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 over 400 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.

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

  1. Definitely some interesting ideas I’ll have to check out. I’m quite a water rat when it comes to the ocean, but I never put much consideration to improving the efficiency of my swimming. Thanks for the great info!

  2. That’s great news Tim! When I was younger, I swam all of the time. But it’s been over a decade since I’ve really swam seriously, due to unfortunate circumstances. Every time I jump in the water, I feel like I’ve forgotten the basics. Thanks for the tips, I’ll definitely be picking up a book and the DVD. I’m going through a big lifestyle change right now, so swimming could be the next tool that aids me in getting shape and ultimately helping me achieve some personal goals.

  3. Hi Tim,

    I noticed that you mentioned wanting to increase your distance with swimming. I used to have a similar problem and don’t anymore; now I can crawl about half a mile nonstop, and it was not something I had to train for or work up to. I just realized that in the water you can push as hard or as easy as you want to, and you’ll still stay afloat and keep the same form. Of course, you’ll slow down. But if you’re interested in swimming a certain distance or time without stopping (which is where the serious meditation comes in) losing some speed shouldn’t matter.

    Anyway, that’s my advice. Try relaxing the amount of strength you apply to your stroke more. The water doesn’t care how hard you push on it 🙂 I’m not sure how this jives with TI but I’d assume it would be the same…

    1. I really agree with this. It’s what got me up to doing a 10k swim within my first 7 months of swimming. It was a slow 10k (4.5 hours) but what’s interesting is that I can get a lot more breathless and tired doing shorter distances. On a bad day I can struggle to do 100m! A friend of mine who’s just learnt the basics was having the same problem. He found 400 meters almost impossible. I suggested he did 2k and go as slow as he needed to in order to feel comfortable. He did it and felt completely fine afterwards. I think when you know you’ve got to keep going for a long time, you unconsciously decide to relax, as your body knows it’s the only way you’re going to do it. Tension uses up a huge amount of energy.

  4. @Neesh,

    Partly, for sure. I never thought swimming fast was possible for me, and now I find myself imagining my times in the 200-meter medley. It makes the Olympic swimming much more fun to watch, not to mention Phelps and his insane freestyle.

    I am enjoying the Games, even though I’ve had trouble finding the judo broadcasts.


    1. (I’m sending this because I just heard your swiming Ted talk and you asked for ideas for schools and education)

      The current Education system is chaos.

      Reading W. Edwards Deming you can tell that the system is in chaos when you rely on heros to get anything done and nothing is repeatable. This is clearly true of the current US education system and probably most of the worlds education systems. We rely on the “Super Teacher” and great parents to get anything done. The model works in some neighborhoods but not others.

      The real question that needs to be asked is not “How do we create more Super Teachers?” because we have all the Super Teachers we are going to get. Deming shows that rewards and punishments do not create heros. The question we should be asking is “How do we create an education system that allows mediocre teachers to teach students at a high level?” Clearly not by doing what we are doing today.

      The other heros we rely on are parents. Is it fair that some kids are born with incompetent parents? We need to teach kids parenting and life skills in high risk neighborhoods in order to break the cycle of poverty. Collage and higher education does not break the cycle of poverty but good parenting could.

      I could go on for another 2000 – 3000 words but I’ll wait to see if your interested in more.

      1. Deming (a relative, BTW) was writing about manufacturing, not education. Our system is experiencing chaos only because of education “reforms” thrown at us by people trying to make money off the backs of teachers and students. Our system is actually doing a lot of things well but you’re probably not going to listen to me because I’m a parent and a teacher therefore ignorant of your truth.

  5. Hi Tim,

    I used to be a competitive swimmer turned semi-pro triathlete. Injuries have sidelined me, but TI helped me transition from an inefficient sprinter into an efficient distance swimmer.

    To correct your goggle eye cup problem, I recommend using Swedish Original Monterbara Goggles by Malmsten (they’re $4, I buy them at a local shop, but also found them here You tie the nose strap to the size you want, and it stays in place.

    I’ve used these for countless 20 hour swim weeks in pool and in massive group starts for triathlons and have found them to be the most functional goggle around.

    Best of luck in the pool,


    1. Totally agree with Evan

      The Swedish are by far the most reliable comfortable

      goggles you can get, I use the TYR’s and never had a

      problem with them.

      Keep up the good work


    2. for googles I suggest that you look at the Sable googles, absolutely the best and clearest vision, comfortable with various nose bridge sizes provided and they dont leak or fog up!



  6. Tim – great suggestions! I think you’re reading my mind tonight. I’m sitting here watching the swimming events and thinking about how to get more swimming into my life and – blam – you drop some fantastic references.

    I’ve experimented with a few other lifestyle-change suggestions on your site with good results, so I’ll be sure to pick up the Total Immersion stuff too.



  7. Tim, I love your one page notes all the time, it’s a time saver, gonna these stuff, try today. I didn’t use goggles, not sure why, but try to get one for myself. Thanks!


  8. I was 10 years old and had a secret crush on a boy at a summer camp. We would often go to the pool and I was one of the kids, who didn’t know how to swim and always had my kick board with me. One day we were all going into the water, he saw me with the kick board and said: “what? you can’t swim?”

    I couldn’t but I said “of course I can, look” and went into the pool, without my kick board, put all the energy and will power and YES, magically started swimming…

    I find swimming as one of the most fun work-outs (next to dancing) and my tip to swim long distance would be: try to relax every single muscle of your body and make consistent movements, avoid jerk movements.

    Oh Tim, did you really recommend Speedos? Ay… I find board short extremely sexy on guys, I know it may be hard to swim in them though…

  9. Hey Tim,

    This is the same method (in principle) used in ChiRunning. The ChiRunning folks and Total Immersion folks are good friends and occasionally partner up on workshops too. So for those of you with the same fear of running that want a solution similar to Tim’s swimming, check out ChiRunning.

    I can’t imagine you afraid of swimming, but I’ll go with it … 🙂

    -Don Makoviney

  10. Hey Tim,

    Great to see you overcame your aversion to swimming, it is one of life’s great joys.

    I was a competitive swimmer in my early teens, my career ended by illness.

    I had the pleasure of being coached by a former Olympic gold medalist and the right instruction makes all the difference. Although I don’t swim anywhere near the 6 times a week I once did (I’m now 22 and ended competition aged 13), when i do jump in the I get right back into a great stroke and swim 1500meters to 3kilometers no trouble.

    Are you mastering the other strokes? Freestyle is great, but the incridble workout of Butterfly for your shoulders is hard to beat, or the satisfaction of mastering BreastStroke – arguably the most difficult and of course the different sensation of backstroke. And then there is the dive and tumble turns to master – then your on track to take on Phelps.

    Finding the right goggles is difficult. What suits one person will not suit you, buy a bunch and find what works. It depends on the shape of your face basically. Also some goggles are designed specifically for sprinting competition – you want a training goggle that will keep its seal. An anti-fog solution can be helpful too.

    Have a great day and happy swimming,


  11. So happy to see these tips … my foot or calves always seem to start cramping at about 1600yds … so i stop swimming 🙁 can’t wait to try these techniques and hopefully break that 1600 cramp!! thanks for sharing!!!!!!!!

  12. Tim,

    what a weird coincidence. I’ve been trying to get into shape for a few months now and have been having pretty good success with weights and running (though a foot injury have put me off for the last week or so), but recently I decided to set a bigger goal for myself and attempt a triathlon. Of course, I’m not putting some silly time limit on myself and planning to do it in X months or anything, but it’s something I really want to do for myself.

    The one big issue is that I’m a horrible swimmer — I never learned properly. Earlier tonight my wife and I were at the bookstore and I started looking through books on triathlons to get a sense of what I’m in for. On the way home I was describing the whole thing to my wife and we began talking about my biggest weakness — the swimming part. Imagine my surprise to discover your post on exactly this issue. Thanks for the pointers. I’ve already requested Terry’s book from our local library and, if it’s helpful, will buy a copy of it and the DVD.

    Now, I’ve got to go up to the nearby rec center tomorrow and see if I can get in to use their pool! ;~)

    Thanks again for all the wonderfully useful info!

  13. Hey Tim,

    Congrats — that’s a really impressive turnaround! (wouldn’t expect any less from you). Now that you’ve conquered swimming, I’ll have to get you out kiteboarding!


  14. Wow, just in time. I was struggling to understand what I was doing wrong and why I get so frustrated trying to stay afloat and eventually move forward. I’ll try these tips tomorrow 🙂

  15. My mom says I could swim before I could walk. I didn’t have an opportunity to swim competitively since my school didn’t have a pool, but I did lifeguard for a few summers during high school. It’s strictly recreational for me, and I actually have more fun with diving boards than just swimming. Have you learned to dive, Tim? I’m sure you’d like it – you might find similarities to some of the martial arts and b-boy stuff you do since it’s largely a matter of understanding how your own body moves through space.

    I just tried to teach a friend how to swim a few weeks back. Since I don’t know what it’s like to not be able to swim, it was pretty difficult. I’ll definitely point her in this direction.

  16. Hey Tim.

    Another thing to look forward to: If you keep this up, as the swimming becomes easier you’ll find you get into The Zone after about 500 m. You’ll forget everything around you. It’s mobile meditation. Brilliant.

    Have fun,


  17. Hi,

    Thanks for your article. I was especially hitted by your last paragraph when you said that you hated swimming and now likes it. Those are the words that convince me to give your method a try. Nevertheless, is the DVD suitable for someone who does not know how to swim crawl but only breaststroke ? If so, I’m gonna order them and follow your advices. Otherwise I may consider a few lessons with a teacher before.

    By the way, this is my first comment here since I discovered your work and your blog a few weeks ago. It’s a pleasure to read it and it already began to influences some part of my life.

    If you ever come to Switzerland, I would be pleased to help you,



  18. When I was a boy, I nearly drowned twice. Swimming lessons didn’t help me learn to swim either. So, in my mid-teens I decided I had to learn to swim and would teach myself how to do it and I did it by watching people swim, reading about swimming technique, and practicing in the shallow end of the local Y.M.C.A. pool. Once I understood that the key for me to learn to swim-I’m speaking of the crawl stroke here-was learning how to breathe and coordinate the breath, well, I was good to go. Later, I became a life guard and then a water safety instructor. Saved five lives in the water.

    One other thing, when I taught swimming to both children and adults, I asked all of my students to draw me a picture of themselves swimming and to bring it back to me for the second lesson. I wanted to fix in their minds and emotions the idea that they could swim and could picture themselves doing so. Just a tip for those who teach swimming.

    1. Hi Tim. I’ve found the hints amazing.

      I’m an almost short distance triathlete (hobby for a while) and i’m planning to complete the Iron Man in 2017. I can swim for 3kilometers without stopping but I fell i’m wasting energy with wrong techniques(because of this I hate swim sometimes like you haha). I fell tired and I fell i’m not slicing properly. I’ll try to do this drills at the open sea.

      Thank u a lot

  19. Tim,

    I’m going to share with you the MOST efficient swimming training program ever.

    When I was four years old, my father tossed me off of his shrimp boat and said “sink or swim boy”. It may sound inhumane and cruel but I finished first in my Marine Corps swim qualification training on Parris Island 15 years later. Try swimming a few laps with boots, blouse, trousers, 80-lb pack, Kevlar (helmet), and a rifle. Not to mention 80 other guys that don’t know how to swim flapping around like drowning gorillas pushing you under ever stroke of the way.

    So remember, when it’s time to teach your children how to swim… rent a shrimp boat and throw them overboard at a very young age. 🙂

    ps- Will be in SF labor day weekend, would love to interview you for our upcoming podcast “Losing The Shackles”. It’s about Modern Day American Slavery and the struggle to escape. I’ll shoot an email to your publicist.

  20. I registered for my first Ironman when I had the same ability to swim like you had before – one length and I was out of breath. But with some practice and a lot of willpower (standing up and going to the pool at 6am two times a week in winter) I managed to swim 1:14h for the 3.8k.

    A couple of months ago I discoverd TI for myself and found it really interesting. There’s not much more to add to what you said, here’s what I found was the most important for me:

    – swimming length after length just to increase your weeks mileage is a waste of time. My 2nd IM swim was 1:10h with about 130k training, my 3rd IM swim was 1:07h with about 20k training. If you swim you should have a trainer with you or practice drills. Only swim longer distances once in a while to check your time or a couple of weeks before the event.

    – practice front quadrant swimming. In Shinj Takeuchi’s video you can see that when he pushes back his front arm, the other arm is already in the water. This makes your body longer and faster in the water.

    – if you’re out of breath, your technique is flawed. It’s never a question of physical strength.

  21. Tim,

    I attended one of Terry’s seminars a few years back and he was able to fill in the gaps that are missing from the book and DVD. It was amazing how much of a difference just a few suggestions from an expert had on my form and strategy. I was basically a dog paddle swimmer trying to prepare for a triathalon and it made a huge difference. In BJJ it would be like having Royce Gracie walk you through an arm bar. You think you know how to do one until an expert shows you all the little details you never knew existed.

    thanks for the the blog

  22. Tim, now would be a good time to add a few items to the gear page. You could split it into chunks; books (pull from the end of the 4hwwk), DVDs (TI), stuff (goggles), etc.

    Doing the Iron Man has been on my list for quite a while. I’m several years out, but maybe it’s time to pick up another book.

  23. Congrats Tim! Seems like the TI program fits right in line with 4-Hour Work Week principals…just the pool version.

    -Designate you want to swim and what you need to do to get there

    -Eliminate unnecessary expense of energy, drag in the water, etc.

    -Automate yourself by training muscle memory

    -Liberate yourself from your fears!

    Maybe not exactly the way you might do it in lifestyle design, but close!

    Congrats again. Will Michael Phelps have a challenger in 2012?!?

  24. Wow Tim,

    I’d never thought of the theories in your book, but was inspired to apply them in my work and side project ever since.

    I’m possibly more inspired by this simple post, though! I too have always been embarrassed about my inability to swim.

    My ass sinks and I just feel like I’m struggling for life the whole time. Then I look in the next lane and see some 80 year old guy leisurely banging out 50 laps.

    Can’t wait to try this out. Thanks!

  25. Tim,

    I have been training for a triathlon for most of this year. While my experience at the pool was not painful, I always knew that I could be more efficient. Your post here will pay dividends for me…I am heading over to the pool tonight just to try a couple of these techniques.

    By the way, one thing I did early on was to ask a couple of the teenagers at the pool (lifeguards who are involved in competitive swimming) to watch my form and give me pointers. They were honored to be asked for their expertise and gladly helped me to hone my skills. It’s a great way to get free coaching!

  26. When I saw your tweet I was just about to dive in and recommend TI to you. I’ve been using their system for 4 years now and the difference was astounding. I grew up swimming (my mum was an international rower) but never was ‘taught’ to swim. I went from someone who could swim without thinking to someone who really thought about it. When I started doing long distance triathlons, the swimming was the one piece I wasn’t worried about, I knew I could go the distance. Welcome to the club.

  27. Rather than @reply to your tweet, I’m posting here:

    * As with any skill and muscle memory sport you’ll improve light years faster training 3x week with a coach, such as through US Masters –

    * Propulsion really does come from rotation around the hips and core. Rotation, rotation, rotation. I use Total Immersion drills to retrain my body if I haven’t been swimming in a while.

    * Relax. Concentrate on distance per stroke, not speed, initially.

    * To train for open water you’ve got to occasionally train IN open water – get used to no bottom, the taste, the chop splashing your face, the sun in your eyes… try Aquatic Park or China Beach in the SF area.

    Do you have an event picked out? Let us know.

  28. The running Pose Technique, developed in 1977, was published for the first time in Russia in 1981 and available to general public worldwide from 1997, the Pose Method of Running was the first official and complete running technique on the market. With a number of running styles available today, the Pose Method of Running is currently the only method for teaching running technique and the only running technique in the world scientifically proven to reduce impact on knees by 50%.

    Dr. Nicholas S. Romanov, a 2-time Olympic athlete has developed this method into several areas such as jumping, biking and swimming to name a few. A lot of triathletes use his methods and he is the coach to the members of Triathlon National Teams of the USA, Great Britain and Mexico.

    I can vouch for the decrease in knee pain while running. You may want to take a look at the swimming information that he has available.

    Great job Tim on overcoming a fear. When I was in bootcamp and officer candidate school for the Navy, it amazed me that there were people who didn’t know how to swim.

  29. Wow Tim, I’m so glad I caught this in my feed list. In reading that article, you could have been writing about me. I’ve excelled at athletics all my life but being a decent swimmer has always eluded me. I’ve had probably 10 or 12 people take me through the “now fill your lungs up with air, relax and ease back into the water” dance. I sink every time. For some reason, I can backstroke but my apparent lack of buoyancy makes ANYTHING else a chore. . . . you’ve given me some hope.

  30. I have a more troublesome issue. Because I love dance, I think I would love swimming — in both, form is key. But I can’t get past the breathing… I think I inhaled too much water when I was a kid. I’m not too fond of getting it in my ears either. If there’s a book and DVD set for that, I hope someone will let me know.

    1. I had an epiphany many years ago, when teaching one of my daughters to swim. Swimming Lesson number 1 must be to sit in a shallow pool wearing a mask, take a breath, then put your face in the water, repeatedly. After a few minutes, I tell the learner : “When you swim, you WILL get water on your face”.

      If you take the time to truly observe children who have just started swimming, you will see that they immediately have TWO swimming styles: 1. they use doggy-paddle with a near vertical body which produces very little forward motion; 2. they swim horizontally very effectively underwater, then stop and stand up every 3-5 metres. If you look closer, you will see that when using doggy paddle, they also hold their breath, stop and stand up every 1-2 metres!

