generally can swim! And for someone who is great at every other sport, ju jitsu, kick boxing, karate, track and field, tennis, squash…I can’t swim to save my life, well I manage. I kinda dated a greek for a while and after endless trips to the pool or beach I was forced to improve my freestyle, I can’t tread water still to save my life for more than 10 secs, and my freestyle is like torture.

    I’ve watched endless egg beater tutorials on youtube and still don’t get it, I can’t do the butterfly and pretty much all I manage is a quirky freestyle, I will try these tips.

    You didn’t say much about legs however, what I find is after a few meters my legs start to drop further and further so that my arms are doing all the work!

  77. Tim, swimming is a limbic extravaganza, one of the things that makes life good. So glad that you have discovered it. That you did so a bit later in life means that you’ll never take your newfound talent for granted, I bet.

    When you come down to Bali we’ll go bodysurfing. It’s the best use of swimming ability that I’ve ever found! (Check ‘wedge bodysurf’ on youtube)

    Time slows in the tube– done right you’ll live forever.

  78. Wow! This seems like the perfect solutions to one of the great mysteries of my life 😉 I’ve always been quite athletic and doing well at most types of sports but my swimming skills, well, they suck now and they’ve always sucked. Same problem as yours, two laps and I’m done, my heart close to popping out of my chest.

    Swimming grades in my athletics class are going to destroy my overall athletics grade, that is essential to the outcome of my German Abitur. But there is hope now, if this works. I will start practicing as soon as possible 🙂 Thank You!!

  79. Hi Tim. Great post. I’ve been swimming for 40 years, 8 or so of them competitively, and the rest just for fun and exercise. These TI stroke instructions will help me to focus even more on my efficiency in the water. Here are a couple of other observations:

    • As one person noted, the correct goggles are all about your face shape. With the right ones, you should not have to adjust more than once per session. I can only use a pair made by Speedo that has a fixed nose piece (in other words, it’s one piece of molded plastic all the way across), everything else makes me go cross-eyed underwater.

    • For longer distance swims, start off at what feels like an unnaturally slow pace and let the effort increase for a while very gradually. Just like running a 10k or longer race, you’re actually going faster than you think when you first start, so you have to consciously pace yourself.

    • Try mixing strokes to max out your distance—it’s a lot easier to go 400 or 800 meters by alternating freestyle with breaststroke every 100 meters. After you done that for a week or two, just go for a 1000 one day, all freestyle. Once you commit, you’ll find your second (and third) wind without even looking for it.

    Cheers, Jon

  80. Hi Tim,

    I thought I was the only adult who couldn’t swim! I was in the lifeguard training program in high school, and almost drowned when a friend played a prank. I immediately forgot how to swim, and haven’t swam since. This just inspired a New Year’s resolution. Thanks for the interesting posts.

  81. Quick question @Tim… wondering if you know a good resource for learning to play the guitar in the most efficient way? Or if you can advise some search strategies that I can use to filter out the “instant” and get to real “essential skills”?

    Happy Day!


  82. Great article, thanks. I’m going to do a triathlon later this year. I’ve always been an avid biker, and I have a lot of running experience, but the swimming had me worried. Now I’m over it, partly due to this article and what I’ve gleaned from the T.I method. I’ve been slowly building my swimming over the past 5 months, I’m at 2400m, twice a week. I have to get up at 5am to get to the pool in time before work, but it’s worth it.

    Paul, regarding guitar:

    I know you’re asking Tim, but I’ll share my experience if it helps. I think overall if you approach it methodically you can show fast improvement. Here are a few tips that can save you some time:

    1. I wasted a great deal of time trying to pursue multiple styles on multiple types of guitars. I believe the most essential thing is to really decide what you’re trying to learn. If you don’t focus your goal, you’re not going to get anywhere. This also impacts the techniques you will use to learn. If you want to learn to play funk, you need a lot of rhythm drills, if you want to play rock solos, you need to do a lot of scales. This is not to say you can’t “learn it all”, but you have to focus on one style to make real progress.

    2. Buy a metronome. Build all your practices around it. When you start playing along with recorded music or other people your ability will be in direct proportion to the amount you use a metronome.

    2. Do drills for BOTH hands. You need to perfect your strum if you want rhythm, and it’s also important to do picking drills. A lot of beginners try to learn scales, and just run them end-to-end, over and over with no other real drills. You end up with a sore left hand and a bored right hand. You should definitely do some scales, but also try this: hold a single note and pick it in time with the metronome, three times per tick, at a very slow speed. Slowly get faster, but make sure you don’t sacrifice quality for speed. You get faster and sound good by perfecting your technique at slower speeds. Gradually add other drills that include more than one note, but still include the fast drills with fewer notes.

    3. Find a song you love and absolutely master it. Use sheet music if you can find it, and also try to find a video of someone playing it (in person is even better). It helps to break the song into sections. Don’t focus on playing the correct notes, focus on the song sounding perfect. The important thing is to absolutely master it before you move on. Play along with a recording, try to get comfortable picking up in various places from the middle of the song. Try to insert variations or color into how you play it.

    4. As I alluded to in the previous tip, record yourself. Record backing tracks and try to play along with them.


  83. Totally useless comment here, but it’s really inspiring to see people being so happy about improving at swimming.

    I took swimming effortlessly for granted as I grew up on an island and went through a couple of years of competitive swimming when I was a kid, but I now remember the kids who where struggling in the swimming pool at school (and my schoolmates making fun of them) and I wish they could have somebody like you to share your experience at that time (I was too shy to even think about trying to help back then – stupid)

    I’ll keep your article in mind next time I meet a not-so-confident swimmer willing to improve next time!