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Old 03-20-2018
Posts: n/a
Default Frustrated with TI

Am seeking advise on how to proceed as I am really frustrated.

I have been taking TI lessons or going to weekly Fast Forwards for over 14 months, and am having difficulty making it more than 50 yards without needing a break.

Every few weeks I seem to reinvent the stroke based on an occasional comment made by a coach at Fast Forward, only to learn later that my "new" stroke is not TI, and a different coach gives different advise that may or not be something I can build on.

Now, with over 250 hours of dedicated pool-time focused on TI (I am not kidding or exaggerating) and over $1,000 spent, I am really frustrated.

I am otherwise an above-average athlete with a 20 BMI and excellent lungs (and in my early 50's).

It just seems the method of learning TI is fundamentally broken for someone who is athletic but not a natural swimmer. I am really beginning to dislike swimming, and it is not for want of trying.

Any suggestions?

(Where is the effortlessness in this stroke?)
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Old 03-21-2018
bx bx is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Bournemouth, UK
Posts: 422

If I'd dropped $1000 (or £713.92) on lessons for ANYTHING and not achieved a certain minimum standard of skill and relaxation, then I'd be pretty annoyed as well.

I've never used a coach. I can swim 1500m with ease now, but I'm 7 years into this. (Age 46, male.) IF I'd paid that much money for coaching, I'd have expected to reach that milestone at least 4x faster. So, I'd say that this is a problem that TI needs to solve for its customers, make no mistake about it,

My personal experience is that I tend to make incremental improvements on a monthly basis. That's the brutally honest reason why I've never paid for a coach. Even tonight, I got entirely new sensations to do with hip drive that I've never felt before. So that keeps me going.

You might be a bit like me. Are you a stress-prone, competitive person? I can't swim a long distance if I have to share a lane. I like to swim next to the wall and breathe towards the wall so that I don't see other swimmers. Everything puts me off. I need everything calm in order to relax a bit.

Let me also say something about the two beat kick (2bk). It's an advanced skill. In fact I'd now say that
the TI swim style is an advanced stroke. I've gone through three phases of trying to get the 2bk down.
I even went through a long period, more than a year, where I could do 2bk whilst breathing to one side, but had to resort to a flutter kick when breathing to the other side. I mention this to try and "humanise" TI and make you realise that a nice, neat, linear progression is not guaranteed.

On a final note, the one practical bit of advice I can give that turned the
corner in my swimming was to ENGAGE GLUTES all the time, but keep KNEES and ANKLES relaxed and DON'T point your toes.
In the TI coaching materials, glutes engagement is mentioned in passing in just one of the DVDs, to my knowledge.
If you have sinking legs, like most blokes, the glutes are a hip extensor, so they straighten and lift the legs, and greatly help prevent unwanted splaying and waggling. In conjunction with that, do you do hip flexor stretches?

From a very mediocre swimmer who took a long, long time to swim any distance.

Got any video you can upload to youtube?

From a swimmer with BMI > 20 and who hates pushing himself into discomfort and "burning lungs"!

Last edited by bx : 03-21-2018 at 02:45 AM.
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Old 03-21-2018
Tom65 Tom65 is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 29
Default Frustrated with Ti

Late 40's learner, 52 now, never been fit, didn't do Ti.

My guess is you're doing one thing particularly wrong.

Do you ever get told to slow down. That was my bugbear, using speed for balance. Realised it when I tried a snorkel and found I couldswim continuosly no problem, but when I done the math I was swimming at lowly 34 seconds per 25 metres. Also found I had more breath left at the end of a fast 25 metres if I didn't breathe at all. Breathing takes effort.
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Old 03-21-2018
IngeA IngeA is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Germany
Posts: 150

It's difficult do say anything about this without seeing your stroke. So every answer given here is only a guess what can be the problem.
I'm no coach in swimming but in gymnastics and at low level in Ving Tsun Kung Fu. So I have coach experiences in general but not especially in swimming.

Several thoughts, not really connected:

For lean, muscular men it's often more difficult to get a good balance because the legs tend to sink. So what is an advantage on land not necessarily must be an advantage in water. If you have to avoid sinking the legs with a kick or with speed for that your technique is not fit, it's exhausting. For all balancing and streamlining drills are important but for most lean and muscular men more so than for people with more natural buoyancy.

You are investing a lot of money and effort to get good teaching and good results. I think, good fast freestyle is something you REALLY want to master. Sometimes this is exactly what hinders the progress. To REALLY want to be relaxed seldom works.
I know it from other sports. I always try to do my best, to do the exercises as good as possible. Now as it comes to do the exercises relaxed I have great difficulties. Trying to perfect often stands in the way of being relaxed.
If you aren't relaxed in water it takes a lot of effort to be balanced, to breath, to get good timing. In a relaxed stroke you swim with the whole body. The force you need to get forward comes from the core muscles, not from the arm muscles. That makes a big difference because the core muscles are much bigger and naturally more adjusted to long endurance movement than the arm and leg muscles.
So: are you really relaxed or are you swimming "with" your arms and legs?