      Once you have lost the fear of having water on your face, you can move on to Lesson 2: Lose the fear of having water in your mouth; and Lesson 3: Learn to breath gently, naturally and calmly in rhythm with your swimming. The more natural your breathing, the more endurance your swimming will have.

      It may help to realise, that the very first breath that you took when you were born, was a reaction to your skin no longer being bathed in amniotic fluid – you were programmed in the womb to not breathe whilst immersed in liquid. Learning to breath when your cheek is in contact with water is a sophisticated new skill, which qualifies (rather than replaces) the natural and correct programming of don’t try to breathe when you are completely underwater.

  31. Hi Tim!

    It’s books and DVDs like that, that makes me kick myself in rage… I have been a swimmer since I was able to put my head under water without breathing, at about 4yo probably; and since then, swimming has been the sport that I enjoy the most! But lord, I was slow… very slow… and I couldn’t do more than one length in front crawl! But about 2 years ago, I decided it was enough, and I worked on my moves: conserving energy, extending reach, reducing draft and deploying strength more efficiently. I basically crafted the same technique explained in this book and DVD and that you used with much success. An I have been coaching friends and family for nothing since the beginning of this year… I could have written this book and I should have produced this DVD! I want to kick myself for not using this as a muse… now I am moving on to running, where I have always been so bad, maybe I can make good use of it! :))

  32. Tim, excellent post!

    You story is very similar to mine. I have felt swimming to be a weakness of mine, and after swimming not very far I am exhausted, but I can happily run 10miles or cycle 50+. Looking at tri-athlete resources a lot suggest Total Immersion. I’ve got notes about it in my “someday maybe” files.

    Thanks for sharing all these notes and bits of information. I previously borrowed a tri. training book from the library and it was far too daunting to attempt the techniques – it assumed you were already a relatively strong swimmer 🙁

    I never realised how much goggles made a difference until I started scuba diving – the mask made a big difference. As a glasses wearer, I didn’t realise how cheap prescription goggles were. Going to get me a pair when I get around to swimming properly.

    Great post, it’s renewed my enthusiasm for getting this sorted.

  33. Tim, again thanks for another very helpful post. I’ve been re-discovering swimming this past year, and have struggled with technique. I’ve been contemplating trying my first triathlon next season–this is definitely going to help.

    Appreciate how you consistently add value for your readers. Grace to you!

  34. Thanks for the tips, Tim. In your conversation with Derek Sivers the other day you said you can’t use about 3/4 of your left lung. It seems like you would feel the effects of this more in a sport like swimming than, say, weightlifting or judo. Has a decreased lung capacity affected your swimming at all and are there any more specific breathing techniques you’ve had to employ in addition to tip #7 above?

    I had asthma growing up and steered clear of endurance sports, even though they looked fun to me (soccer, swimming, etc). I’ve outgrown the asthma (finally) and really want to get into swimming but I want to make sure I have a sound plan of attack for the breathing demands.

    Thanks again for the post!

  35. wow Tim…thanks for this. I’ve been struggling for months in the water, trying to build the endurance to make it at least 400m at a time, while trying to maintain form…with little success.

    The guy in the example…wow is all i can say, looks completely effortless but yet he’s gliding at a great pace!

    Thanks again, definitely picking this up, in hopes it can help me out before the Malibu and Orange County International Triathlons hit in the next month or two.

  36. Hi Tim,

    I recently was speaking to a friend who trains for open water 10k and hopes to represent Canada in 2012. She mentioned her greatest learning when starting out was to double cap: cap1/goggles/cap2 (once you find the right pair that is).

    On another note, I’d like to send you an email; may I please have your address?

    Swim Strong.

  37. Was a below average swimmer for years when I got interested in triathlons. All my friends were swimming laps and doing sprints while I was practicing Total Immersion. Just doing the drills. Everyone laughed. (even some swimmers on the high school swim team, though I was long out of high school) Said I was swimming incorrectly. The first race I did was a 1 mile bay swim. Pretty choppy weather, too. Needless to say, I beat them all, badly. I felt great after the swim and they were puking their guts up. Go, Tim!

  38. Hi All!

    Thanks so much for the great comments! Here are a few further suggestions for a 1k swim, from Twitter at :

    @MichaelHiggs check out hypoxic training to build endurance. At first it’s like being in the 3rd round down on points and taking a beating… about 2 hours ago

    @tshults @tferriss re:1k free. take your time, long slow strokes, and keep your breathing relaxed. don’t switch to another stroke. stay in the free. about 4 hours ago

    @rsskga @tferriss I’m all about sidestroke. Scissor kicking gets me where I’m going w/ minimal effort & keeps my head above water. Non-competition. about 9 hours ago

    @Lifestyle_Proj @tferriss Final one! Practice looking up every few strokes in so you maintain a straight course o/w! Pick a reference point in the distance. about 9 hours ago

    Lifestyle_Proj @tferriss Also, concentrate on your kick to arm stroke power distribution. Too much kicking power and you will tire early. about 9 hours ago

    Lifestyle_Proj @tferriss If it’s wetsuit temperature make sure you have tested flexibility in water for sizing. Know your preference, i.e. shortie or not

    @mathewbutler @tferriss You don’t need to kick ALL the time. Stops you needing breath. about 10 hours ago

    @titanas @tferriss 3-4 strokes / 1 breath. Leg sync with strokes. Good iron / ferritin levels. about 10 hours ago

    @jraines @tferriss — breathing to both sides is (slightly) overrated. If your stroke is already decent, a little gallop can help you get in the zone about 11 hours ago

    @Malach @tferriss Start slow, slow enough that you feel you could swim forever. Use your legs more than your arms. Breathe deeply and slowly. about 11 hours ago [Tim: Note that I have found the flick-like method of minimal kicking to conserve the most energy]

    @AlmostaGeek @tferriss take it easy and breath every other stroke. about 11 hours ago

    @nohypeActivist @tferriss also: as your legs are your biggest muscles, try to not use them like you would in the 100m or 200m. less legs, more arms about 11 hours ago

    @nohypeActivist @tferriss always check your stroke frequency. you gotta feel like your increasing it. that way, you will stay within it. helps tremendously about 11 hours ago

    @LorenCastillo @ tferriss if the water is cold use a wet suit, remember to warm up by running and pace yourself

    1. hi tim..i don how it happened,but im experiencing the same…while i listen to all the instructions given to me by my husband..but when i really start doing them in water…..all the problems pop up…i panic..n..tat stupid water ll be gone into my nose n mouth n wat not…n i end up standing at the edge of the pool coughing..its horrible u c…everyone in the pool nicely enjoying n myself standing at the edge coughing n suffocating..really fed up!…but now after seeing ur blog…i think i still can have hopes…i shall c da book n dvd…hope tat might help me..thanks yaar.

  39. Tim,

    Daley here, the triathlete and winner of your weekend challenge a few months ago. Huge congrats on the swimming man! Like golf, swimming is a technique sport that requires very precise form. And also like golf, swimming is a sport in which strength and power are not essential for excellence. When I first started swimming with a masters program I was astonished that 50-year old women were beating me up and down the pool despite my superior athletic ability and muscularity. Once I improved my form and stroke mechanics I finally felt like I was ‘gliding’ through the water like a canoe not pushing it like a barge on its way out to sea. Sadly, these older women still beat me up and down the pool, but I no longer huff and puff after 1500 meters. I could not agree more about learning stroke mechanics first before getting into volume training.

    A great Olympic event to watch that is coming up is the Marathon swim. Women’s event is 8/20 at 9:00 AM, and the men’s is 8/21 at 9:00 AM as well. These athletes epitomize streamline swimming and energy conservation. Check it out.


  40. Thanks for posting this Tim! I’ve always been a mediocre swimmer and wished I knew how to swim laps without gagging and gasping. I’ve also stayed away from getting into triathlons because I’m such a poor distance swimmer. I’ll definitely add learning to swim as my next new thing to master because of this info!!

  41. Isn’t it amazing how the thing you are most afraid of turns into the greatest joy and pleasure of your life? I’ve found that to be the case in most areas of my life. It’s why I’ve learned to love stepping outside of my comfort zone and doing things I’m particularly fearful of, like leaving the big law firm after only three years and starting my own law business.

    Next up for me? A week on the play with my kids at Burning Man! I’ll be video blogging the experience on my personal blog. Should be a hoot!


  42. Tim,

    Congrats! That’s awesome that you are learning to swim the proper way.

    I actually created my “muse” that is my living now from a swimming idea- swimming for triathletes (I’m a former collegiate swimmer who turned to the open water after college). Here’s a few tips for ya from a triathlon/distance perspective:

    1. Hand Entry. Slice your hand into the water right about at your goggle line, and drive it forward. Many swimmers attempt to get as much “air time” as possible by reaching the hand out before entering into the water, but it is actually more efficient to go through the water with your hand as you rotate from one side to the other.

    2. Head Position. Keep looking straight down when swimming freestyle. It’s important to keep your head down with only a small part of the back of your head out of the water. Also, as you rotate through the water, try not to move your head with the rest of your body rotation.

    3. Pull. In freestyle, your hands should pull all the way back past your hips. The last part of the stroke before recovery (arms coming out of the water) should be an acceleration behind you, and not up out of the water.

    4. Kick. Try minimizing your kick as you train for swimming. Most people will kick extra hard to make up for lack of balance in the water. Minimizing your kick will allow you to improve your balance, as well as conserve energy.

    5. Training Intensity. The best way to measure your training intensity is to count your heart rate immediately after each swim. You can estimate your heart rate by counting your pulse rate for six seconds immediately after each swim. Add a zero to this count, and you will have your approximate exercise heart rate per minute.

    Good luck and keep the posts coming! Would love to hear how your swimming comes along.


  43. Tim,

    If you could swim two lengths when you started, you didn’t “learn to swim,” you learned to swim further. This makes your headline a bit of an oversell, don’t you think?

  44. Hey Tim,

    I’ve been a competive swimmer for about ten years and I have competed in over 30 triathlons. There’s definetely some technique adjustments. In open water, every 3 or 4 strokes, you need to raise your head straight up to take your breath. That way you’re able to stay on course. Your goggles can also change as well. Don’t go for tinted, obviously the water will be darker in a lake than in a pool. Also, go for wider goggles, you use your peripheral alot more in open water. In your wetsuit choice, I would go for sleeveless. Long sleeves can restict range of shoulder motion. Generally, focus on rotation and distance per stroke.

    Good Luck!

  45. Hi Tim,

    The reason that most folks subscribe to your blog is to hear how to make money. Please don’t write about swimming and how people escape the Amish – the economy is melting down and we need to hear how to survive it from folks like you who seem to have a good grasp on how to run a business. Thanks.

  46. Hi Tim!

    I know you have written about Arthur Jones’ work in regards to strength training and I wanted to take this opportunity to suggest you look at SuperSlow Training. SuperSlow began as a particular strength training protocol back in the Nautilus days that was originally designed for elderly osteoporotic women. Long story short – it turned out to be the most effective, efficient, & safest protocol they had ever developed.

    In essence it is a slow motion movement (20 second reps) that is done in a circuit style in approximately 20 – 30 minutes about every fourth day. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but it beats all other strength training styles in terms of results.

    Check it out sometime.


  47. I’m glad I found this. I’m 40 and about to retire from BJJ (after 3 years). My knees and elbows can’t take it anymore. I’ve been contemplating swimming for fitness, but have no skills.


  48. Tim,

    Congratulations on finding your inner swimmer. Though I never swam competitively, I rediscovered my love of swimming about 8 years ago myself. I too started with Total Immersion training and have since moved on to other strokes. A 1K warm-up is not unusual now! There are a couple of sites you should add to your swimming favorites.

    The first is GoSwim.TV, Glenn Mills has developed the site and it is filled with lots of great swimming information, instructional videos and drills. My profile there has a bit more about my journey that started with swimming.

    Consider joining a Masters swim team. You don’t have to be a great swimmer; there are all levels at every club. Being a Masters swimmer will provide a great group of people to swim with all over the world.

    If you can’t find a Masters team to practice with while traveling, visit They list pools all over the world.

    See you at the pool,


  49. Tim,

    That is awesome!!! I have been swimming since I was a baby, and I always try to tell non-swimmers how important of a life skill it is, but it often falls on deaf ears. I am a coach for an Iron man training group, a swim instructor, lifeguard instructor and played water polo in college, but I still learn more about swimming all the time. I am going to purchase the book to use some of the analogies when I’m teaching.


  50. I too have come to love swimming the past few months. I have found it effective to breathe every third stroke and to alternate left to right. Swimming is so refreshing and invigorating!

  51. But note how Natalie is kicking and how all the Olympic swimmers kick which lays waste to the silly notion that kicking costs more in energy than it returns in speed. There are some valid suggestions here, but nothing revolutionary. There are plenty of good swim coaches out there. Find the one that works for you as an individual and be weary of any “gurus” pushing a one-size-fits-all technique.

  52. Nice work Tim. Swimming is definitely something worth conquering for the survival aspect and the fitness of it. I bet it’s good for your lungs as well.

    Since you’ve now mastered your fear of swimming and you don’t seem to shy away from trying new things, I dare you to try learning one of these sports next: Water polo, Dragonboating or Synchronized Swimming. I’ve done them all. You choose.

    Synchronized swimming is by far THE most challenging sport there is. (I realize I may get some flack for saying that. Whatever.) Take away the music, the outfits, the make-up and you have an absolutely insane sport that combines strength, coordination, endurance, breath control, timing, flexibility, focus, and more than an ounce of insanity. And yes, I’ve seen the SNL skit…

    1. Dead on about synchronized swimming. My ladyfriend is an ex-synchro swimmer and she has incredible endurance in the pool. Can outrace me easily and iron lungs underwater.

      Only a few men do it and I think because women are better suited for it from the standpoint of endurance.

  53. As several other have pointed out the “Swedes” are a cheap yet phenomenal pair of goggles. I used them swimming competitively for almost ten years. For open water I would suggest the darkest pair you can find. Even the slightly more expensive metallic pairs would be a good investment to help with the sun.

    As for the tips, they seem to be great for novices who wish to add swimming to thier training regimen. However, if you are really planning to participate in an open water 1 km race, you may want to adjust your training.

    Open water events are an exhausting endeavor. I would recommend swimming longer sets or taking far less rest during your sets. By doing sets of 300s, 400s, or better yet 500s you will build up the necessary endurance for a longer race. Especially if you are not concerned with how fast you complete your race, doing 4×500 with :30 to 1:00 rest each work out will help immensly with endurance. I only mention time since swimming is a sport where to swim fast in a race you have to train far longer than the actual race for months and then taper your training down in order to swim at your very best.

    I do not know if you know how to do flip turns or not. If not then I would recommend learning if at all possible. This goes for anyone who wants to swim for exercise. Not doing flip turns will wear out a swimmer faster than anything else once you start doing longer sets. Even doing sets of 100s you will save tons of energy by doing flip turns. Which will in turn allow you to do longer sets.

    Great read.

  54. Hi Tim,

    The meditation part of swimming is the best, isn’t it? When you hit the groove, it feels like you’re dancing with the water. The techniques you describe indicate that you’ve intuited that hull speed is a function of waterline length — the longer you stretch, the faster you’ll be able to go.

    Now that you’ve learned the rhythm of water, try actually dancing. You get to practice the rhythm, but with great music and an attractive partner to boot :-).

  55. Tim,

    Oh my god, this is awesome. I’m not a pro-athlete by any means, but I have the same exact problem. I’ve tried to swim, but the main problem is that I just can’t float horizontally at all. Everyone says – oh, you’re just panicking or something like that. Nope, I’m cool as a cucumber, and even though I’m calm, after about 1 minute, I found myself at the bottom of the pool (I can easily hold my breathe for 2 minutes, and it’s a 5 foot pool, so I have no reason to panic).

    I’ve run half marathons, I can bench over 200lbs, leg press 700lbs – I’m no slouch. I’ve been skinny when I tried it (11% body fat), and not so skinny (21% body fat), and neither way worked.

    When I was a kid, I went through numerous lessons, and I sucked big time. It’s good to know that there is someone else in the world who has had the exact same problem.

    I am going to try this stuff out this weekend.

  56. I’ve been swimming in open water since I was very young. While training for my first tri, I was surprised at how nervous people were about swimming in open water and how difficult it was for them.

    A few things that make it easy and comfortable for me:

    – I love cold water. Learn to love cold water if that is going to be part of the race. Train in it, learn to think clearly in it.

    – I meditate when I swim. My body checks out once I get in a rhythm and have a pace, breathing is much more important in long-distance swimming than anything else. I once swam two miles across a glacier-fed lake in the Rockies without getting cold or even struggling by just concentrating on breath.

    – I never train in a pool. If you associate swimming with a controlled, safe, and sanitized environment like a pool that puts you at a huge disadvantage when facing the unpredictability of swimming long distances outdoors. Take the training outside.

    Good luck.

  57. great to see you talking about swimming, i swam all 4 years of high school and was captain of my team senior year. what are you times like just out of curiosity? obviously you are training for a 1k race, and a 50 meter or 100 meter is a faster race. also, as others have suggested, once you get down freestyle, you should really try the other 3 major strokes. i used hated butterfly my first year of swimming, but as i got better form and more in shape it became my favorite stroke. its a huge work out for your entire body.

    also, hows your flip turn doing? thats a huge part of any swimming race, if your turn is fast and efficient, you can lose ground on it, its also the basis for a good streamline coming off the wall (stream line is when you are under the water doing a dolphin kick with both hands extended above your hands and your head down, making your body like a bullet)

  58. As a long time swimmer I’m always happy to see anyone learn to enjoy the pool. Don’t let anyone who knocks this post as unhelpful get to you. In all reality there’s a non-cerebral yet still intelligent way to do a lot of things that makes the process WAY easier. As a long time reader of your posts I think it strengthens the point you try to make about being effective.

