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Old 08-20-2012
blazjul blazjul is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 5
Default Practicing, not progressing...thinking of abandoning ship!

I'm beginning to wonder if this program truly is for everybody...I must say it makes a lot of sense and I've watched all of Terry's lectures and he is very persuasive, but...I purchased the Perpetual Motion Freestyle in 10 Lessons DVD 3 weeks ago, and then the book Swimming Made Easy...I have to say, I think Terry takes it a bit for granted how "easy" it is...I'm 50 years old, have never been comfortable in the water; I "swim" but have always gotten out of breath quickly, even though I am in good shape, which is why Terry's lectures struck a chord w/ me...but the progression of the lessons really aren't helping; in particular, I think far more attention should be given to breathing (no, I don't want to purchase yet another book or DVD!)...

I can do the Superman Glide, I can do some skating with my hands relaxed, arm in proper spot head like a laser, but my legs always start to sink as soon as I have no forward motion; they don't seem to create any forward motion (yes I am kicking in the manner depicted on the DVD)...after 2 weeks of practicing lessons 1 & 2 I moved on the 3, breathing, and that's really where problems have started...I CAN'T easily roll from SG to my back w/o using my arms...once on my back, I can breathe, but, even with kicking gently my legs will sink; my legs always sink w/o some type of added propulsion...when I tried the breathing exercises, rolling half way, blowing bubbles underwater, I never feel like I get a full breath, I find I still end up gasping...In the DVD, Terry makes it look effortless (like everything else); hell, he even still has his mouth OPEN when he turns his face back into the water! How the does he do that, and why the heck would he do it while being filmed! It's particularly frustrating for someone like me for whom a lack of oxygen has been a prime problem while swimming...

So, what do I do? In part, I'm venting a bit b/c I think that even though instruction is really broken down in the DVD (I cheated & looked at the next few lessons as well), there are inherent assumptions about everyone being comfortable floating & w/ getting adequate air. I think it's a great program for people who are already comfortable & swim like most people but really want to take it to the next level. But I'm not so sure it's right for me or others like me...

I also wonder if maybe I should forget about freestyle, and experiment w/ a stroke where I don't have to keep my head submerged--the breast stroke? I've never done it in my life, but maybe I'm just not meant to swim freestyle...

Finally, I looked into actual freestyle instruction in my area (Long Island) and the cost is $999 from this place in Bayshore! (seems they only offer private instruction) Even if I had the money, I'd fear I'd do it and STILL wouldn't get it!

Any advice? Does my idea of trying a different style make any sense?
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Old 08-20-2012
CharlesCouturier CharlesCouturier is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,244

Happiness isn't a destination, it's a vehicle.

Whilst I can certainly understand your dismay, and whilst not being a TI expert, from the little I know about Terry, I'm sure he would rather see you enjoying the process, the discovery (of all the good that improving your swimming can bring).

All that said though, there comes a time where self coached approach needs a little boost, ie the expertise of a coach.

To answer your original questioning, Freestyle is not for all. I've seen very rare cases where I would recommend a swimmer to forget about his goal of learning that stroke. But it had never occurred for someone as young as you are.

Flexibility is more than likely your biggest obstacle at the moment, that along with carrying too much tensions (often, one leads to the other, and it works both ways).

A coach could assess your flexibility level as well as your guide you on the way to learning to relax. I'd definitely favor a TI Coach, in spite of the costs difference (between that, and say any swim instructor like we find so many).

**edit** I just reread your post, and noticed that you had already considered coaching, but that you find it a bit expensive. The alternative is to get a relative to film you during some of your attempts. Post the result here in this thread.

I wish I could help you more, but I know next to nothing about the TI way. I had recorded what I consider as being the Beginners' version of a very important and widely accepted drill, namely the single arm drill. I tend to approach it as a progression though. Let me explain:

Here's the final result:

OK, let me move one step back. This clip was recorded, after an SOS post got posted on a local French forums where I live. A person had registered to an Ironman event, rushed by the time as the registrations would only be opened for a couple of days (before it gets sold out), and that a full year before the event takes place. He thought every thing would be fine with his local triathlon club, but ended up, 6 months before the event, still unable to swim perpetually. So I offered my help. When he showed up, that day, before the 90min session, he couldn't swim more than 200m before being completely exhausted. After the session (again, 90min long), he went to the public section and swam 2k non stop. He did compete in his Ironman event, yesterday, and completed the 3.8k without any problem whatsoever. He was racing in the 45-49 category, so not much younger than you are...

What did we do during this 90min session you may be wondering?

We did this:
First, show me how you naturally float:

Easiest position. This to me, is a buoyancy test. Everyone can do this. If in this position, lungs full of air you sink, then you're a sinker. Otherwise, you float...
Then prone position...