And that's the other point: are you too relaxed? Relaxed does not mean floppy like a pudding. Relaxed means just enough tension in just the right time. It's difficult to breathe and it hinders streamlining if the core ist floppy. You see, it could be difficult to get the right way between floppy and stiff. In both cases you can't connect the core movements with the arm/ leg movements. But whereas you never can run or jump when you are floppy without getting injured, in swimming being a bit too floppy normally does less harm then being too stiff :o)

The coaches:
What problems a trainer sees in your in your style not only depends on your flaws in your style but also of the experiences of the coaches. The problems the coach strongly had himself or the problems most of his other students have, are the problems he will correct first. The flaw that he corrects will be in your stroke but they are not necessarily really your first problem. As many flaws and problems may cover another, it's not always easy to hit the point, even for coaches. Nonetheless these corrections will help in whole but at first will not bring the overwhelming result one expects.
And the other thing: not always coaches and student are speaking the "same language". The explanation that helps one student sometimes another one doesn't help at all. He will need another explanation.

Best regards


Last edited by IngeA : 03-21-2018 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 03-21-2018
WFEGb WFEGb is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Hamburg
Posts: 1,104

Hello Jamesgs,

only little thoughts additionally to Inge's, BX's and Tom65's.

Am seeking advise on how to proceed as I am really frustrated.

I have been taking TI lessons or going to weekly Fast Forwards for over 14 months, and am having difficulty making it more than 50 yards without needing a break.
I do believe, but it's hard to do (as a TI-coach), that your story really is a TI-story. (Seems to be more a story of "normal" swim training.) Are you sure, the coaches you worked with are TI-coaches, or are they "normal" coaches telling when have been asked... yes, yes, we do these TI-things also, but... Did you ever had a clam talk with your coaches? I can't imagine, a TI-Coach would give a single advise without any really individual support... and without asking how it worked, and how to go on further...

...and I'm irritated about your Fast Forward - courses. Because TI-FF-courses or TI-Smart Speed-courses are ment for swimmers, who are able to swim at least 100m with relaxed strokes. And from TI's point of view there are several things before that, especially TI-balance and TI-streamline...

If you're really winded after 50m, with your skills described, you must care a lot of unnecessary tension while swimming.

Seems you are a goal-oriented athlete, willing to put time and focus into your way. So I can't imagine the second thing: When in TI you should have worked with several FPs. And I can't imagine that you don't notice any difference before and after mindfully doing some drills/relaxed TI-movements 4000-7000 times...

It just seems the method of learning TI is fundamentally broken for someone who is athletic but not a natural swimmer. I am really beginning to dislike swimming, and it is not for want of trying.
Third thing I can't imagine, because I started my TI-journey in my early sixties am not what you would call an athletic male, but to be shouldn't be a handicap... But maybe, maybe, maybe... we have to accept TI is not the one and only method for everyone... although we're very sure, it's the vey best :-)

Any suggestions?
Only three actually:
- First Charles Couturier (missing his posts here in the forums...), a non TI-Coach, leads one-day courses where he brings everyone (till he posted it) to swim 700m continues FS in one day. His secret is nearly Inge's: SLow down. And his secret to swimmers who couldn't get it on first attempt: Slow down even more!
- Second my TI-hint: Assure yourself, that you're really working with a TI-Coach. And if not too discouraged for now, take a one- or two-days Workshop on TI-foundation led by a TI-mastercoach. Neither other participants nor myself ever said: Nothing found to help me, nothing happened with my stroke/struggle... Maybe, maybe, maybe... you're the very first, then your only chance is to be proud of it being a very singular swimmer. (We're all singular swimmers by our own, but you...)
- Third as Inge wrote: Put a video-link showing your actual stroke in the Forum asking for some advice. (Best would be side-view and front-view, both above and below surface.)

(Where is the effortlessness in this stroke?)
Believe me, it's just before your nose, you only have to find your way to pick it up!

Hope you'll find some encouragement and joy in (TI-)swimming again!

Best regards,

Last edited by WFEGb : 03-21-2018 at 12:19 PM.
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Old 03-21-2018
CoachJohnnyWiden's Avatar
CoachJohnnyWiden CoachJohnnyWiden is offline
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Luleå, Sweden
Posts: 19

Hi Jamesgs!

What excellent comments you have got so far.

What really caught my eyes when reading your post is what also Werner reacted to
Originally Posted by WFEGb View Post
...and I'm irritated about your Fast Forward - courses. Because TI-FF-courses or TI-Smart Speed-courses are ment for swimmers, who are able to swim at least 100m with relaxed strokes. And from TI's point of view there are several things before that, especially TI-balance and TI-streamline...
TI Smart Speed (earlier TI Fast Forward), exactly as Werner says, is designed for those who already have the TI basics and are able to swim effortlessly, so I also question if your coach really is a certified TI coach.