  59. Tim,

    Add me to the list of those who were going to recommend TI.

    Since you mentioned open water in you tweet, I’ll give you some of my triathlete/ocean lifeguard tips:

    * Learn to breath on both your right and left sides. If there is a chop, it really helps to be able to comfortably turn your head away from the waves to breath. If not, you are choking…not breathing.

    * Know the water. Open water swimming is fun, but it can be dangerous. Know if the area gets rocky, shallow, is known for high currents, know for debris (see below).

    * If there was a storm the day before, be very careful. Ocean floors can be loose and unstable, thus causing rip-currents. Oceans, rivers and lakes tend to have more debris after storms.

    * Get a good sense of landmark distances, then remember in your mind how many lengths of the pool it translates into. Crossing a river or lake might only be 1,000 meters, which on land does not look that far. But in a 25 meter pool, it is 40 lengths with no turns to leverage, to walls to grab, and no bottom to stand on.

    * If possible, swim with a friend.

    There is something cool and primal about open water swimming that you don’t experience in a nice pool with lane lines. I do it whenever I can. Enjoy!

  60. I’m delighted with Tim’s newfound interest in swimming and nothing could make me happier than knowing that our approach to swim-improvement played a role in changing his experience from harrowing-and-frustrated to hopeful-and-aspirational. I always tell TI coaches that teaching better stroke technique is their second responsibility. Sparking passion for swimming in their students is their first.

    Tim has been most generous in sharing tips on how to experiment with changing your own stroke. I’ll offer some distilled advice on how to take a “TI Test Drive” without buying anything or even doing a single drill. We have a free downloadable pdf that would help open the lid on the “black box” that swimming is for many people. I don’t have the url at my fingertips but will return and post here as soon as I get it.

    These are focal points for Freestyle:

    1) Release your head’s weight to the water, so your head and spine align.

    2) Focus more on using your hand to lengthen your bodyline, less on pushing water back.

    3) Relax your legs until the kick blends easily with your stroke.

    4) Swim more quietly – minimize waves and splash.

    5) Count strokes.

    I’ll also note that the Freestyle Made Easy DVD which Tim used has now been replaced by what I feel is a program that is easier to follow and answers many of the questions people most commonly ask. That’s called Easy Freestyle: 21st Century Techniques for Beginners to Advanced Swimmers. Info and sample tips at

  61. Greg

    The question isn’t precisely whether kicking costs more in energy than it returns in speed. It’s what’s the right kind of kicking for your goals.

    No one would argue that if your goal is to swim 100m as fast as possible, a strong steady “6-kick” is nearly essential. That’s Natalie’s goal and why she kicks as she does.

    My racing goals are more for 1 or 2 miles to 5k in open water. My health and well-being goals are to be able to swim for an hour or more and finish feeling better than when I started, and to look forward to my next swim. For those goals I use a relaxed 2-beat kick, which I have worked diligently to “tune” to my stroke. It takes minimal energy, relies on fatigue-resistant core muscle, rather than fatigue-prone leg muscle and added enough boost to my stroke to allow me to swim 28.5-miles around Manhattan in 2002 and 2006 with no fatigue or strain, and enough speed to break National Masters records for 1-Mile and 2-Mile open water swims.

    Would you agree that most followers of Tim’s blog are more interested in swimming for endurance, fitness and enjoyment than to race 100m all out?

    And if so, that a more relaxed kick would probably suit their goals quite well?

    Happy laps,


  62. I’ve heard great things about Total Immersion but I’m still skeptical about its effectiveness for new swimmers. I’m also a triathlete and self teaching yourself, esp with swimming where you cannot see your stroke, seems like a dangerous idea and quick way to learn bad form. I’ve also found that many TI swimmers just do laps in the pool and swear off drills, exhibiting shock when I recommend kick board or pull float exercises for a stroke issue they may have. This seems counter intuitive to me and over develops a sense of swimming self confidence and a distaste for any different form of swim practice. As a long time swimmer I think IT is a fantastic complement to swim training but the ultimate goal should always be a coach.

  63. Thanks for this – i know exactly how you felt

    I see people effotlessly swim 20-30 lengths whilst i get tired after one length despite being fairly sporty.

    Whenever i go on vacation, I regret it as i feel real uneasy doing water sports – and even wear a life jacket to snorkle!

    I keep meaning to get lessons – but wanted a short cut. Looks like you have found one!

    So whats the next challenge? What you planning to do with your new found swimming skills?


  64. Hi Tim, wrt number 8 and short circuiting with two many things to try to remember, one way to handle this is to “sequence your awareness” while you swim.

    While doing yoga poses I use my breath to sequence my awareness. Inhale notice my feet, then exhale, then inhale notice what my knees are doing, exhale, then next breath move my awareness to hips, spine, arms etc. I notice each part and adjust them where appropriate.

    With swimming, if there are lots of things to remember, especially when learning, can focus on one thing for two to three strokes (or one breath cycle if you are breathing every two or three strokes) then move your focus to the next item on the list. So might start with focusing on what the upper body is doing, then on what the arms should be doing and then the legs. Then back to the upper body again. If possible try sequencing so that the key element is taken care of first. (or whatever you think the key element is).

    As you improve you’ll find it easier to feel everything at once.

    For maximum body length you can break down you body into “parts.” The easiest parts of the body in which to gain length are the waist and neck and shoulders. (that’s assumiong the knees and elbows are already straight)

    To lengthen the waist you can focus on drawing the ribcage away from pelvis, for a long neck draw your head away from your ribcage.

    While standing or upright, pull head back and up and pull chin in so that cervical spine is maximally straight and then your neck will be as long as possible, while supine or swimming, push the back of your head back or up, almost out of the water so that neck is long.

    With your neck long then your shoulder muscles have maximum amount of room to operate. Then you can lengthen your arms by pulling your shoulder blade towards you ear.

    I’m finding that in whatever I do, especially yoga, the more I lengthen my body, the more I create space in it, the better it feels.

    Oh yes, this isn’t really lengthening, more like creating space, but I find breathing with my chest as well (using the intercostal muscles between the ribs) also gives a very good feeling, and the action of reaching with each arm can help to accentuate opening the chest.

    also, opening the chest as you breathe you can use the same muscles you breathe with to help roll the ribcage with respect to the pelvis. Twisting of the spine is an action not only of the obliques (side abs) but of the intercostals. So the more you breathe using your ribcage (and diaphragm) the better you’ll be able to twist.

  65. Tim, thanks for sharing this. I tried swim lessons in my middle age but still couldn’t get the rhythm right. The breathing is what freaks me. I do OK if I swim on my back. But I’m wondering if this book is helpful for mastering the breathing in freestyle. I see your tips on it in the post. But does the book/DVD go much into detail on the breathing? Thanks again!

  66. I’m a HUGE fan of TI… discovered it a few years ago after my first triathlon and was instantly hooked. I didn’t have the video and had to learn it from the book (as there are no TI instructors in my area)… took a good month to “relearn how to swim” but once it clicked there was no going back.

    I’ve always been surprised that so few people know about TI, imho this should be the standard for teaching people how to swim. The difference between trying to powerhouse through the water vs. effortlessly gliding through the water is simply night and day.

    You are inspiring me to get back in the pool Tim, was prego and had a baby as few months back so it’s been about a year since i’ve been for a swim. hmmmm

    Jessica – they do teach you how to breathe properly. One of the things about TI is that you turn your whole body to take a breath vs turning just your head which constricts your airway (and makes it tough to take a breath!). I used to get really winded when swimming, almost gasping at times, but after learning TI breathing is natural and easy.

  67. Great post. I have been trying to learn to (properly) swim for quite some time. Now i feel i have the tools. Now i just have to get to it! LOL

    BTW…Please, Please PLEASE!….Fire up the GEAR segment! Your adding all this great stuff! Please delegate someone to pull it together for us, the starving It says its coming soon…so lets see soon! Keep up the good work Tim…You inspire us more than you know.

  68. Tim,

    I went to the pool and applied these techniques in real-time after reading this post today.

    Guess what? I went from an average of 19 to 13 strokes!

    If you said, “Can I get a witness?” I’d say, “Amen!”

  69. Tim,

    Interestingly, I’ve been preaching to my friends about TI (at least those friends that are active) as much as I’ve been preaching to them about 4HWW. And here you are now posting about it! Awesome.

    Is there a triathlon in your line-up of things to do? Ironman is on my list, although I’ve got a ways to go (I still haven’t done a sprint triathlon yet or a full marathon, but I’m getting there!).

    Awesome stuff.


  70. Hey !… U R 100% right !

    Without even knowing I have practiced your method and now I see your blog…

    I do daily 40 laps of 50 metres now and go across with a single breath…

    I did it in just 40 days now… Ofcourse I added ABS training and 2 hours swimming, 1 hour cycling and weekly 5K jog.

    I lost 18 kilos in just 40 days… Ofcourse I was on soup diet…

    Ofcourse, my body aches to the extent my shoulder joints are sore…

    And… Hey I got an excellent V shape… all weight across waist gone with a flat ABS…

    Thanks for proving me right…


  71. Hi All,

    Thanks for the continued tips and feedback! Here are some more goodies from Twitter at

    @swanson_scott @tferriss get a good rhythm going. notice how phelps has a little ‘hop’ to his freestyle? leverage your breath to ‘hop’ w/ each stroke w …

    @danmonfre @tferriss instead of keeping your head down, you’ll recover after your breath by looking forward every 3-5 strokes to see where you’re going

    @superwomen @tferriss to avoid getting punched from ppl swim around crowd, sleeveless wetsuits are the best. Sports basement has a bunch for rent.

    @iSwim @tferriss Tim, If the water isn’t cold skip the wet suit. The biggest difference is visability, no lines! I posted to your blog as well.

    @biltonpw @tferriss Use a triathlon wetsuit – full legs and arm flexibility. Quality and price from Promotion in Hood River

    @squawkfox @tferriss 1K Swim Tip: Most important is to relax and breathe. A tense swimmer is a sinker.

    @squawkfox @tferriss 1K Pool Swims: Use minimal kick, keep stroke long, bend elbows. Rotate in the water, work the wall. Start slow, build, practice.

    @squawkfox @tferriss Open Water Tips pt3: Try on MANY wetsuits. You don’t want excess neoprene. It must fit tight. Excess material welcomes water.

  72. Using board shorts can be an effective training aid because as you say you are swimming with a parachute behind you and if you can get the distance and times you want in those then when you put on the speedos you’ll be even faster and can go further!

  73. hey tim, i allready posted in this thread about swimming, but now i have something differnt to talk about that i hope will catch your attention. Every since reading your book, i’ve been more interested in philanthropy, as it is something you talk about quite a bit. being in college though, means my money is tight, and its hard to give at times. but your book also got me thinking about alternative ways you can do things, and in ways that are more efficient, as well as exploiting niches.

    my idea is fairly simple, people donate thier old and working computers, and then the charity would give them to underprivileged schools and familys who can use them. now i know, similar programs allready exist, but heres where mine differs. my idea is to target gamers as the core donatory. why gamers? becuase they are a relativly unexploited nich, and with childsplay as an example, they are very willing to give back. further more, gamers tend to upgraded thier computers far more offtened than your average person, and thier old parts take longer to go out of date for general computer use. further more, they are more likely to upgread a few parts, but not the whole computer, which means they upgread more regularly. many gamers end up with old parts sitting around. what if we took those parts in as donations, built computers with them, and gave them to those who can use them?

    with that I have thought of an idea on how to give back to those who need it most. while i have thought out many of the benefits to my idea compared to other ideas, and how to go about getting the word out and get donators, im not sure where to look to make sure that those donations get to those who need it. is there any way you could help me? i know you have many connections and alot of experiance with this sort of thing.

    i know a little off topic, but i wanted to get the idea to you. any help you could give with this would be much appreciated.

  74. Great article, watching the DVD now and ordered the book!

    I got a problem with treading water in the vertical position. I tried to follow the DVD’s instruction of compact kicks but I still sink. I can tread only on my back with arms sculling. Any tips from any of you guys would be great!

  75. Ahhhhh… swimming, I’ve been doing it competitively since I was 8 years old.

    Great post!!!

    BTW… if you want to get really, really lean… really, really quick, swimming can do that for you. On average, I can lose between 5 and 6 pounds of fat per week just by increasing my swims… I don’t even have to change my diet (I know this is way more than experts recommend, but I’m not trying for this fat loss, it just happens!!). Swimming is HARD WORK, but the great thing is that since you’re in the water, you don’t get overheated like you can on a run (your legs can get a bit itchy though when you begin to sweat), and your circulation is increased from being in a horizontal position vs. a vertical position.

    Here is a link to some great workouts (you can choose your ability level and other variables):

    Have a great day!!

  76. Hi Tim, I have to say that you really inspired me. I wanted to try TI swimming for a long time but I didn’t have time (or will) to do it. After reading your article I enrolled for a TI course here in Prague, Czech republic. I really look forward to it (it’s next Sunday). All the best, Mike

  77. Tim,

    I forgot to mention, how about a ‘minus’ rating for comments so that we can detract from certain people’s comment ratings?

    Christine’s comment far up above just totally irks me haha. Do some people just NOT get your message at all that the end goal isn’t to make money, but rather to streamline one’s lifestyle design?

  78. I really appreciate all the comments here. I am new to this blog.

    There have been some really powerful athletes, swimmers, and dancers in both sides of my family. I can feel the connection between dance and swimming, and I have always experienced being exhausted while swimming.

    Now I understand what I have needed to do with my head, arms and legs, and that the way I was taught to swim as child in camp,etc has literally been a drag. Also I am recovering from a severe injury and have intuitively known that swimming would help restore me. I’m looking forward to getting back in the water again. It seems like this immersion method is more of a natural way to swim. I can be one of those 50+ women just gliding along.

  79. @Shutterhack:

    Thank YOU! The lede photo is beautiful.

    @Mike re: philanthropy

    I think your idea is excellent. How to ensure you implement the donation program correctly? I’d just reach out to a few successful donation programs — whether you see them in big box retailers like Best Buy or you learn of them in an Amazon box — and ask one or two executives 2-3 precise questions via e-mail.

    Another approach would be to work with one of these programs for a short period of time to get paid to learn how the system works.

    Best of luck!


  80. Hi Tim,

    The TI series is indeed a very good series. As a coach on the U.S. National Team, I can say that many of these techniques are used in coaching the top level athletes (although more time is spent putting in yardage!). TI gives you many techniques to think about, but I would tell you the main thing to think about is body position and body line in the water. In my experience, many people (particulary masters swimmers) get SO caught up in the little technical things that other areas are sacrificed (mainly racing!)

    Lastly, one suggestion for open water swimming: your head is going to ride much higher as you are constantly seeking your bearings, so the “flat line” body position will change a bit so to fight waves, people, etc…

    As a swim coach, I appreciate your post! Enjoy the Games!

    Ron Turner

    USA National Team Coach

    2007 US Pan-American Games Coach

  81. For Wilson S.

    The kind of treading water I’m familiar with is called the eggbeater. If you get a chance to watch any water polo in the Olympics pay attention to the underwaters cams – they get great shots of eggbeater.

    Eggbeater is really just an upright, modified breaststroke kick done with each leg individually. (You want to be careful of your knees when your practicing this at first.) You can try holding a kickboard at the surface with your arms draped over the flat portion. Then try doing a few breaststroke kicks upright. Then try doing a breaststroke kick with one leg at a time. (This might feel a little awkward.) Then shorten the kicks so you’re doing shorty, squatty breaststroke kicks with one leg than the other. Eventually you will end up with a fluid motion (kicking one leg after the other) that actually looks a bit like an hand-crank eggbeater used in baking.

    Caution: This is definitely something you’ll want to try AFTER you feel comfortable with a few strokes and with deep water. It’s a great skill though. You can tread water, have a conversation with folks and feel comfortable treading for long stretches of time. Safety first. : )

  82. This sounds very similar to modeling, and has been proven effective to learning new things. As long as you have an expert, who is willing to teach, teach you all they know, in a format that makes it easy to learn, you will quickly step up to a higher level. Unfortunately, modeling works best with a real expert, someone who has actually won championships, etc. This why reading a just an ordinary book on a topic may not as effective learning.

    Practice only makes perfect when you are able to first practice perfectly.

  83. In Italian I call this method AQUILIBRIUM… sensation and emotion before-after and during physical training.

    a smile for you Tim

    Best regards


  84. I started swimming about 4 years ago–prior, I was a terrible swimmer. Two lengths and I would be exhausted. Every time I got in the water I was afraid I was going to drown. The TI technique is great but it still took me about two years to feel like I can *swim.*

    Some other tips that I found helpful–getting a breathing rhythm down. When I breathe, I only inhale. I slowly exhale through my nose while my head is under water and over the course of three strokes. Then I inhale my next breath. That way, I don’t have to feel panicked like I used to when I was both exhaling and inhaling when taking breaths. This led to sometimes not getting enough air, leaving me gasping by the next gulp for air, increasing sense of desperation and creating a vicious cycle. By only doing one thing, I guarantee getting enough air until my next breath.