Then this is probably what you refer too as your superman's glide here...

After we worked on static buoyancy, we introduce some light flutter kick:

That one here sucks big time (water in the nose if you lack shoulder flexibility)...

But it's still an important one as it leads to this...

Once you reached the above, you're done. The worst is behind you. You can then perform it with the breathing...

And, maybe you've already guessed where I want to take you with all this. Look back at the Single Arm (beginner's version, my version that is).
You'll notice that
Position A = Side kicking with face outside water, eyes looking up to the sky. Body position. almost on your back.
Position B = Add the breathing, ie get side position and put the face in the water to breathe out
Position C = Recover the arm to end up in perfect prone flat position
Then take a pull and revert back to position A.

Again, this important Single Arm Drill. But that time, performed by the subject as recorded near the end of this 90min session and therefore just prior he switches lane to swim his first perpetual free style...

The most important thing here. Position A is your base camp. This is where you should rest, whilst breathing. Do not make this step shorter than it should. And it should be as long as it takes to allow you to find A) Balance and B) Breathing position. Switch to Position B only after making sure you feel happy and comfortable with position A.

So, that's pretty much what we did, and it's all it took to allow this man to change his perception of swimming. So you may be much closer than you think you are. Who knows?

Caveat. I participated to this discussion on goodwill, being well aware that a TI-Coach will always be in a better position to guide you with drills (or progressions) that are certainly superior to what I proposed.

All the best. Don't give up.

Last edited by CharlesCouturier : 08-20-2012 at 06:24 PM.
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Old 08-20-2012
harling harling is offline
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 31
Default Why give up?

Hi Blazjul,

(I have re-read your post since |I replied, so much of this might not apply if you don't swim at all. Breastroke is often easiest to become competent enough to swim for a longer time and gives you a feel for the water and a rythm of breathing. I still think you should be fine with crawl, but it might be worth playing around with breastroke first.)

Why give up, you have just got started?

I am replying not because I am an expert, but because I could not do one length of freestyle at 50 yrs old, and just yesterday, 4 years later, did a 4.6 mile swim in the sea in under 2 hours - kind tide (around Brownsea Island in the UK, where the Scouts started - gorgeous). You will be able to swim for miles if you keep going - honest! TI isn't the ONLY way to do it, but it is a big help to keep improving, to keep you motivated, and especially enjoying it. I love the continuous improvement mentality.

I agree about breathing - in that it is the key to sustainable lengths. I hate pain, but this is my personal route to cracking swimming. When I turned 50 I started doing breastroke regularly - I could already swim breastroke - to try and get fit. I didn't do freestyle as I couldn't imagine being able to master freestyle. Then a few months later started to try freestyle, having enviously watched people doing it in the fast lane. (NOTE: At this stage I had no TI, no books. It was nearly a year later after lots of looking at Youtube and Google for info. when I eventually found TI).

I decided to just go for it, and built up to a very awkward 1 length, then 6 poor, struggly lengths, then 16 lengths, then 20 lengths. If I was out of breath I would go slower, and hang the technique, just get there at this stage - doing more lengths was my biggest motivator and I am not sure drills only would have motivated me or got me some mesasurable success fast enough (only my opinion, I might be a much better swimmer now if I had have done the drills early on). One day I just went for it and didn't stop when I was tired and breathless.

By 6 months from turning 50 I did 50 lengths for the first time and found it not too bad either - when I did I was elated (my birthday was May and I did the first 50 lengths in early November). I think MOST people can do this, and it is a very reasonable goal. I had no teaching or instruction and no book to follow, you have a big advantage.

I am very average, average height, not fit, have a history of mild asthma, small lungs, very few muscles but somehow my body just got it; it had to or I was going to drown. I am sure this was because I learned to float reasonably well and especially to relax, so swimming was just a matter of paddling my body forwards. When I eventually found TI I discovered what a bad stroke I had, especially when I took videos of my stroke to analyse - what a shock (bad)! I eventually got the original book and Easy freestyle. I have never cracked sustainable bilateral breathing - but constantly work on it in practices, but still hate it and don't use it at all on long swims (so I still have loads to learn)....

Since then I have been improving my stroke, do versions of the drills a lot; at the moment focussing on one arms swimming with switches from left to right, this also helps me practice getting air on both sides and evens up my stoke.

But always I have found swimming full stoke for a significant proportion of my swims more rewarding. Knowing I had done 50 lengths, 100 lengths is very satisfying, more than anything else - other people may go for speed or something ese I guess.

When I started, I always felt that if I kept it up that I would be much better in 4 or 5 years time, and here I am nearly 4 years on, much better (I have been told this too). How the time has flown! I guess you get as good as you are willing to practice.