Check if he or she is on this list
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Old 03-22-2018
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You are copping massive drag somewhere

Master this you must:

Then you will progress.

"Posture Line & Balance"
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Old 03-22-2018
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P.S what is your breathing pattern?

Go every 4 max (above this is hypoxic training)

Or ideally every 3 bi lateral

If you are going every 2 and are not a pro or high speed swimmer then you are "gassing up" and won't get beyond 50mtrs (2 lengths)
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Old 03-22-2018
CoachBobM CoachBobM is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 647

Originally Posted by Jamesgs View Post
I have been taking TI lessons or going to weekly Fast Forwards for over 14 months, and am having difficulty making it more than 50 yards without needing a break.
What, exactly, are you feeling when you decide that you need a break? Is it fatigue? Breathlessness? Some other feeling?

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Old 03-22-2018
Posts: n/a

Thanks everyone for taking the time to offer me instructive advise.

Coach Johnny and BobM -- the real issue is that I think the Total Immersion learning approach, at least as I have experienced it, is fundamentally broken.

I reached the breaking point a few days ago when it occurred to me that my goal of participating in some form of triathon this year is getting less likely.

More specifically, I took the 4 week class in January, 2017 with the hope of doing at least a Sprint triathlon in late August, 2017 (although my biking and running would put me at the Olympic and maybe the full-triathlon level). As the summer went on, the TI did not fall into place so all plans were postponed. My reset goal was to focus on TI in the fall and winter to build it up, as part of my ongoing hardcore 12-14 hours/week training since January, 2017 in all three disciplines. That is 750+ hours of focused, hardcore endurance training, with swimming the weak point.

My realization was that, at the current rate, it looks like triathlon plans might have to be postponed another year.

The TI marketing message, in simplified form is: an easy-to-learn stroke that, with a bit of effort and continuous learning, will become effortless. I also bought George Leonard's Mastery book (which I try to follow).

My TI learning experience is broken because, after the formal class, there was no real follow through. I immediately participated in weekly Fast Forward after the course and did not miss a session for many months.

I have since come to the conclusion they were of limited value. There seems to be the assumption that the stroke would somehow fall into place with enough practice.

Fast Forward offered the same or similar drills virtually every week. I am not saying these drills are not useful, but there was very limited feedback on the drills or the swimming. (I actually think I have been doing some of these drills incorrectly for over a year -- how does that happen?)

After a few months with limited improvement, I started actively eliciting feedback from the coaches. Once I got them talking, there was usually a flood of observations. They HAD BEEN watching and evaluating but not saying anything.

For example: I apparently was over rotating by shoulders. It took nearly 6 months for a suggested solution (to take wider strokes) was made (and only after I had to miss several weeks of Fast Forwards because my stroke was an unnatural motion and really screwed up my shoulder). I then adapted to the latest advise and taught myself a new stroke, thinking it was TI.

After 2 months of this (in during which I was able to swim 1,200 yards non-stop and I thought I had finally found my effortless "jogging" speed), another coach ripped into me about my stroke breadth being way too wide and I wasn't stretching enough.

A third coach later advised that the problem was not the breadth but that I was not leading with my elbow as I brought my recovery arm out of the water. I have since adapted to his advise (and invented another stroke which I think might be TI) and it feels like the videos I watch (that was in late February, 2018)!

Note that I was twice told not to follow TI Youtube videos but to take direction only from the coaches feedback. In other words, trust us and we will teach you the stroke.

So, my TI learning experience is broken because:
- Fragmented learning because of different coaches (at least 5 of which 1 may be TI certified, although others do seem very competent)
- Cookie-cutter style advise that focused on basic streamlining and mail slot positioning and timing (as an isolated movement). (I also swim too fast.)
- Virtually ZERO feedback on how to include the mail slot as part of the bigger fully body flip/rotation move. NO feedback on what to do with the hand after it enters the mail slot. NO feedback on how to do the pull, etc. NO comments on how to bring it all together into a single fluid maneuver, etc.
- Insufficient useful feedback

The lead coach is on the list you sent me and I am sure you know him well. He coaches TI full-time, and has participated several times in the TI marketing videos.

Again, I am not criticizing the stroke (as I am sure it works). I am venting frustration on how it has been marketed and taught to me (despite a very big effort).

CoachBobM -- after 50 yards I am exhausted because I am trying to bring together all the latest, isolated pieces of advise into a single continuous, fluid motion (and am clearly expending energy in many of the wrong places). My approach is to keep it simple by focusing on right side every stroke until I find the basic stroke, and will later focus on bilateral breathing at a later time.

- James

I have since stopped Fast Forward and am taking TI lessons from a single coach to maintain a consistent conversation.

(And yes, I admit I am venting with these posts but am really pissed off and disappointed. it is not the money; it is the wasted effort and miss-set expectations.)
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