    I really rely on my hips when I swim. I point my hips to the bottom of the pool so I’m using core body movements instead of arms/legs to get myself into the horizontal position. Makes swimming almost effortless. In fact, I hurt my feet two years ago and swimming was my only form of exercise during that period. By using TI stroke technique (point of hand entry into water, hand/arm extension, gliding through an ‘S’ arm stroke, focusing on efficiency of motion rather than powering through water), rotating my hips, and changing my breathing, I can swim about 20-30 minutes (my average workout) without kicking at all. Now, I still do a small kick, but only as a balance check.

    Totally agree with you, once swimming became a beautiful thing that I wasn’t scared of, it absolutely increased my self confidence and belief that I can do things that I set your mind to.

  85. I learned how to swim with this method. It is absolutely the best! I often have people who have swam for years complementing me on my speed and style. I only wish that there were other methods like TI for other sports.

  86. 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.

  87. 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.

  88. 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.

  89. 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

  90. **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.

  91. 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…

  92. 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

  93. 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?

  94. 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…

  95. 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.


  96. 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!

  97. 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.


  98. 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

  99. 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!

  100. 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.

  101. 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’?

  102. 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.

  103. 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


  104. 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 :)!

  105. @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,


  106. 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.

  107. 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.

  108. 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.

  109. 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.


  110. 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!!


  111. 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.

  112. 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.

  113. 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.

  114. 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!

  115. 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.

  116. 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.

  117. 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….

  118. 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.


  119. 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.

  120. 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.

  121. 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.

  122. 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!

  123. 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.



  124. 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.

  125. 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

  126. 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.

  127. 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!


  128. 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!

  129. 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

  130. 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?


  131. 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.

  132. 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.

  133. 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!



  134. 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! =)

  135. 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)

  136. 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.

  137. 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.

  138. 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.

  139. 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.

  140. 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 🙂

  141. 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.

  142. 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.

  143. 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?


  144. 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!

  145. 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.


  146. 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!

  147. 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.

  148. 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.

  149. 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 =) )

  150. 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:)

  151. 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.

  152. 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.

  153. 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.

  154. 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.

  155. 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!

  156. 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

  157. 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!

  158. 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.

  159. 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!!

  160. 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

  161. 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.

  162. 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!


  163. 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.


  164. 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!

  165. Tim,

    Great description of TI! I am a podcaster, nuclear engineer, triathlete, and student of lifestyle design (yes, I have successfully implemented many of your methods, but that is another story).

    My experience with Total Immersion was similar to yours although I’ve had time to take it to new levels. When I decided to become an Ironman Triathlete, I had never swam, biked, or run competitively. TI helped me complete my first Ironman swim in under 1 hour and 18 minutes (that’s 2.4 miles in the open water), and still have plenty of energy left to bike 112 miles and run a marathon. Since then I’ve done it again and completed many shorter triathlons.

    Total Immersion was a key to my success.


  166. This method works awesome. I thrashed around in the water for a few months, then took lessons from a TI instructor. It’s really improved my swimming and made me a better triathlete.

  167. i fully agree with what dear anja says ( anja August 14th, 2008 )…it becomes a virtual meditation after continuous non-stop swimming a certain length !!…it’s my experience too….thanks for sharing….

  168. what an inspiration this stuff is. I didn’t actually learn how to swim until I was 18 yrs young and that was about 5yrs ago. now 23, I’m stilling learning and relearning more about swimming.

  169. Hey Tim,

    Great insight. I have never been afraid of swimming and can paddle around a bit but not efficiently. I am an avid cyclist and I have always avoided triathalons because I do not like to swim. I will give it more thought.


  170. I have a question. I have a ten year old boy that has been competing for 5 years in State competitions. He needs technique help. Would the DVD be understandable for a ten year old to follow? Thanks. I have heard a lot about this and wondered if it would help a young one.


  171. I’m going to try this. The weird thing with me is that I can basically swim as far as I want (the longest I’ve gone was 2,5 kilometers, and I stopped out of boredom) – just not freestyle, where my limit is about 200m. I’ve use breast-stroke exclusively since childhood because of my inability to properly use any other stroke…

  172. I’ve been working with the book and DVD that Tim recommended for about a week. I’ve done all of the drills multiple times, and I’ve progressed to using the techniques to swim freestyle.

    My problem is, I can’t seem to pick up the “effortless” part of swimming effortless. Each time I finish one length of a 25-meter pool, my heart rate jumps to at least 140, and usually up to 160. I need to find the equivalent of “jogging” — swimming slowly and easily enough that I’ll be able to finish a half mile or a mile with relative ease.

    I’ve tried swimming slower, breathing every stroke cycle, relaxing as much as possible in the water. But no matter what, my heart rate jumps after just one length. Does Terry/anyone else have any tips? I really need the help, because I want to compete in one or more triathlons this summer.


  173. Hi ChinBoston, I’m just a student of the book/dvd, but maybe I can help.

    1. Pay attention to how hard you are kicking, you might be over-doing it.

    The thing with kicking is that it adds very little propulsion for the amount of energy that it costs. If you are doing a short sprint, you want to get that extra boost and you can afford to go into oxygen debt for a short time, but if you’re going a long distance, you need to learn how to swim with your torso.

    2. Maybe body position is the issue? Are you perhaps using energy to stay afloat? Keep doing the drills and try to find the natural spot in the water where you aren’t expending any energy to stay up. You should eventually be able to take breaks WHILE swimming. Just turn to your side and take a few breaths. The key is doing those drills enough times and with enough intention that you internalize those skills, not to get through them, keep repeating the drills long past the point where you think you need them, and try to be critical of yourself as you do them

    Just my two cents,


  174. Hey Tim!

    Just wanted to say that your tips had a tremendous impact on my technic. I had watched some videos on YouTube, but those really didn't get to me. All the things that you said were keeping you from liking to swim were the same for me : )

    Keep up the good work !


  175. An extremely useful summary, Tim – and I say that having read the TI book and attended one of their weekend camps! Like you, I've found the TI method a revelation – and the source of a new obsession!

  176. yo t-dawg i heard about u from ur mma training, do u ever do pool shadow boxing neck deep like marciano and ali or like roy j jr. with snorkel and wrist weights give it a shot if not it’ll increase your punch power


  177. Interesting reading. I have just joined a triathlon club so will be starting swimming seriously soon, so I will be trying everything mentioned here 🙂

  178. Thanks, Tim, for a great article! I’ve never had any particular trouble swimming (mom taught me how to swim before I was potty trained… plus I spent many summers at the pool, river, or lake)., but the advice outlined here got me interested in adding some technique to my swimming. This has made my time in the pool more enjoyable and interesting, and I’ve noticed great improvement in my speed in the water. I even got asked for advice on swimming last week from a stranger!

    Oh, like Tim, I also like using the backstroke as recover from all out freestyle – makes a great interval cardio workout!


  179. I had the exact same experience. I was forced by my parents to take a summer swimming course when I was 12. I hated swimming from then, I found it absurd.

    I’ve been since then several years working out mostly at the gym and running. Now I’m 23, I haven’t set a foot on the gym since a year ago, I tried swimming and got advice from the local team of waterpolo members (current world-champions). I love swimming and can’t find time to do another thing.

  180. ChinBoston,

    I was in the same boat you were. I would practically hypervintilate after a lap. TristainReid highlighted the number one reason why you are exhausted. You have got to learn the two beat kick. That is, kick only on the pull phase of the stroke. I finally figured it out when at the end of an exhausting lap I found that I was just kicking on the pull. When I realized the timing, I just started doing it on purpose. Here’s some other things that have helped:

    1. Practice body position by doing superman glides until the cows come home. Start every practice by doing two-four laps of supermans.

    2. Watch the Total Immersion Israel ( ) by Dikla Sassoon on SPL. She does three things that TI is big on.

    A. She spears deeply as Tim has suggested. Some posters criticize her

    for it but it works.

    B. She glides after the pull to decrease SPL. This will decrease the exertion that you currently feel.

    C. She almost over rotates. But this is effective in seeing how this contributes to her glide lengh after each pull.

    3. I suspect that you like me don’t breathe well. I have adjusted my breathing so that its done mostly on gody rotation so I don’t lift my head up to air. But one thing is still holding me back. If I breathe every other stroke, I haven’t cleared my lungs of CO2 so I end up exhaling and then inhaling. I suspect this may limiting my O2 intake so that after two lengths or so, I suffer from oxygen debt. When I go to breathing on every fourth stroke, I breathe properly but it never seems like enough so on the next cycle I end up going back to every other stroke. I going to try to blow out hard every other stroke and see if I can’t feel more refreshed and go longer.

    Hope this helps.

  181. Thanks, Tim.

    My partner and I just started training for our first triathlon, and we are trying to conquer swimming. I have practice tonight and will use your tips. Will also pick up the book too.

    Thanks, again.


  182. Hi Tim,

    I just joined a swim team and started learning how to swim, and this page really helped me today. I have to wear noseplugs in the water and still more than half the time, I end up coughing really hard. My legs are weak in the water and I can’t kick hard. I never thought to rotate the whole body when taking a breath. I’ll have to try that during the next practice. =]

    Thanks a Bunch!

  183. Tim,

    I wanted to take a moment to thank you. I have NEVER been able to freestyle swim even though I have been swimming all my life. I have tried many summers to freestyle. This summer I was determined to figure it out. I found your page just before I went to the pool. IT IS INCREDIBLE. within two hours I was at least able to get the stroke and shaky breathing down. within two days in the pool, roughly 6 hours I was able to swim from one side to the other and pattern my breathing better. Today, 3 weeks later, I hit an especially busy night at the pool and I was able to keep up with the swimmers who had been swimming for years. I was AMAZED! I could see these methods really making a difference in my swim! THANK YOU SO MUCH. I never thought I would enjoy swimming……now I can’t get enough! Awesome Job!

  184. Hi Tim,

    I will be turning 60 this year and have made of list of ‘things to accomplish’ before the big day. Neither my friends nor family members would have EVER imagined that entering a triathlon would be on that list– I am not the athletic type (understatement!) and I have had 2 back surgeries in the last 2 years. But when my doctor gave me the OK to begin training, I thought ‘why not?’ So August 9 I will be swimming, biking, and walking fast (can’t really run) and will do my best to complete a sprint triathlon.

    Swimming is definitely my weak link. I have been training for weeks by swimming 16 lengths of the 25 meter pool, struggling to do combinations of side strokes, back strokes, and my own crazy version of a breast stroke. When I try the free-style, I am panting like a fool after only one length of the pool.

    Yesterday a woman in the lane next to mine was smoothly swimming like a glider in water. She was at least my age and her strokes looked effortless – barely any kicking and definitely no splashing. I hope she is there tomorrow so i can ask her if she is using the TI method! I can’t wait to try the ‘vessel’ approach beginning tomorrow. Who knows? I may even win the triathlon (for my age group, of course)!

    Thank you for your blog!

  185. Hi Tim and readers,

    TI is the most amazing thing to happen in the swimming world, for sure! In a months time, i have moved from a single length person to 30 lengths in a 25M pool!! And strangers in the pool ask me suggestions all the time now… heheheh!!

    Do you know Coach Emmett Hines of h2oustons? check out Coach Emmett Hines articles on – he is also as fantastic as Mr. Laughlin with respect to various swimming techniques (and is inspired from TI), and Tim, the flip turn is explained in the best possible way with his napkin drawings on

    And Fitness Swimming 2nd Edition is a welcome add to our swimming books library!

    I Love Chlorine,


  186. Hi Tim,

    I just found your article today, after so many searches for swimming tips to improve my ‘hammer-like’ sinking body during exhausting freestyle strokes.

    Started swimming at the age of 19 during college years ( Tokyo University of Marine Academy, where swimming is a must). At sophomore I could handle 10 miles breaststroke in the open water. I quitted swimming after marriage ( my wife is a big-time anchor, never see water surface at eye level) and now at the age of 57, I could barely finish a lap of 25 with heartbeat of 160 like someone mentioned.

    After viewing Takeuchi san’s TI swimming video and reading your article, I realize again now that swimming is not about the speed only but a way to keep afloat and reach destination with ease. That’s what we learnt at Marine Academy. Thanks for the wonderul lesson. I will apply this technique this evening at community pool.


  187. Hey Tim, thanks for posting this a while back. I remembered this post and the TED talk video about swimming when I was walking past an Olympic triathlon sign up desk. I’m a strong cyclist and runner but I haven’t really swam since my aborted attempts at a swim club 3 years ago where the coach said “your shoulder will always bug you – stop swimming and stop frustrating yourself.” After thinking about your post and video, I thought “what’s the worst thing that could happen? I’ll have to backstroke or dog paddle the entire 1.5km??” I signed up at 5:30pm yesterday and raced it today. I was one of the first ones in and one of the last ones out and I didn’t care because I just raced 1.5km of open water (lake) swimming for the first time in my life. Thanks for the inspiration. Keep pushing and having fun.

  188. I wasn’t going to go for a swim tonight – I’ve been trying to improve my front crawl but not getting anywhere. Then I read this, went to the pool and tried your tips and suddenly everything seemed to just click: I swam more lengths doing front crawl tonight than I think I’ve ever done before and felt great afterwards.

    Thanks for this – I can’t wait to get back to the pool now for my next swim.

  189. Nice work Tim – an excellent summary of what is required. I had a couple of private lessons on TI a few weeks ago, but have been struggling with my technique lately. I’m heading back to the pool today with some new focus. I’ve linked to you from my own triathlon-focused website.

  190. I’m new to TI swimming but it’s already cut strokes and effort off every lap.

    I also play BJJ, gi and no-gi, and wonder why you call it self destructive?

  191. Tim,

    Thanks for doing this article man. I had the biggest fear of water my entire life and finally stepped out of my comfort zone. Last month, just one (1) month ago, i was fighting water trying to stay afloat. Definitely survival mode… I started learning total immersion thanks to your article, read the TI book (it’s literally in pieces now since i’d take it to the pool and leave it at the end of my lane soaking water each time i’d reference it) and watched several videos. I continually practiced…

    It’s been only a month… Last week I did a 1.5 mile swim in the pool nonstop…

    Today I made it to a 2.5 mile swim and only stopped because the facility was closing. Had you not written this article, I would not have gained distance as quickly as I did. I’m graduating to open water now. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to perform in the Ironman, and my times, a month after learning, are below the cutoff times for the 2.4 mile swim.

    Thank you so much! I hope to meet you some day.

    Your friend in Florida,


  192. No, thank you Tim. Since that first post and first tri, I’ve done 3 tris in 8 weeks, having sworn my whole life I’d never do one. Now I’m already scheming for some much longer tris for next year. I can highly recommend the DVD and the book (Total Immersion). It got me from “dying in the pool” to doing something I thought I’d never do, and from there my times have gone from 47 minutes to do 1.5k (if you know swimming, that’s HORRENDOUS) to 42 minutes to 36 minutes in 8 weeks. I think I can get it down to 30 minutes pretty easily.

    Get out and try it! The worst thing that can happen is that you enjoy some swimming time.

    Oh, and buy one of those little Finis Tempo Trainer beepers that tuck into your swim cap. They’re pretty cool and help you set your cadence.

    Good luck everybody.


  193. Hi Tim,

    I had a question about someone with a weak consistently dislocating shoulder (5 times since Oct 08). I’ve kept up on my physio but it keeps popping out. I refuse to have surgery and feel I can teach my body to overcome this. My doctor and physio recommend swimming but I’m afraid of how my shoulder will take it. Of course, my docs didn’t give me much advice on how to change my stroke or how to wok on improving my shoulder through this activity and so I was wondering if you had any advice?


  194. Tim,

    I have a question for you, I did read all the posts here before bugging you with it this…

    I watched the videos and I am having a little challenge visualizing the breathing, perhaps its getting clear about the concept of rolling your entire body in the stroke and stretching for the breath… does that makes sense?

    I took all the ymca swimming lessons up to Bronze and was the first one in the water LOVED it… then something happened… so now in order for me to get into the water and leave the fear out of the water I have to visualize success… not being able to do that I am struggling to get into the water again… If you could try to explain the breathing or offer a link to something that does that would really be great!

    Second question is this – it sounds like the effort goes out of the exercise so I am wondering if the exercise benefits are still comprable in this style of water movement/ swimming.


  195. Hi Donna, I totally agree that one of the challenges with the TI swim is body roll. Let me give you the method I tried to ease my learning curve about te body roll plus breathing thing.

    Take a push from the wall, roll the body to one side, say left, so that the left leg is on top of the right (or navel is pointing to the left wall). Keep your left hand on top of the body by the sides along the left side. The right hand is stretched out in the front below the right ear, parallel to the pool’s bottom. This is the streamlined position that you will start off in. All this while, your face should point to the bottom of the pool. Now with the single or triple kicks move forward. As you move, turn only your head from the bottom to the top to expose just the nose and mouth to breathe and then turn back again. Do this a couple of lengths and then breathe on the other side. This not only makes the breathing simpler, but also helps you practice bilateral breathing!! Do try and let me know if this helped.

    As for the second Q, the answer’s pretty simple. With the high-effort-swim, you are too tired for a length or two, but once you are into TI, you can do multiples of 10s!! Which one do you think is better?

    Keep Wet,


  196. Tim, When i was younger I didn’t ‘nearly’ drown, I went whole-hog with it. When I regained consciousness there was a strange man kissing me. I was pissed at him … my exit hallucination was the good kind and I was more than willing to go.

    That didn’t keep me from trying again and again.

    And failing each time (usually from cramps caused by having swimming class immediately after x-country practice). Half a length and the aluminum hook would be fishing me out of the water, doubled up with every muscle I owned spasmed solid. Although it looked easy enough, I couldn’t figure out how to tread water.

