Whether you have chosen swimming to relax, have fun, lose your love handles or boost your sports performance, your satisfaction and your chances of success will be far better if you see training as a matter of skill and ability, not a test of endurance and strength. Obviously, whatever your physical and/or mental objectives, your success depends on your swimming technique!
As humans are not naturally at home in the water, the Total Immersion method will help you feel comfortable in this environment and adapt your anatomy to swim like a fish! Want to become a mermaid or a Triton in just three steps? Let's do it!
Step One - Comfort And Confidence
The total immersion method starts by introducing the swimmer (whether they are a beginner or experienced) to learning balance and pelvic stability. The aim of this learning is to replace the feeling of heaviness in the water, which tends to drag you down, by a joyful sensation of comfort and weightlessness. First of all, you need to become aware of gravity (pulling you down in the water) and understand its physical principles, so that you can find the best swimming position: the one that will require the least possible effort. Next, it is important to learn to stabilise your pelvis, so that you can stay perfectly aligned and engaged, even during lateral movements or rotations, which can easily disturb your alignment. Becoming aware of your body in the water will help you to control your swimming position, sensations, and coordination more easily. When you start by “taking control” of your body, you will be able to swim more easily and comfortably and tackle more advanced swimming techniques. Aside from the stroke itself, this crucial stage of the total immersion method will give you the chance to find out more about the behaviour of the human body in the water, and use these concepts to minimise obstacles and maximise the inherent resources of the water. So balance and stability are crucial… nothing surprising so far! Let's move onto step 2!
Step Two - Hydrodynamics
What's the difference between humans and fish? Okay, there's probably more than one… but the important point here is their natural hydrodynamics: a quality shared by most aquatic animals. Since humans don't have this natural streamlining, and because water is 1000 times denser than air, obviously, it is tough for humans to move quickly through water. That leaves us no choice: we need to train in order to develop this precious hydrodynamics.
A hydrodynamic position allows us to reduce “form drag”: the resistance created as we move through the water. To reduce this drag, the body must be as straight as possible, so that it is not in contact with too large a water surface.
“Wave drag” is all the turbulence, waves, swirls and bubbles created, which affect our movement through the water. Basically, you need to understand the importance of not fighting the water. Lots of splashing won't help you: it will just slow you down and tire you out.
Step Three - Using Your Pelvis
Who said your pelvis has to stay still? Yes, you have to be stable, but not immobile: there's a subtle difference!
Although your legs and especially your arms are your main sources of propulsion when swimming, according to the total immersion method, your pelvis can also help you, rather than being a weight to drag along!
The pelvis is naturally the strongest and most powerful part of your body, so why let it go to waste? Your pelvis should be the starting point for your power, rhythm and movement.
Therefore, the total immersion method teaches you to integrate the body movements initiated by your pelvis (pendulum), from head to toe. The faster you start using this method, the faster you will swim effectively: further and faster!
What About Breathing?
Don't worry, the total immersion method also covers breathing, but treat it as a consequence rather than a separate area of work. The breathing technique integrates perfectly into each stage of the method. See for yourself:
If you swim comfortably and confidently, you will breathe more easily.
If you maintain a hydrodynamic position, you can breathe without hindering your progress too much.
It will be even easier and more natural to breathe when your pelvis initiates your rotation to inhale.
Clearly, the three stages covered here have three distinct and precise objectives:
To allow you to swim faster and for longer, without using more energy.
To allow you to swim without any effort or pain.
To allow you to appreciate and improve your swimming sensations.
The total immersion Method is specific to swimming crawl and encourages glide. In this sense, it will probably be more effective for medium- and long-distance swimmers rather than sprinters.
The total immersion method is based on principles from fluid dynamics, physiology, cognitive psychology (how we learn) and neurobiology (training the brain like a muscle). So we can probably trust it!
And before we move on to the practical side of things, there's no better way to finish this article than with an inspiring quote from Terry Laughlin, coach, multiple medallists and author of the total immersion method: