In the current TI method, we like to talk about the 3 stages of teaching progression: Balance, Streamline, and Propulsion. Generally speaking, mastering swimming requires mastering skills in those 3 areas in that order. One should generally have some basic level of mastery before progressing to the next level or else they will have difficulty executing the next level’s drills properly.
At a detail level, those 3 levels of progression are really areas of emphasis during our training and in drills we give to our students. In reality, you are touching upon all 3 concepts in every drill, but just to varying degrees of focus as we want to emphasize some particular concept at each level.
One thing I hear when I talk to people about TI and see also in forum posts around the internet, is that people think TI just stops there and our swimmers never get fast. And swimmers often get confused by our materials or if they do not continue coaching from a TI coach that they reach a certain point in their swimming and they don’t advance any further. Often I hear TI is at fault, or is missing something, or isn’t for competitive swimmers. This is far from the truth.
As a level beyond Balance/Streamline/Propulsion, I like to talk about Optimization, which is what you do when you master Balance, Streamline, and Propulsion. But what is Optimization?
1. Further mastery of Balance, Streamline, and Propulsion in coordination, time, effort, speed, etc.
Drills don’t end with what is shown in our DVDs, or with your workshop, or with your first few sessions with a coach. We teach with more advanced progressions to fine tune your swimming, and also with focal points which are individualized to your own issues. Teaching the use of tools like the tempo trainer and tracking can help bring consistency and accurate, actionable information to your training, versus training in a data vacuum from workout to endless workout. The next level is to take your newfound skills across time, and to train you to hold form with faster tempos and for longer periods of time, and to increase your capacity to generate velocity while not wrecking your streamline and balance.
2. Application of Balance, Streamline, and Propulsion in more situations like racing, or in open water.
TI coaches have a wide variety of experiences ranging from short/long course racing to triathlon to open water racing to crossing the English channel. We apply TI techniques to make swimming in those situations more effective.
3. Pursuit of a higher goal than just mastery of swimming itself. This can be something like comfort in the water or obtaining their PR in the swim leg of Ironman. Or it can be using swimming as a means of improving mental focus and growth.
Following on 2., many TI coaches can advise and coach you to your particular goals which go beyond skill-based mastery of swimming. Swimming, like any physical activity, has benefits which can translate to activities outside swimming. Many TI coaches can help you realize the connection between the two, and perhaps even strengthen that connection.
It is an unfortunate fact that many people perceive that TI ends with Balance, Streamline, and Propulsion, or has little or nothing to offer beyond the teachings of the DVDs. Optimization of swimming is something that every TI coach I’ve encountered knows well, especially in the areas of their expertise. My hope is that over time, Total Immersion is more well known as a full system of learning and mastering swimming and for improving aspects of your life beyond the pool.