    Later I realized what my problem was … negative buoyancy. I didn’t reach neutral buoyancy until I was about 3 ft. under. And that is exactly 36 inches too late. I simply didn’t have enough body fat to be buoyant. I weighed 135 at HS graduation and could lift & throw 350 — clean lift from the waist — forward and up.

    I can hyperventilate, curl up and stay under a very long time (I used to play saxophone and can meter my air fairly well) … it’s actually quite peaceful at that depth. However, I need to be within a foot or so of bottom so I can push back up to air again.

    Now I am much older, softer and fatter. About 9-10 years ago I found that I am now positively buoyant and can actually swim a few strokes without having to kick like crazy just to keep my head out of the water. I’m still not high in the water, but a couple of inches make all the difference in the world!

    My body wants exercise and my back demands that it be low-impact so, as it works out, I was mentioning joining the local recreation department so I could get in some pool time during the winter and also get access to their free weights to my wife just a few days ago. I live far too sedentary a life and this is showing up in frequent back injuries & weeks camped out in the chiropractors office.

    It just sucks the life out of, well, life.

    I’ve already got a lot on my plate. Maybe I can find room for this, too.

  197. I have since gotten the book and DVD after reading this article a ways back. As a beginner swimmer it was so exciting to feel when you are doing it right. You can just feel it. It makes you feel graceful and like you actually belong in the water.

  198. Tim,

    A few months ago, I found your blog through this post. Since then, you have changed my life in a number of ways. I’ve read your entire blog, bought your book, clicked over to Ramit Sethi’s blog, read that, and bought his book, too. I’ve enrolled in TI swimming classes, which have made a HUGE difference in the way I swim. And I hired a virtual assistant through AskSunday. I’d never heard of such a thing before I found your blog. (I’ve also automated my finances as per Ramit’s suggestion.) I haven’t quit my job yet – I’m not sure if I want to – but I’m starting to explore other options and to look at the world in a whole new way. Thank you.


  199. Tim,

    I bought the DVD and watched it enough times to be able to recite it word for word. And although practicing what it taught in the video has improved my technique, doing it alone is not as fruitful as I had expected. I’m going to get some personal instruction beginning in January. I think many of us need the feedback that you get from 1 on 1 instruction.

    OK now for the real purpose of this comment. I’d like to see you take on and accomplish a goal that so many find impossible to achieve. I’m talking about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. And the challenge for you (because you seem to be a fit guy) is to qualify after a very abbreviated training schedule. Then I want you to share your key steps with the rest of us.

    What do ya say Tim? Are you up for the challenge?

  200. I’ve read total immersion long before I discovered your site. It was helpful to an extend. A lot of the things I could not do though cause effectively I can swim with only one side of my body on account of being a CP. One have to use your imagination a lot when that is the case.

    I know it would be difficult for you to make suggestions on what to do because you haven’t view me in the water, but I want to tumble turn and that I can not do on account of not having enough speed when I come to the wall.

    Any suggestions?

  201. I am novice swimmer. Prior to June, 2009, my ‘swimming’ experience is best described as doggy paddling, and diving off to the deep end of the pool to wriggle my way back to do it again. After doing 7 marathons (1 per year), I thought I should try something different… I figure Triathlons sounds challenging. I did my first 3 sprint triathlons last fall, and am hooked. I signed -up for a Half Ironman in June and am PETRIFIED of the swim. I also signed up for the Kailua-Kona Ironman Lottery, and about crapped my pants at the thought of getting in (…honestly, I really dow want to get in). I have watched over and over the yearly Kona Championships coverage since 2001, and I am VERY INTIMIDATED of the swim. I was hoping you guys can help.

    Currently, I can swim upto 0.75 miles without stopping with a stroke count of 55 strokes/50 meters. My speed is about 11 minutes/0.25 miles. I kinda thought myself how to swim by watching other people, and through drive by tips from some fellow swimmers in the pool I trained in. I thought TI would be a wonderful skill to have to help me prepare.

    I just ordered the book and DVD for TI, but I am concerned about a couple of things: (1). How do I know I’m doing it right? (2) Does TI work for Open Water/Ocean Swims? or for larger people for that matter? (3) I can’t swim on my side (4) My shoulder/torso rotates but my hip doesn’t follow ( I basically twist at the hips, but don’t know how to correct it outside of asking a doctor to put a brace connecting my back to my waist)?

    I LOVE SWIMMING and would love to develop the skill better to get me to life goals (i.e. Ironman). Someone in this thread said that TI Swimming is like a meditation movement in water. I hope for that feeling. I love swimming, but regret that my form/technique is so poor that it prevents me from enjoying it to its full potential.

    Any thoughts?


    PS: Happy New Year to Everybody.

  202. My wife is going scheduled for her 1st triathlon. We’re working on our swimming together, now.

    I’ve finished about 20 tri-s, mostly Olympic distance and X-terra courses. TI swimming really helped me, too. (Love your page of hand written notes…good stuff!)

    My pearls:

    1. One really good thing to learn for triathlon is “peeping” (just lifting your head enough to site the buoy). If you do it right, your goggles only come half-way out of the water. That saves energy by keeping your hips high and your momentum going forward. If you lift your head completely out of the water to see where you’re going, you sink as your legs drop and you start swimming “uphill.” (Wastes mucha energia.)

    2. Also, alternating interval sprints (for speed and power) with slow gliding (for technique) maximizes your time in the pool. Sort of like Fartlek running for swimmers.

    3, Getting time in the open water is also a really good idea before you experience the mayhem that is a triathlon start!

    4. If you get a wetsuit, don’t get one that’s too small. It will constrict your range of motion and increase the work of breathing.

    Swim on friends!

  203. Tim,

    I have been a swimmer my whole life. All your tips are great.

    Here is a challenge for you. In high school, our coach made us, during spring break no less, do 100 x100 with a 30 second break between each 100. He did give us a 3 minute break at the 50 mark though. If you wonder if your arms will ever fall off, give this a try. Just don’t drive til a few hours after.

    We did it and all we got was a lousy t-shirt. But I can tell you that I wore that t-shirt til it disintegrated. Still wish I had it!



  204. Just ran across the term “immersion swimming” and came onto this website.

    I’ve been lap swimming for close to fifty years…will be eligible for medicare in a few months…but it was only twenty years ago that I decided I was trying way too hard to put in my laps. I started to see how “few” strokes I could do to cover a pool, not how many. To my surprise my energy increased, along with my endurance and speed. At the age of 50 I was doing 150 to 200 laps 4-5 times a week. I loved to study seals and dolphins at various aquariums and was fascinated with the ease at which they slipped through the water. Then I began to realize that swimming is mental and emotional, not physical. Now I realize that is called “total immersion” swimming. I’m not saying I discovered it, but thats what I’ve been doing doing for over 20 years. By the way, there is something akin to “runners high” when you’re swimming, but it usually doesn’t happen until I swim at least 130 laps or so. When that happens I could swim forever…what a feeling!!

    Anyway, due to a hip injury I stopped a few years ago, but as soon as I get me a brand new (titanium) hip, I’ll be back in the pool…..

  205. Unfortunately, swimming cannot be taught by simulation, like driving can.The biggest problem is the breathing part. One can learn to drive a vehicle (including aircraft) by simulation and NASA used that fact to train astronauts. That made the Apollo 11 moon mission as well as the rocket possible. But swimming cannot be learned by simulation. That is too damn bad.You have to try it and get it right on the first try. Otherwise you must abort the attempt OR drown!

  206. Hi Tim (and fellow readers),

    First of all, can’t wait for your new book. 4HWW was one of the best books I ever read, and I especially loved how it cut right to the good stuff and didn’t patronise you for hours about why it worked. Love it!

    So, in the spirit of cutting things down, I have noticed that many of the comments for this blog are from triathletes.

    I want to do my first triathlon this November. I work a pretty demanding job with a lot of travel (again, because I love doing it, not because I am slave to it :)) which makes all the triathlon training scheudles I have seen seem near impossible.

    My goal is simple – I want to complete an Olympic distance tri, and would like to do so in under 3 hrs. Not too demanding. What I need to find out, is how I can cut down the training requirments to get there on a training schedule that needs to be time efficient and flexible to location.

    I can usually fit in a 45 km ride every Sunday because I love riding. I usually fit in a couple of 3.5Km runs a week too. Getting time in pool is hard (may TI like you suggested may work for me?).

    So, I am looking for suggestions from the collective wealth of knowledge in your readership. How can I achieve my goal by either:

    a) Using intensive ‘training’ like what you advocate above

    b) Time and location flexible training to maintain my fitness and ability to compete effectively in all three discplines.

    I really look forward to hearing what you all have to say. Please do include any comments about pre- and post- recovery techniques to maximise workout effects.

    Thanks guys!


  207. Tim,

    I’d always struggled with doing the freestyle until I read this specific blog post.

    Before when I could barely complete one 50m lap without feeling like I was going to throw up from exhaustion, I now am able to swim 40 or more depending on how I pace myself.

    The shocking thing was that all it took was a simple 5 minute adjustment to my technique to solve a problem I’d always considered ‘too hard and would take forever to fix’

    Now I enjoy swimming freestyle, and I owe it to you.

    Because of this, I now truly believe that some of the hardest problems we face can actually be solved with simple solutions.

    Thanks for changing my mindset and for letting me enjoy the freestyle.

    Yasuo Long

  208. I have been in and around water all my life. I used shoulder strength and lots of kicking to pass speed swims in lifeguard exams when I was younger. I always found towing someone on my side less taxing than dragging just myself along with front crawl.

    Earlier in the week I read this article. I bought Terry Laughlin’s book and tried to apply the theory in the first half of the book in the pool before I’d even reached the drills section. I couldn’t believe the difference it made. Taking it nice and easy I attempted to swim on stay as long as possible, rolling my body and keeping an arm out in front until the other arm was just entering the water again. It was faster even on the first attempt. Knowing that my swimming form needs a lot of improvement and seeing the effects of my first attempt at a very rough approximation to TI style front crawl, is very encouraging. I can’t wait to see how fast I will be once I get the hang of it.

    I am starting to do the drills now and just want to be in the pool every spare moment.

  209. Hi,

    Great Technique. I went from one struggling length to 40 easy lengths in a few months………

    Plus I enjoy the swim at the same time.

    My son’s coach makes me do a few fast lengths each session, with a more speed at all costs style, but these are also easier due to absorbing the general principles 🙂



  210. Hi Tim, I like how your work to improve in swimming goes right along with the new rich thinking. Do it efficiently.

    thanks for writing the book too, it redefined my workday completely.

  211. Hello Tim,

    I bought your book few months back and it’s now one of my all time favorite books! I started reading your blog just recently and came across this post. A natural backstroke swimmer but I could only swim up to 125 yards the most in freestyle before I feel like I’ve climbed up Everest!

    The book and Dvd still hasn’t arrived yet. I played the video you posted few times, took some notes including the comments from the pros (this is a big help) and went to the pool yesterday. The first 40 minutes were rough, it felt like learning swimming all over again and then it started to get better. I swam 200 yards without losing my breath and even managed to cut my stroke.

    I couldn’t wait for the shipment to arrive and thanks Tim for the great post!

  212. On the side note, I ordered your book from Amazon since it’s not available here in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Only last week I saw a copy of your book in the entire bookstore. SEA can have a little more Tim I guess 🙂 Come and visit us one day, you have one big fan here!

  213. A response to David Catleugh’s question: Last December I decided to sign up for my first triathlon and needed to learn to swim laps, as I had never done that. This blog convinced me to buy the Total Immersion DVD and book and teach myself to swim. (THANK YOU!) I will tell you that I was able to learn a great deal and got about 90% of the way toward developing a new stroke just from watching the DVD, reading the book, watching Shinj video above, and doing the drills. BUT…. I did hit a snag in my training at the point when I started to add breathing to the stroke and decided to find a Total Immersion coach for some help. (The Total Immersion website has a link to coaches in your area.) Doing that was very, very helpful. The coach quickly identified some glitches in my technique, gave me some pointers that steered me in the right direction, and I was able to get over the hump. I’m still refining the stroke (an ongoing process for everyone), but I’m now able to swim 100 yard repeats with 20 second breaks for 40 minutes at a time. So, yes I think you can learn to swim with the book and DVD, but at some point you may need a bit of help from someone who knows this stuff to look at what you are doing.

  214. Thank you! I have never swam in my life and my best friend challenged me to try a triathlon with her. I’m an avid runner and biker, so I figured I could just tough out the swim and then make up my performance on the other legs. Unfortunately, my technique was so bad that I was expending crazy amounts of energy and after just a few practice lengths, I was exhausted and could barely walk away from the pool. The tips listed on this site have given me a starting point to increasing the efficiency of my swim and hopefully with practice I will be able to complete the required distance without killing myself. Thank you so much! Wish me luck!

  215. Thank you Tim.

    I came across your post and it inspired me to find a TI school here in Australia and take a weekend course ‘Fishlike Freestyle Swimming’. I have never been taught swimming before. While I have to admit – two days were certainly not enough for me to master swimming – I have problem with breathing at the moment – I still think I made huge progress. For anyone interested in a random guy’s experience, here’s my progress:

    Before TI – from above

    Before TI – from below

    After TI – from above

    After TI – from below

  216. Tim! You’ve changed my life!

    The first few lines of your blog completely mirrored my life and how I felt about swimming….desperate, panicky, and clumsy.

    After the FIRST time trying the TI method, I was shocked! I did just one lap (half the pool) and I was amazed at the ground I’d covered with so little effort! Not to mention I WASN’T OUT OF BREATH AND MY HEART WASN’T RACING! Incredible indeed.

    I’m 56 and almost 80 pounds overweight and I NEEDED a way to exercise that was low impact and effective. This is it! Now I call myself a SWIMMER! I love it and I’ve shared the method with my “swimmer” friends and they just don’t get it (I send them the link to help explain). I think we ex-non-swimmers have more of an appreciation for it because we have suffered so much with what I like to call “swimmer’s anxiety”!

    THANK YOU so much! I’m a swimmer now. I just need a snorkel so I can go longer without having to breathe! That’s the next step….breathing.


  217. Wow! I went from what felt more like controlled drowning, to being a confident swimmer. I have hated swimming all my life, and now I am hooked. Thanks so much for the great article!

    I have my first open water swim class in the sf bay next week. Pretty nervous about the 60 degree water, but pumped to test my new skills!

  218. Great post. Made me want to head back down to the pool and swim a few laps. And no, it’s absolutely never too late to start swimming! My father didn’t start swimming until he was 55, and now (ten years later) he doesn’t go a day without a few laps at the community pool.

  219. thanks for the tips. i’m 28 and i just started swimming since my fiancee had the final say. work requires me to go on oil rigs offshore so i guess swimming is a must. sink or swim!

  220. Tim,

    You’re right on. The concepts of TI are amazing. I began training for my first triathlon earlier this summer. Two weeks out from the race and I could not even complete half of the required swim distance. Came across TI and within seven days I was swimming the entire distance with ease. I could not believe I had spent eight weeks struggling and frustrated. I almost dropped out of the race. I completed my tri with ease now looking to start training for the 70.3 Ironman.

  221. I sIgned up for a triathlon earlier this year with no idea how to swim, and like a good procrastinator I waited 3 weeks before the race to learn. I remember reading this post 2 years ago and felt confident that if Tim could learn it in 10 days so could I.

    After my first session I wondered what the hell I got myself into. I would be able to do 2 laps before having to stop and take a 4 minute break to get my breath back. I read this blog post each night but really didn’t know how I was going to improve. I was determined to add an extra lap each day.

    And that’s what I did until day 8, where I had my worst session yet. I was back to 3 laps max! It was very dissapointing but I couldn’t quit.

    Day 9 I hit the pool in a calm mindset with a “I don’t give a damn what happens I’m going to make it” attitude, and successfully swam 40 laps without losing my breath. I was astonished. 7 tough laps to 40 easy laps is a big jump.

    Kicked ass in my Tri and now I’m hooked. Swimming is a big part of my life and I no longer will go to a gym without a pool.

    Thanks Tim, I owe you a beer.

  222. Tim,

    You are absolutely on target to have found TI! I felt the same, I could race a half-marathon but could not turn the corner on swimming despite hours of repetitive laps trying to do things I thought were right. I did a TI Freestyle workshop last year and this year I feel like I am ready to think seriously about the 70.3 distance for my next triathlon. I would encourage anyone thinking about trying TI to ‘dive in’ the water’s fine.

    Dave P.

  223. I’m an Air Force Pararescue hopeful who was really struggling with a prerequisite to joining-swimming 500m in under 11:30 without resting. I’m a fit guy but when I got in the water it was a disaster.

    After picking up the TI DVD and book, I have gone from a non-swimmer to being able to do the 500m in under 10 minutes. It’s an effing miracle. TI works.

    Oh, and I second Brian’s challenge to you, Tim. I’d love to get some tips on running. I’m hoping to BQ (Boston Qualify) at the Surf City Marathon February 6, 2011. I’d love to see you there!

    1. I am an Air Force Combat Control hopeful and I have the same requirement for my PAST. I was a disaster my first time swimming and after a couple weeks of practice I am doing so much better! I haven’t tried TI yet but I am sure that I will be able to blow the requirement right out of the water.

      The running is what I am really having troubles with. I know this is a swimming website but if you have any advice I would greatly appreciate. I’ve been running 3 miles every other day and 1.5 miles on the other days. I just am not able to run fast enough at those distances.

      Also any advice for push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups would be good.

  224. Sammy V,

    Congratulations on meeting your 500m swim goal for Air Force Pararescue qualification! OK, off to Boston and how to qualify. I am not sure where to start. Except to throw out a few tid bits that I learned way back when I was racing competetively at the 1/2 marathon distance.

    1) I bought a heart rate monitor (HRM) about three years ago and love it! I think it gives a runner a great look at how warmed up you are, and how much you are exerting yourself when you are pushing yourself. I use it on easy days to maintain the low intensity critical for recovery.

    2) Odd as it may seem when I raced competetively my slowest mile in a half marathon and even indoor 3-mile was the first mile! Then I proceeded to accelerate and pass people gradually making my way to the front, I did win this way. I conditioned myself when I did my weekly long slow distance (LSD) run by going out real slow and then finally building up to a tad under race pace at the tail end or finish going up a hill.

    3) My theory on 2) is that your heart is not ready to power you at maximum speed at the start of a race. I think it takes a little time to ‘fully dilate’ the heart muscle and circulatory system. If you begin to use a heart rate mionitor you may see the following. When I start jogging my heart rate goes up, after a short while my heart rate drops, and for me I need about 15 minutes to get ready to go!

    4) If your background is not track and racing the 1,500 m – 5K I would suggest racing at the 5 K distance to see what your race pace is, and also try the aceleration game, it’s way more fun to pass people than to slow down and be passed at the end!

    5) Good Luck!

    Dave Price

    Weare, NH

  225. Some great tips, its easy to think your doing the most efficient stroke, just because it feels ‘right’ perservere wth small alterations as suggested and they soon feel ‘right’ ………. i regulary do 25k (15+miles) mainly pool, and have trimmed 10 to 15 mins off of my normal time, doesnt sound a lot over that distance, trust me it is!.. just one tip for distance swimmwers for energy conservation and balance from me would be to use single leg alternate kicks, … left arm hits the water, single right leg kick, right arm hits the water, single left leg kick …. so on and on…………. good work!

  226. Tim, this is hard to believe. Five days ago I could barely manage a length’s front crawl of the 50m pool at Bath University’s Sports Training Village (open to the public!) I would reach the other end barely half alive, and barely afloat too.

    Over the last few days I have been reading Terry Laughlin’s book, having found a reference on your blog.

    This morning, with all Terry’s theory swimming around in my head (forgive pun) I entered the pool and completed 20 lengths of crawl. I could not believe the transformation in my technique and capabilities.

    Ok, I was just about the slowest swimmer in the pool, but the fact that I could cover such distance doing crawl, with a brief pause at the end of the each 50m, was testament to the Total Immersion method. It is truly remarkable.

    There you go, that’s my tuppence worth.



  227. Last Jan. I was an overweight 55 year old couch potato who had never exercised in my life except to walk now and then. For some crazy reason I signed up to do a sprint triathlon. One of the requirements is a 500 meter swim. I could dog paddle and float ( I could float real good). I kept telling everyone I would could do the 12 mile bike ride and the 5k walk (couldn’t run). But there was no way I was swimming. My friends kept telling me I needed to at least try the swimming. So I did. The first time it took me 45 mins. to do 2 laps. I was exhausted. I had to keep my face out of the water because I had no idea how to swim with it in. I hated it. I figured for the race I would just swim on my back (basically float while moving my arms). I continued to try a little more each time, to swim like a real person. The day of the race I swam most of it on my back flipping over on my face only twice. It took me 40 minutes. I then became determined to swim more efficient and enter another race where I would not swim on my back. What I discovered is the more I relaxed, the more I could just glide through the water. All of a sudden I had a rhythm and I was not out of breathe….My time increased as did my well being. I started loving to swim. It has become my meditation time as well and my exercise time. Only those who love to swim understand how incredibly soothing it all is….. Me…loving to swim…It was crazy….But I did and do. So here I am, 10 months later…30 lbs lighter and I swim almost everyday. Today I did, easily 1500 meters in 40 mins. My goal is a mile by Jan. I have no doubt I will make it…..The advice on here is some of the best I have seen for getting into the pool and being successful…..Thanks for letting me add my 2 cents!!

  228. This is absolutely for real. I was always the kind of swimmer who could manage about 15 minutes of swimming laps before I had to crawl out of the pool to rest for an hour. I spent more energy than anyone else in the water and moved slower than anyone else.

    I have been working on TI swimming for a little over a week. This weekend I jumped into a full length Olympic pool and swam steadily, with breaks to work on swim thoughts, for two hours and got out of the pool feeling rested and relaxed.

    People used to look at me in the pool with a ‘poor guy can’t swim, but he sure tries hard’ look on their face. This weekend, all I got was 100% ‘how the crap is that guy moving so fast doing so little?’

    I know this reads like an infomercial, but there just isn’t any other way to describe the difference. TI swimming gave me the single biggest athletic improvement of my life in less than a week. And now I have the rest of my life to work on refining the techniques and to enjoy swimming.

  229. Been swimming since age of 8…lap swimming for at least 40 yrs. and in a few months I will turn 66 while still enjoying the water. I didnt realize that my mode of swimming was called TI until I came across the website a few weeks ago. The way I got into it was by swimming lap after lap until I forgot about my stroke, technique, or even that I was in the water. After an hour or so I would find myself swimming effortlessly for mile after mile. This is what many of us call being in the “zone”. I don’t even close my mouth..I stop the water with my throat. For some it may help to listen to music to get relaxed enough for this type of swimming. You can perform amazing feats using this technique. Once towed a 20 ft cabin cruiser for 7 hours to get it into the harbor..(stalled engine) and wasn’t especially tired. For a day of leisure, my buddy and I used to swim out to the middle of a lake and spend the day talking, swimming and floating. Used the same philosophy in running and found it works just as well. Don’t worry about speed, that comes all by itself.

  230. These are awesome tips! I already really love swimming and look forward to streamlining it. I have asthma and they say that swimming is really great for it. I may not ever know what a runner’s high feels like, but I know that swimming is addictive! You can really lose yourself in it and lose track of time and everything. Sometimes I feel like I could swim forever if it weren’t for hunger pains. I can’t wait for our lake to thaw out so I can try some TI!

  231. I was a competitive swimmer up to the age of 16, then had 10 years out and recently went back to training for fitness and fun, but was struggling to make the sessions interesting. THEN, I tried these techniques and it felt absolutely amazing! I was travelling further, faster and using less energy than ever before, literally streaming past the other swimmers in the pool. I thoroughly recommend this to anyone wanting to improve their stroke! It’s addictive.

  232. Having been injured for a long time, exercising is reduced to swimming, walking and cycling for me at the moment. I’ve a very fine breast stroke going, but had never learned a front crawl (freestyle). Panicking and breathing water after 3 strokes never really tempted me to continue somehow. I started using a few of the advices up here and stopped breathing water. A bit too embarrassed to seem to really be trying at this point, I still mostly did breast stroke…..until a physiotherapist basically told me I wasn’t allowed to.

    Long story short, I haven’t even watched the dvd/read the book (yet), but just swam 2 km in an hour and twenty minutes earlier this evening. Not particularly fast, but for someone who couldn’t even swim a single length three weeks ago, it’s pretty damn exciting!

    Cheers for being ocd mate!

    P.s. Get yourself on a camel while you’re in the middle east. They’re the most hilarious and chilled out creatures out there.

  233. Hello Tim,

    I started swimming 3 years ago. When I started, I could barely swim a lap. In 3 weeks, 21 workouts, I was able to swim 1650 yards without stopping. I followed this ZERO to 1650 workout, . At the time, I had been a smoker for 14 years. After the first week I stopped smoking with no nicotine fits or withdrawals and haven’t smoked since. I now enjoy a daily 3 mile swim.

    I love the research you have put into this.

  234. Hi Tim!

    I have been teaching myself TI swimming after reading the 4HB. I have always considered myself to be a good swimmer but I’m loving the TI method because of the rythym! I am currently recovering from two surgeries; ankle ligament reconstruction & knee arthroscopy, and got the go ahead before X’mas to up the ante on exercise. I’m also doing rehab stuff at a gym & was not allowed any impact stuff until a couple of weeks ago. I studied the barefoot running technique through your Terra Plana/Vivobarefoot links to minimise impact on the treadmill…just spewing that I’d just bought a pair of runners because now I want Vivobarefoots! My goal is to return to karate (my passion) next month and get my black belt just after I turn 50. In the meantime, me and two girlfiends are researching our muse! Many thanks! (or in aussie: Onya, mate!)

  235. I saw you when you came to visit us at Google recently. I got your book (4 Hour Body). I’m trying your diet and kettle bell routines to limited success, but the big reason for my compliment is the Total Immersion swimming you highlighted. I’ve been able to reduce my 50m times from 1min 05s to :45s. All with less effort.

    I can’t wait to swim in my triathlon in 4 weeks.

    I appreciate you being the human guinea pig for all of us.

    Shout out to Terry Laughlin too!

  236. TI works! From struggling in the pool 2 months ago to swimming 1500 metres in choppy seas yesterday I can testify to the transformation but I still have a long way to go. For quick results my recontamination would be to get a TI coach on go on a a TI camp unless you are super motivated to go through the book and DVDs. You can swim like a Dolphin – believe.

  237. I’ve had huge improvements with the introductory DVD. I thought I was an okay swimmer but as it took the TI ‘O2’ video on breathing for me to realise how uncomfortable I actually am with having my head in the water. I’d get completely out of breath and tire easily because I was so afraid I’d inhale water. Still learning and improving with it.

    There’s a 10% Off coupon here for anyone considering purchasing:

  238. Hi

    Thanks for all the advice. I am frustrated with TI as I seem to be always practising technique and never speeding up. I have 2 x triathlons in August (missed 1 last year cause I knew with the TI my speed wasn’t up to it) and am worrying that my swim time will be rubbish. I have the book, need to finish watching the DVD but am stressing because the theory sounds great but the speeds are so SLOW!

    Any help/advice welcome.

    1. For me, it was a grind until somehow it just clicked. I did spend a lot of time piecing it together. I think the section of the book that’s more focused on the 4-5 things to think about while swimming is very helpful — maybe more so than the slow piecing together of the stroke. If you can, find a TI instructor near you (there’s a list on the TI website) and book a single lesson so that he/she can look at your stroke. I did that when I was in your situation and got 3-4 things to work on that made a huge difference. The biggest for me was forcing myself to keep my legs really quiet — just that tiny flick to trigger the balance shift. I didn’t realize that I was slowing myself down with over-active legs.

      1. Thanks for the encouragement. I intend to persevere but unfortunately the nearest TI people are in Swiss Germany (I am in France)…

  239. This is an awesome article! I was researching this method as something a beginner could use to teach themselves a solid freestyle technique that would be efficient enough to boost the number of lengths they can swim and their overall distance as well. This article breaks it down brilliantly. Cheers

  240. I was a breast stroker for years until my orthopedist told me it was too hard on my heavily damaged knees. So I took a class to learn crawl and love it. Both strokes give me a runner’s high and I can swim for at least an hour. And eat cheesecake and lose weight.

  241. I was thinking of writing a similar article to this one. I had just completed my level 1 TI test. I haven’t done any long distance swimming yet though I can definitely feel the difference. Less effort for longer distances. Can’t wait to start the level 2 swim.

  242. Excellent summary of the TI swimming approach. I really enjoyed reading this. I have been doing TI drills since February. Needed to: a stroke completely wrecked my technique.

    My three brothers are Ironmen Triatheletes and have been using this technique for years. Whilst I was in the stroke unit Laughlin’s book landed on the bed: read it cover to cover and then spent much of the following weeks looking at clips in Utube. As soon as I was out of the unit I was into the pool – I am now swimming better than I ever thought possible. Started with the drills and then rebuilt the swimming stroke. I went back to my masters swimming sessions last week.

  243. Your article on TI is very inspiring. I’ve heard so much about TI but never really bothered until reading your article and how it changed your perspective on swimming. I just hope that the book and DvD is available at a popular book store here in the Philippines. My 10 year old daughter whose been swimming since she was 3 recently became a varsity swimmer in her school. She had her first taste of competition (all strokes) last weekend. Unfortunately, she ended up last in all competitions but was not too far way behind. Since I took a video, I was able to count the number of strokes she did on the 25 meter length and it was an whopping 38 as against her competitors who only did an average of 28. No wonder, she could no longer catch up on the return 25 meters probably due to exhaustion. My question is : If I can get hold of the the book, will the book tell where to start with and at what pace. I plan on tutoring my daughter who is very stubborn and always tells me I know more than her coach everytime I give her a piece of advise.



  244. Hey man,

    This is sooo inspirational to read, and I really appreciate the time and honestly you have invested in producing this page. I come from a similar situation with regards to swimming and at 39 am just now really beginning to enjoy the pool for fitness and fun. I totally understand how rewarding this can be and echo just about everything you have said here.

    Thanks again,


  245. 2 days ago I couldn’t swim 15 lengths without stopping. Today I swam 100 lengths of a 25m pool and felt fresh at the end. Thank you for this post, it was the simplest changes (like breathing every 3 strokes) that made all the difference.

  246. Hi Tim,

    I started taking swimming lessons 2 months ago, now I can swim 6*25 length in a row but I’m still looking for improvement, for maximum efficiency. So a few days ago i came across this new style from Total Immersion. Some of its elements are natural but some intrigue me:

    1. Why is the leading arm pointing somewhat downwards? Also the palm is bended with the fingers pointing even more downwards. Since the direction of movement is forward shouldn’t the whole body be like a straight line from fingers to feet? Doesn’t that arm and fingers introduce some extra counter-force from the water?

    2. What is the purpose of a low kicking beat? Just for saving energy?

    Thank you if you have time for answering and clearing these things up for me

  247. Tim,

    Thank you so much for posting this!!! I have never been a decent swimmer. I signed up for a triathlon giving myself 14 weeks to figure everything out and get in shape. I hit swimming first because it freaks me out.

    I went swimming three different days, around an hour each time, and the third time it clicked. I swam 625 yards flawlessly, at least it felt flawless compared to what I was doing.

    I have tons to improve on, but now it is realistic to get this swimming part down. Thank you so much for your help!!!

  248. I took a weekend seminar for “Total Immersion” that was actually coached by Terry. It was great, and I recommend it to anyone. Well worth the money if you want to improve your swimming in a real and meaningful way. Full disclosure, in my younger days, I was one of the first 100 USCG Aviation Rescue Swimmers, so I’ve done some time in the water.

  249. Hi Tim

    Thanks for this. If I had not stumbled across your blog (and the specific posting about TI) life would’ve really sucked! I live in South Africa and first read the above 6 weeks ago while searching for ways to at least swim 50m freestyle without drowning (ironically similar to your story).

    I ordered the latest TI freestyle DVD and the TI book, and am proud to say that today, 6 weeks after starting the program, I’ve just completed a mile in a 25 yard pool at gym. At the age of 33 I’ve just about given up on learning how to swim – your blog and Terry Laughlin’s AMAZING self-coaching program has saved my life. Thanks a lot – keep up the great work!!

  250. Thank you Tim Ferris. Just read the swim blog and watched part or all of the video links. And just swam significantly better than I ever have in my entire life. Left the pool area with a big smile on my face.

  251. I used to hate swimming as well. I could do a length or two of freestyle and ten I’d be out of breath. When I did the side stroke or breast stroke I could swim much longer but I was a lot slower.

    I was watching a program on the Discovery Channel on Navy SEALs and saw the “combat swim stroke” which is a modified side stroke.

    I found that I was much better on one side than another and that either way I kept running into the lane line (and turning in open water).

    I now do the combat swim stroke, but I alternate sides with every stroke. This has turned out to be perfect for me.

    After reading and seeing the TI method, I’ll try it, but the modified side stroke has made me a swimmer.

  252. This is very exciting to me! I am very athletic, not afraid of water and yearn to surf one day before I leave this planet. I have had friends try to teach me to swim and the main thing I can recall from all lessons is that I sink :(. My friends tell me it’s because I have so much muscle, blah,blah, blah…that is not a sufficient answer. At first glance at 3 videos you have shown here, I know my experience in the water will be different. When the basic mechanics of what the muscles should be doing, how the torso should be angled, I understand it so much better. I have studied fitness, lifted weights, taken massage therapy and do Bikram yoga regularly. I look forward to reporting back in a few months…with a new favorite past time…swimming and eventually surfing!

  253. Thank you, Tim. I bought the total immersion book and dvd last summer. I began swimming laps. I now ENJOY swimming. Previously, it had been awkward. Now, it’s enjoyable.

    I also recommend a salt water pool. I never enjoyed a chlorine pool. The pool I go to now uses salt and an electric current to convert the NaCl to chlorine. It’s very easy on my eyes.

  254. excellent videos ,clear audio and it was fun to watch them …

    It took me a long time (years) to learn swimming …i always discontinued after a few lessons…but last year i was determined and learnt swimming…i reached the pool around 5 in the morning…the sky was lovely n the pool was less was exhilarating..this year i ‘m working on my technique…what worries me is the hygiene factor n also the effect of chlorine on my hair n skin

  255. Tom, I love you but prepare yourself. I learned to swim on my own, without any help, just my listening to the water and by using intuition.

    On top of all that, I am legally retarded.

  256. I just stumbled across this site. I have a hard time believing that anyone learned TI in 10 days and can do effectively.

    On the other hand I have progressed from being at best able to exhaust myself doing 25m to having very close to a pretty good TI stroke.

    Bottom line, want to learn to swim and have a style that people envey. Go TI

    I still cannot understand why the other lappers in the pool are kicking with boards, swim mostly with a pull bouy then get out the hand paddles. Meanwhile I am 10 strokes less, no kicking (2 beat) and go just as fast.

    Thank you Terry. There may be many imitators on the web these days but Terry was the one that persevered with the promotion of his TI beliefs and made it available to all.


  257. Andrew,

    I love that you are doing TI – congrats!

    It is absolutely possible. An athlete and lifehacker like Tim can do 40 lengths per workout in sets of 2 and 4 because:

    For 10 straight days, just focused solely on TI swimming all day, all night.

    When he wasn’t swimming, he was watching videos, taking notes, watching videos, thinking, writing, analyzing, dreaming about it.

    Living and breathing TI 24/7 for 10 straight days.


    Ship fast (Watch tape. Get in pool. Swim).

    Listen (to your body).



    Repeat until 40 lengths/workout.

    And I agree – kudos to Terry. A champion triathlete and leader in revolutionizing swimming.

  258. Tim, I am very confused. You mentioned that you were unable to do the drills from page 110-150 due to a weak kick, but you found the DVD very helpful.

    But the DVD is just the drills from page 110-150 in video format!

    The DVD is useless for me. I can not do any of the drills; not even the very simple drill #1. I am skinny and have a weak kick.

    What is going on? Did they update the DVD? Did you post the wrong DVD? Am I misunderstanding something?


  259. Tim,

    6 weeks ago, I started doing laps and I had to take at least 5 minutes rest in between a full lap (25 meter pool) and got totally exhausted after 3 laps (3 x 25). Then I googled and found your blog but I did not fully understand the concept but it did motivated me after after seeing the clip you posted. Then I hit YouTube watched the videos from “tiswim”. After 3 weeks of practiced, I can do 26 full laps in about 1.5 hour in the pool – I used them circles in the lane divider to keep count. I’m focusing on form and breathing at this time and not the number of laps. Today, I went back and read your blog and they all make sense. Thank you and I’ll keep you posted once my form and rhythm are imprinted.

  260. Thank you very much – great information. Great you now like swimming. It’s a given for kiwis. Some birds fly and others swim.

  261. Tim,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I noticed the chapter on swimming in 4HB but skipped over it thinking “I can already swim”. It wasn’t until a month ago when my girlfriend and I signed up for a triathlon that I actually hopped in the pool and realized how bad I was. I am confident/experienced with running and cycling so I mistakenly thought swimming would be a breeze. My girlfriend’s exact words were “you swim like an elephant”.

    Three weeks away from the tri I began to panic and search for a cure. I am typically a person who overloads myself with information so I was relieved when your blog post was the first to pop up when I searched in googled “how to swim properly”.

    After four workouts of TI I cut my stroke length in half. I no longer swim like an elephant and have found a new passion for the art of freestyle swimming. Your work has impacted my life as well as my friends’ more than you know. Thanks for everything.



  262. Thanks for the information.

    For me, swimming is extremely difficult. I took swimming lessons for 10 years as a child. The lessons were compulsory and provided by my school.

    I also took extra lessons out of school hours and spent a lot of time in the water during summer but in spite of this I still can’t swim. I can’t even float on my back! No matter what I do, I just sink. Dog paddle is no good either, I just sink head first which makes it impossible to breath. I gave up long ago. Now in my 50s I doubt I will ever learn.

    1. Men have always worn caps but now it is more common. Many competitive men and boys wear caps to help give them an edge in racing.

      I believe that all swimmers with long hair including the guys should wear caps in the pool. It keeps he pool a lot cleaner prevents swimmers from encountering strands of hair in the pool. Caps are fem guys, they have a purpose.

  263. Just want to say thank you for the tips. I’m 41 and haven’t had to swim without fins. I have to swim 300 yards in 10 mins do I can get into fish and game academy. I’ve been practicing but been getting worn out after 3 laps. After 1st day of trying with your advice, I did it in 9 mins. My arms weren’t tired, but I was out if breathe. Gonna keep practicing. Thanks

  264. You don’t necessarily need to sport the Speedo – though it IS the easiest streamlining in most cases. I still wear shorts, but they are relatively short and cling to my legs. I remember the first time I swapped out of board shorts – those things are a menace.

  265. I just joined a gym first of the year at 50 years young alll because I wanted to be a better swimmer

    I started this program and quiet honestly i am now doing 1 mile work outs with out hesitantion and or fatigue

    This system makes you feel like your cheating it can not be this easy

    1. I agree with this comment!

      I have dobbed myself in to do a 1900 meter swim in a half ironman event in November…..the furthest I have swum in open water is 400metres….

      first training I swam 600 metres after reading this in the Four Hour Body…I re read it, watched the YouTube clips and yesterday swam all 1900 meters….OUTRAGEOUS! It felt amazing – thank you thank you!

      Some tweaks using this method and yes – felt at some points like I was swimming downhill!

  266. Tim, I’ve been following you for years, I finally made time to follow your swimming advice. I went from being out of breath after 50m, to swimming a mile nonstop and only quitting because the pool was closing after a very short period of actual time in the pool. I’ve just registered for my first Ironman, something I hadn’t dreamed of before just because of the swim. Thanks for all of the inspiration.

  267. Hey! I’ve enjoyed reading this page on swimming. But I am struggling on breathing. I have Got a swim test in 2 days to be a apprenticeship lifegaurd and I have been swimming front crawl with my head down and my boyfriend has said I get quite far in a good time but i snuggle to complete a length cos my breathing us all wrong. Please help. It’s hard aswell when I’ve Got shorts and tshirt on and can’t wear goggles 🙁 but i had been practicing with goggles on and I’m really struggling. I have Got to swim 50 m in 60 seconds and then 100m continually and then tread water and rescue a manaquin from bottom of deap end (11ft)



  268. Hi Tim,

    I really appreciate the way that you help break down the aspects of learning something as basic as swimming. Looking forward to trying it. I bought the e-book of “Four-Hour Chef” and it has been very useful. One question that I had for you(or anyone else you might know): I’m in the middle of an internship at a startup software company and I’m trying to learn Java- a programming language. Do you have any tips on how to deconstruct a programming language? I’ve tried asking this question of experienced programmers but all I get is head shaking and “That can’t be done”. Thanks again for all of the great work you’ve put out to help free folks from the grind (looking for an escape hatch already)- Will

  269. I’m working with a TI coach for Triathalon training. I was having the typical problems with swimming (more training did not equal better performance)! Now, with TI, I find the philosophy (if you will) and technique to be elegantly simple. I’m also learning a bit about Chi running which along the same lines seems to think about what is a more “natural” way of running, keeping in mind our body in relationship to the surface and gravity etc. It seems that we need to pay attention to our physical nature, and what we’re asking our bodies to do and perhaps to the basic physics of it all! It’s really an eye opener!

  270. I actually subconciously always had known it, but after reading 4HB I was strucked by the importance of progres measuring. So how do you think I can measure my progress in swimming during first weeks of TI programme. I am learning it mainly from movie “total immersion freestyle made easy”. and now I am on Zipper Skate drill. Because of the focus on technique I don’t think it’s a good idea to track your time records for a given distance, strokes’ counting also can be misleading due to possible differences in footwork?

  271. Regarding goggles. I’ve been swimming for years and at first couldn’t find goggles that would stay on and not fog. I finally came across Swedish goggles. They don’t have foam or padding, it’s plastic that fits kind of directly on your eye (as opposed to eyebrow/nose/temple.) The pressure of water basically keeps them on your head so you don’t need the goggles to be strapped tightly. It’s a preference thing, if you’re not having any luck, worth a try

  272. Congratulations Tim on your achievement. I have taught a lot of adults to swim. I have had many men who were absolutely frightened of climbing into the pool and taking lessons. Swimming is a wonderful form of exercise for men.

    Learning to swim also build confidence.

  273. Thank you for the great article. I taught myself to swim with TI a few years ago and really identified with your story. Now my wife (no competitive swimming experience) wants me to teach her and I’m going right back to the TI videos. By far the only way an adult should learn to swim, especially if they plan to teach themselves.

  274. Tim on July 1st I set a new lap high of 37 laps with about 25-27 strokes per lap and a time of 75 -80 seconds for 50 yds. I read your TI and was so excited to use it on the 4th that I did not sleep right. Well I swam 72 minutes and calculated I swam around 2800 yds, wow was not tired but had to stop in mid pool cause my heart rate was a little too high. I did not feel tired, and am really looking forward to my next session.

    The only thing that bothered me was I was still around 25-27 strokes without much of a leg kick


  275. Forgot to tell you am 57 and started swimming in dec of 12 cause of meniscus surgery

    .I noticed my muscles in shoulders were sore cause of the different motion involved with TI

    1. Hey Mario

      Don’t sweat the small stuff! I started swimming last year for the 1st time at age 34 and did my first 70.3 Ironman in Jan this year in South Africa. Had the same problem as you with my shoulders (deltoids to be exact). Fixed it by following TI program to a t. You need to just relax and submit to the water. There’s no point in trying your damnest to propel forward. Just become one with the water and enjoy it!

  276. Great advice. I also have this book and am working on it. I should get the DVD though because the videos you have illustrate a bunch of the stuff I’ve been trying without it. Looking forward to getting more results the more I go. Like you, I’ve done a bunch of other sports and martial arts, but always avoided the water. Now I’m enjoying it more and more!

  277. So, I can “somewhat swim”-if you consider underwater in only 3 or 4 feet of water swimming. I am petrified. But want to learn. Unfortunately, I can’t quite comprehend anything you have mentioned above (but it seems like it makes sense). I need to start from scratch-and probably add hypnosis! I think swimming (at least when I tried above water) is completely dreadful! It took took much to keep myself afloat it seemed?? I couldn’t understand how it could possibly be enjoyable if you were so spent afterwards! I prefer running over swimming-because….well…the air can’t drown me….! My goal is to learn though, before my 2nd trip to Jamaica next year-so I can jump off the cliff at Rick’s Cafe in Negril! I think once I have a few months or so of basic instruction, I will be able to use your post to my advantage. Thanks, guys!

  278. Excelente!

    Creo que este artículo ilustra muy bien algunos puntos del Libro y del Video de TI. Las experiencias y consejos son muy lógicos y de muchísima utilidad.


  279. After first posting here in February this year – I am tomorrow morning knocking off the swim leg of a half ironman event in Shepparton, Australia.

    Go swimming downhill! 1900 metres here I come!

    1. I am replying to myself here – but hey! Yesterday in shepparton 1900m in the lake (brown water only visibility when breathing of looking forward) 118 other team starters in the wave (I think that’s what I heard) and 41.5 minutes to the transition area!

      Thanks Tim for this post, thanks TI! Great stuff over the last 8 months.

  280. Hi….

    It’s helpful tips. I will try it. 🙂

    Actually I have a problem with swim because when I finished swim, I always feel tired and my muscle is stiff. When I was in Senior High School, I joined the swim club. It’s help me to improve my skill to swim. When I graduated from senior high school in 2012, I never go swimming. I am trying to swim recently, but my muscle is going stiff when I finished swimming. I asked my uncle who is a dive instructor that why I felt tired and my muscle is going stiff when I finished swim ? should I do workouts before swimming ?

    He said as same as the tips as above : “Forget about workouts and focus on “practice”. He also said that if you are want to improve your swimming skill just a simple way to do that. You must focus, relax and enjoy to swim. The tips above are right. Thanks a lot.

  281. I would call myself an avid distance swimmer and I think this article does a great job explaining technique. It is a pretty standard technique of swimming, but can be extremely difficult to explain and even more difficult to teach people who haven’t been swimming their whole lives. It is great!

  282. This is a very interesting article, although I remain doubtful. Beginning at the age of 50, I took swimming lessons for three years but never learned to swim. My teachers finally gave up on me, and then I gave up too.

    I would still like to learn to swim.

    1. I use to swim like a stone and then found this post and now I too can swim endlessly , actually I get bored before I get tired.

      The secret I found is to relax and follow the training techniques that Terry L discusses on his web site

      I start every swim with a couple of laps doing a Super Man glide just to un wind and relax I do get a few strange looks but it helps alot

  283. I am 65 and due to arthritis in my left foot have difficulty with the tread mill and elliptical. I hired a trainer to teach me to swim and he uses the TI technique. I love it. My only difficulty is the breathing. Once I figure that out the sky is the limit. I too can hardly wait each day to get in the pool.

  284. I was planning to practice solo next week and I’m looking for guidelines how to start swimming. We had swimming lessons during High School and College years but I can’t still grasp the essence of swimming and most of the time, leaving me frustrated. I am really planning to undergo swimming lessons again but I thought that this might be a waste of money. Good thing I stumbled to your blog, thanks to Google. It inspired me to check on Total Immersion and will use this for my self-study. I also wish I can learn how to tread ( I can float, but not treading…I’m sinking, boo). Well, one step a time. Thank you so much!

  285. Try using a diving mask and snorkel when you start. I did this so I could concentrate on swimming rather than breathing first. Btw. If ever you get water in the snorkel a fast sharp puff of air will clear it. Practise this. Also find a mask that fits. Put it on without the strap, breathe in through you nose and if it stays on, it fits. Only silicon masks will do this. While swimming only breathe through your mouth ( ie. The snorkel). This technique means you can seperate the mechanics of swimming from the mechanics of breathing. Once you have mastered the body roll you can ditch the snorkel and move to breathing. Good luck.

  286. Swimming is awesome! Really glad you overcame your fears and now you are a lover as well. I find the TI technique very intriguing. Will def have a look closer into it. Cheers, Julia 🙂

  287. Thank you Tim for the wealth of information and pointers. I am in my sixties and now finding the pleasure of swimming. I should have drowned a while ago and was always short of breath just one to another. I never learned swimming properly. Now zumba put some renewed vigor and I have also learned to breathe better. I am able to swim with less effort. However I still need to pause for a minute at each end.

    Currently I do 15 laps. I want to do 50 laps with ease. I will re-read this, re-watch and apply some of these techniques.


  288. Hey Tim

    Great work. What your doing is helping a lot of people. So, bravo. I just have one question. It seems this information on swimming is for people who can at least swim a bit. How do you even float in the first place? Its a nightmare to try out TI, if your sinking with a belly full of water

    1. Are you simply unable to float at all or have never tried, almost no one is able to float completely horizontally. Most people can only float with the tip of their heads above the water, but you can make yourself sink by letting all the air out.

  289. haha this might actually help me. I’ve always had a weird problem with swimming where I can swim better if i’m completely under water (I can do entire lengths of an olympic pool under water), but if i try to swim across the surface i just feel like I’m spinning my wheels and going nowhere. I’ve always felt like I just didn’t float enough to swim in that relaxed way everybody else seems to, but this technique has me thinking perhaps I don’t need to.

    Don’t spose there are any magic tips for treading water? Some people just seem to do nothing and float with their head fully out of the water. For me it feels like a hard workout where i’m having to tilt my head back to keep my mouth out the water.

  290. Hi Tim,

    I’ve started recently to listen to your podcasts and received an email with this article about swimming. If i tell you that i got the DVD and watched several times for techniques, went to swimming and applied what Terry is saying, and WOW!!! i could not believe the results!!!! I’ve been swimming for like 20 years lets say, and in the recent years i’ve always felt that i’m missing something, i was not gliding in the water like professional swimmers do…i felt i always put way to much effort for the result i was getting. That turning of your body for full extension makes total sense now, and i did reduced it after one session from 20+ strokes to 11-12!!! Unbelievable!!! It makes sense when you think about it, because it acts like a screw in when you turn it in a whole…

    I Love it!!!

    Thanks again for everything, keep up the great job you are doing!

    You are truly an inspiration!!!

  291. This was an awesome post. Following TI and with just a bit of extra researching online, I went from swimming less than 4 laps in my pool to easily swimming 70 in about a month and a half. I’m thrilled to do my first triathlon this summer and since I’ve learned the right way I actually LOVE swimming now. It’s relaxing, NOT difficult and I’m so happy I tried this.

  292. As an almost national swimmer, i recently managed 130 lengths of crawl non-stop, awesome tips though and a beautiful stroke

  293. This is absolutely the best sporting advice I’ve ever come across. The feeling of gliding through the water is insane! Thanks Tim, keep up your great work!

  294. Hi Judy here from Melbourne,

    Great tips for free style. Whilst being a swimmer all my life I could never “get” the freestyle. Your tips have enhanced me and now I am flying – whoo whoo.

    I used to try to snatch tips from the pool’s girl team but didn’t get any better.

    Thanks so much, I love my swimming (even though it’s a buggar on the long hair!!!)


  295. Inspiring. But I can only doggie paddle about 20 feet I can’t actually swim with my face in the water. Any idea how to get past that?

  296. This is such a great article and a good read indeed. I know how to swim yet I never knew that there are essential steps that will enable us to swim efficiently and safely. I will definitely try these crucial steps at home so that I’ll be able to become a great swimmer. I will definitely encourage my friends as well to read this amazing article. 🙂

  297. Thank your post. I have been wanting to do triathlons for a long time but I have avoided swimming out of fear. I have been having problems with the breathing portion and I panic when I feel I can’t catch enough air. I know I have a long way to go but reading and seeing these clips you posted helped understand better what I need to do to master just learning to swim properly. I will definitely be trying these skills today.

  298. Keeping your head looking straight down at the bottom is ridiculous. Otherwise I don’t understand how anyone could consider TI groundbreaking. It’s just a way to sell you swimming lessons, but you would be better off with an attentive coach.

    1. I do a lot of the teacher training of TI coaches and one of the things we require of our teachers is that they teach from in the pool, hands-on, right next to the swimmer so that they can make immediate, gentle corrections and give immediate feedback. Doesn’t get more attentive than that! As far as looking straight down being ‘ridiculous’, it would indeed be better for visibility to look forward, the problem with that is that it breaks the head-spine alignment and causes the lower body to sag and sink so its really not possible to optimize body position without looking down. Having said that, people often misinterpret this and end up pushing their head too low in the water, so for the sake of clarity I’ll say that although the face should be looking down, the alignment of the back of the head should stay level, not pushed under the surface. So basically its a neutral head position (in line with the spine) not a low head position. Same as you would hold your head whilst walking and looking slightly down at the ground.

  299. Thanks for sharing this with such a wide audience. There are so many unnecessary water-related deaths each year. Posts like this give people the confidence to get out there and learn to love the water!

  300. Read this blog post, went on Amazon and purchased the DVD.

    Went from 1 x 25 meters to 22 x 25 meters (without stopping) in about 5 swim sessions!

    Brilliant! Thanks Tim!


    P.S. My aim is 60 lengths without stopping (a swimmers mile)

  301. Tim,

    The Vanquisher goggles come with multiple nose pieces. It sound like you need a smaller one. Switching should eliminate the need to pinch your nose piece every few laps.

    -Father of Four Competetive Swimmers

    (Goggles are the #1 time waster/procrastination aid for swimmers of all ages and abilities.)

  302. Hi there,

    This is so inspiring. I’m forwarding to a few friends. Congratulations on finding a new love for swimming! I felt the same way when I was learning to scuba dive (before I even learned to swim more than a doggy paddle). Eventually, I found a way to be brave, but your story is so much more inspiring.

    I also love the advice you give on gear and practicing in the right pool. I work for a small family owned and operated swim gear company and would love a gear review from you, if you’re interested. Gear would be free, but we would want your honest opinion!

    Please let me know if you’re interested. Congrats on facing a fear and conquering it!

    – Michelle

  303. I am 75 years old and I had lung cancer 10 years ago and had a full resection of my right lung leaving me with two good lobes on my left side. I am in relatively good shape and told by Dr that my lungs have expanded to where I have about 60 to 70% capacity of a normal person. I have a spin bike and I spend 30 minutes 3 times a week and get my heart rate up to 90-95 percent. My problem is that for the last 3 weeks I’ve been trying to swim and while I’ve gotten better at it I still get out of breath even after one lap and I have to take a break between each lap. Has anyone with this lower lung capacity been able to use this system.

  304. Thank you, Tim Ferriss for this article. I have no idea who you are, but I came upon this article while googling trying to find a way to learn to swim at 48, since I signed up for a triathlon that was coming in a month. A month ago, I couldn’t even swim a lap without being completely out of breath and feeling like I’m going to drown. Two nights ago, I swam a quarter of a mile nonstop. All because I followed all your tips. You taught me how to swim. Thank you. Today, I am challenging myself to the very first triathlon and I am excited. I will bring your tips with me…long lead arm, swim downhill, stroke length, not stroke rates. 😊

  305. Amazing advice got the book ordered can’t wait watched all the vids helping me a lot thanks I’ve done now 11 strokes 25 metres amazing feeling when accomplish what you dream of doing massive influence from 22 to 11 🏊🏼👌🤗

  306. I just taught myself to swim in an hour, using your method.

    I’m staying at a country-house hotel for a week’s holiday, and my wife and six year old daughter are using the indoor pool everyday. I get in the water too, but can’t swim. I thought I’ve got to learn, as I’m missing out. I managed to float on my back by lying completely horizontal and kicking my legs gently. I thought that swimming on my front can’t be much different.

    I searched the internet for “how to teach yourself to swim” and this website came up. I read your article last night and watched some of the videos.

    This afternoon, I put on some goggles, got into the pool and pushed out completely horizontal face down. I followed the advice here, and was amazed how easy it was. Reach long with my arms and stay calm, don’t kick too much with my legs, focus on being streamlined, and turn my body so that I swim on my side as I reach forward.

    I’ve got to improve my breathing technique, as I’m nervous about trying to draw in air when my mouth is so close to the water, but this will come with more experience. I must remember to exhale when my head is down, and then inhale every few strokes as I roll my head. It’s only been an hour, after all; so I can’t expect to be completely perfect first time out !!

  307. THANK YOU Tim! I’ve ordered the book and DVD and will implement your notes today or tomorrow when I get to Gold’s gym pool again. I like swimming but it has always been a struggle – I look forward to making it a JOY.

    Rock on – thanks for all you do!

    Bea Hooper

  308. Green swimming pool everybody like.It is also my dream.I agree with your tips about soft water swimming pool.I have all your post list,Thanks for this post.

    [Moderator: Link removed]

  309. I was just listening to your podcast today and then popped over to your blog and saw your post about Total Immersion. I also took it and it was AMAZING for my swimming. We are fortunate to have a master coach Shane Eversfield live in our town and teach sessions all the time. [Moderator: link removed]

  310. Thanks for helping me to learn how to swim. At 25 years old I never swam laps, only lounged in pools. Realizing that I couldn’t actually swim, i began researching how to do so, and I found this. After about 8-12 hours in the pool i was able to swim for about 20-30 minutes straight.

  311. I have been learning to swim for last 6 months.still at the pool side practicing kicking motion and where tried putting the stuff taught by the swim teacher I topple n reach to pool side.when I am trying to swim I foret the steps n start doing my own stuff quickly n start to drown.i feel swimming is not for me.

  312. Tim when you said that you would be out of breath and your heart would be racing, I totally felt your pain. So today after reading your blog and watching your linked videos, I gave your tips a try. Oh my God! What a difference. All I did today was keep my face looking straight down, kicked less and brought my arms in more at a 45 degree angle rather than big swings and extend in front of my head and I suddenly was not as exhausted after every lap. I used to have to use the elementary back stroke after every free style lap to catch my breath, but I was able to knock out seventeen laps, with two back stroke laps today. I still paused a moment between each lap, but not gasping like I used to. Again this was only my first day, so my new techniques all had bad form and I had to keep reminding myself what to do – but wow with a little more practice, I can only imagine the progress I will make. Thank you so much for the tips!

  313. I love all the tips maybe tomorrow I won’t have to fight for air at the wall… you said try to get to 1 km and I swim 2 km a day for 4 days and I have very good coaches that helped me achieve my goals in swimming… I am definately trying out those techniques thx… do you have anything for butterfly, back and breast if so plz tell me I am lacking talent on them

  314. Total Immersion works! I read Tim’s article in January of 2016 when I could not even swim a lap. Ever since, I’ve been diligently practicing Total Immersion techniques twice or three times a week. Yesterday, after a little over a year, I swam 500 meters in 9 minutes (took me almost 15 min a year ago) and finished 40th among 220 coed swimmers in a Sprint triathlon race. I’m signed up for a half iron man this summer and am confident I will do it. Fyi, I’m almost 50. So awesome!

  315. I have swum my whole life and live on an island in a warm climate. I swam competitively as a kid but I don’t remember ever having a technical swim lesson. Lately I have been super inspired by my ability to uplevel and I have been swimming three times a week for an hour in the open water, it has been hard going and I had been alternating between 100 freestyle strokes and 20 breaststroke to recover. Last night I watched some of the video from Tim’s blog and decided to dive in this morning and give the TI technique a go, maybe it might improve my swimming or give me something to work on. The first thing I tried was to change the entry point of my hands and to push them down and forward deeper and with more reach, I was moving much quicker than usual covering the first few 100 yards relatively quickly. Next I worked on my body roll and relying less on a kick. I noticed that there was a significant discrepancy between my right and left arm entry point and reach. I corrected this by practicing the left arm entry and push and instead of only letting my body turn to the right for breath I let myself see the ocean on either side clearly from my body roll. I added a flick kick in the middle of the body roll, which seemed natural and easy and finally began to use the side of my head, top of my ear deeper into the water at the top of the roll on either side which caused the speed and efficacy to increase without any tiredness. Amazing! To top it all off I swam at least 1 km easily without pause, total freestyle! Came out of the water toying with the idea of joining an open water race this November in Barbados. Crazy thinking, but I just might do it….

  316. Total Immersion can be a good system for people to improve their swimming abilities with. I find the title of the post here to be slightly misleading because Tim can make it to the other side and back.

    I work at a local pool where my students sometimes even struggle with anxiety that can be so severe that they can’t even put their heads underwater. It’s unfortunate, because they are the ones that have the hardest time finding useful advice to help themselves.

    If you are struggling with any kind of anxiety in the water, the Total Immersion Method will cause you to fall flat because you are missing the ability to remain calm and relaxed while you are swimming.

    Before you try TI, build up some comfortability in the pool. Make sure you can dunk your head underwater comfortably for at least 10 seconds. Make sure you feel relaxed with your eyes closed underwater. Try different things to help build up some confidence in the water before you get all fancy with the drills.

    Good luck you guys

    [Moderator: link removed.]

    1. Hi there, We definitely address anxiety and comfort issues prior to getting into any propulsion. One of the things my dad really focused on in his last book was the issues of swimmer comfort and how that needs to be addressed before anything else so that the swimmer is not operating in survival mode. This is why balance and relaxation are the keystones above all else. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify! – Fiona Laughlin (Terry’s daughter and TI coach)

  317. As someone who has taught swimming for half a decade this is good, and bad.

    Let me explain it is all about the aquatics Dynamics of your movement. The way the method explained it, it really got about halfway there. For most people this may be alright, but I makes me cringe anytime I see it. The biggest thing is the wrist, If it is loose you lose. You waste energy when you let it drag. It should stay locked, out of everything that is the only thing I will drone about.

    Just keep in mind swimming is exercise, low impact? Not really. Lesser impact? Sure.

    Easy? Even for runners, sprinters, or bikers? Hell no.

    It’s completely different, always keep that in mind.

    1. Hi Dustin, We don’t teach people to drag their wrists when swimming whole stroke. What we teach is for the hand to be relaxed during the recovery, then to use the hand to pierce the water on the entry and extension and to then shape the entire length of the arm from fingertips to shoulder in the most effective position to create a holistically connected leveraging action. We never teach having a disconnected hand as you seem to have perceived it. Rather, to not have a hand that is excessively tensed in such a way that it does nothing to contribute to propulsion. Having taught adult swimmers TI for 30 years I can say unequivocally that the average adult beginner swimmers holds an excess of tension in the body and in particular the hand and fingertips that is not only unnecessary but counterproductive to forward movement. That is not to say that we teach total relaxation to the point of shapelessness. There is a vast gap between excessive tension and excessive relaxation and the general adult swimmers errs on the side of excessive tension which is why we focus on relaxation. If they erred on the side of excessive relaxation to the point where they held no proper alignment or leverage, we would focus more on tension, but thats patently not the case. Thanks! – Fiona Laughlin (Terry’s daughter and 30 year TI coach)

  318. Excellent tips, Tim, indeed…. I’d like to share with you that I learned to swim when I was 46 years old, after a very long period of time living with fear to water…. But, once I drank several gallons of water during my first classes learning the basics, I couldn’t stop myself of trying more and more distance… Now, each time I find a good water place (beach, rivers, lakes, interesting pools, even underground flows, I spend minutes, hours, swimming and enjoying those delicious flavors….

    These tips are really excellent, so be sure I’ll apply them immediately, to improve my own technique,…!


  319. This first video is amazing. I’m going to order the book right now. Discovering your blog has been inspirational as my goal has been to find amazing routines from others and replicate it. Thanks for what you do!

  320. I have been an avid swimmer since the early nineties. I bought Terry Laughlin’s book and followed the principles within, it is a landmark book!

    I would like to draw your attention to one problem that may crop up while attempting to follow Terry’s advice.

    There is a tendency to over-reach on the free-style catch and that can lead to shoulder problems. For me part of the over-reaching included keeping my hand too close to the surface of the water when I started my catch.

    I corrected it this way. I stood with my back touching a wall and raised my arms above my head. The point at which my arms wouldn’t go any farther with out increased effort is the same angle i keep my catch at when i am swimming.

    My shoulder problems stopped soon after I started the deeper catch.

    Clearly my shoulders need to be more flexible but sometimes the ideal stroke for you is not the ideal stroke that Terry (or anyone else) says.

    1. Hi Peter, the issue that you speak of “overreaching” is not one that we teach at TI because we very much emphasize a steeper angle of extension PRIOR to the ‘catch’ but thank you for the opportunity to clarify. We teach swimmers to enter the hand on the tracks at a steep enough angle that when they rotate and extend to full extension of the lead arm, that hand should already be deep enough to go into the ‘catch’ at an angle that is both healthy for the shoulder as well as in an effective position for leverage. We never teach people to extend the hand straight in front of the shoulder which does indeed lead to a ‘catch’ that would be at a disadvantageous angle for both shoulder health and for proper leverage. Thanks for your comment! – Fiona Laughlin (Terry’s daughter and TI Coach)

  321. We might never swim fast and gracefully like those guys and girls in the Olympics, but everybody can and must learn to float and move in the water. Moving or even just being in water is one of the most natural, low impact exercises and should be considered as fundamental in our physical development. Also think about this – being in water might be our last resort and option to exercise when we get older or suffer from injuries. I think that learning to swim is one of the best investments in our health. Swimming is for the body what meditation is for the mind. Did you know that you can actually meditate while swimming? Thank You for the continues inspiration and great content!

  322. Looking forward to trying it out. Loved Diana Nyad’s book find a way. Really makes me glad there aren’t Jellyfish in the pool. Also enjoyed Marcia Cleveland’s book Dover Solo. Let me know if you ever need a good person to interview on learning golf. Ollen Stephens, PGA Master Professional (Teaching & Coaching) can help.

  323. I know this is old but maybe still get a reply. Recently took a adult class for swimming. I just turned 40 in good shape and ultimately wanted to conquer a goal of swimming I never learned. I have improved a lot in the 10 week course but when swimming I just get burned out very quickly. Which being in good shape has frustrated me. I ask my instructor why this is? I can run 5k /10knraces no problem at all do free weights take fitness classes no issues keeping up. I get in the pool and old ladies lap me. Of course being new this was my instructors reason. Anyways came across TI

    Swimming and it made perfect sense to me. But what I do not understand if you just learning wouldn’t it be best to learn a correct energy saving form vs a energy sucking form? Why has this style not gone more main stream virtually no instructors no anything about it? My goal is to one day compete in a iron man but the rate I’m going now just seems near impossible with my swimming just pathetic. Did you learn TI completely by yourself I see many drills require a second person. I wish I could find someone locally to help me out but does not look like any TI instructors are in my area.

    1. Hello Chris,

      Thank you taking the time to post. As a TI Coach and Terry Laughlin’s daughter, I appreciate what Tim has done so much. His support of TI allows us to reach an even wider audience and help more people. The reason TI is not as well known as it should be is a complicated answer. In short, Terry revolutionized swim instruction from a teaching/coaching perspective, but the focus has always been on content, rather than a business structure. Terry was first and foremost a teacher who cared about students, rather than a marketing whiz or a business guru. Pure of focus, he truly never gave much thought to the money. His purity of motive is part of why he was so beloved in life (he passed in Oct 2017), as no one could ever say he was solely in it for fame or riches. He loved and lived his work, and his life was one of service. That said, we are entering a new phase of TI where we are attempting to broaden our reach and therefore bring the gift of smooth, fluid swimming to greater numbers of people. It has been so incredible to have savvy and influential supporters like Tim to allow that to be possible, and we are trying to glean wisdom from those in the business community who have the skills to help us reach more people. We know a lot about swimming, but we are striving to understand more about business, so that we can hopefully one day have TI coaches in every town. This was always Terry’s dream, and we will do our best to make that dream a reality so that people understand how wonderful swimming can really feel. Thank you Tim, and thanks to all who took the time to comment. If you can come to New Paltz, NY (90 min bus ride from NYC) you could book a class with myself or another member of our staff. We would be honored to have you come.

      1. Oh, and to be clear, your problems are 1000% technique issues, so any nonsense you hear about needing some special swim conditioning is exactly that-nonsense. I have no doubt that feedback is well intentioned, but it could not be more wrong. As you say yourself, you watch less fit persons swim distances that currently seem impossible, so I suspect you already know this. We can help you, I promise. Start with some self teaching materials (there is a free YouTube channel called TI Swim), and see how you fare. Some, like many posters here, find they get satisfactory results on their own. But stay optimistic-you are nowhere near your potential yet, and I assure you that your potential is vast!

  324. Hey, had to say thanks- The other day I listened to a talk you gave to The Long Now foundation (that I had downloaded a few years ago) and heard you talk about Total Immersion- Ive had a terrible time with the swimming forever- I currently live in a small mexican tourist town on the pacific, and with only 2 months left, I`d determined to get the most of it by getting over my fear of the water and swimming everyday, to enjoy the ocean as much as possible before not seeing it for a while. So I`ve been swimming at least once a day for the past few weeks, noticing large improvements in strength.

    But today, I spent ten minutes looking at the advice from total immersion, and this afternoon my session was completely different. Comparatively it couldnt be called swimming what I was doing before- fighting the water, struggling and using such a massive amount of effort. And that`s all said with me being in excellent shape, -working on the one armed handstand now for some idea-

    Today I swam easily four times as far with far far less effort and way more enjoyment.

    Thanks a ton for putting this information out there. Changed my life for sure.

    1. I’m so happy for you, Noah. Feedback like yours motivates us every day to keep doing this work. Each one teach one. You now have skills you can share with another. I say this to my swimmers all the time, and I mean it. You don’t need tears of coaching experience to be helpful, in fact you will be MUCH more helpful than an “expert” who has the wrong type of experience (a coach who promotes what we call conventional kick-and-pull instruction). Have fun and stick with it-you will be amazed at how much you will continue to improve. Happy Laps!

      Betsy Laughlin (TI Coach and Terry Laughlin’s daughter)

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