Practice, practice, practice, and especially on balance and trying to really relax, feel the water supporting me, and caressing with my arms the water and body rotation are my constant aim. I want to feel and look graceful and aren't too concerned with speed (I have found that I have improved on speed as well). People even comment on how smooth I look (I know I don't, I have seen my videos, but many things are relative).

It has been a fantastic journey, so why give up, you sound like you are much fitter than I was at 50?

I know I have done it all wrong, but I have loved it mostly with set backs a plenty. Sorry this is a bit of "my story", but you know how to do it all ready, maybe watch what other crawlers do too (but don't use kick boards or floats I never have as they get in the way of balance and feeling the water - again only my opinion). If I can swim freestyle anyone can. Sorry for the waffle.

Good luck!

NB I did go on a British TI weekend 2 years into my swimming which was very, very helpful, but I don't feel is essential to get going especially if you can't afford it - icing on the cake. You have to practice at home anyway to really make progress.

Last edited by harling : 08-20-2012 at 06:45 PM. Reason: Have re-read the original post
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Old 08-20-2012
Rincewind Rincewind is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 340

[quote=blazjul;30515.after 2 weeks of practicing lessons 1 & 2 I moved on the 3, breathing, and that's really where problems have started....

So, what do I do? ....

2 weeks is way too short a time to make any conclusions. My advice would be to not stress yourself out too much. I think part of your problem is a weak kick. I have the same issue due to really bad ankle flexibility and I 'fixed' it by wearing fins.
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Old 08-20-2012
tony0000 tony0000 is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Detroit, MI
Posts: 124

I'll just add a small point: Don't be discouraged. In my experience, breathing while doing the various TI breathing drills can be more difficult than breathing during the actual (final) TI stroke.

Good luck,

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Old 08-20-2012
rgiven rgiven is offline
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 31

Before giving up, try the drills with fins. I think people get over worried about getting addicted to them, but if the alternative is all this frustration you have nothing to lose, get some short aqua sphere zip fins or the speedo silicone ones.

Even if you never swim well without them, who cares if the alternative is not swimming at all!
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Old 08-20-2012
timmct timmct is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 18
Default Been there, done that.

Blazjul, all's I can say is 'been there, done that'. Had almost the same experience you're having right now and probably felt the same about walking away a few times, too.


I'm just a tad older than you (51) and only started TI early this summer. Sounds like we have similar levels of fitness and swimming experience. It was a lifelong goal to swim better and there's no better way than TI. Period.

I was struggling with lesson 3 as well. Seemed I could never get it right. My problem was that my lead hand/arm would roll towards the side wall along with my body instead of remaining pointed towards the other end of the pool. From my perspective, I was following the video exactly.....but in reality my arm was no longer in front of me (supporting me) and I was sinking while turning to air. It took someone to point that flaw out to me...I would have never figured it out on my own. Some shoulder flexibility and motion issues probably contributed to the problem, but knowing the correct problem makes it a lot easier to find the solution.

Once I got that sorted out, I've made tremendous progress. Before I wasn't able to go 20ft, now I regularly swim several lengths....not the 100's of laps others talk about here (yet) but exponentially more than I've ever done before.

Bottom line is: don't give in. Ask someone at the pool; a lifeguard or someone to try and see what you're missing. Hey, what's that cost? Nada. They may not be TI savvy, but they may see the 'obvious mistake' that you may be missing.

If that don't work, post a video or there's always a trip to New Paltz. It's not that far from the Island and definitely cheaper than $900 bucks!!


Last edited by timmct : 08-20-2012 at 08:37 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 08-20-2012
blazjul blazjul is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 5
Default Thanks (from Blazjul)

I am so grateful for the response my post of only earlier today has received! Harling & Charles offered some very good advice as well as their personal experience, and others offered words of support.

I think maybe I expected too much too you know how I learned about TI? From Tim Ferriss' book The Four Hour Body...he has some good things in there, but he's also a bit gimmicky (should have guessed from the title; he also authored The Four Hour Workweek)...he describes himself as never being able to swim well, but then discovering TI, and...becoming a really good swimmer in just 10 days!

I realize it's going to take more work, targeted work, and maybe a day or two away, after practicing daily for 3 weeks, isn't such a bad thing...I'm going to look at the links Charles provided...I'm also going to really work on getting comfortable; I really don't think I can float (I forgot to mention that I'm rather thin, very little fat), but I think I will explore using fins and/or trying the breaststroke. I mean, I've spent decades swimming this (frustrating) way, so I think I definitely need more than 3 weeks!

Ideally, I would have a coach, or at least someone to observe me...maybe I'll be able to find a somewhat more affordable option (not the $999 mentioned in my original post) when I get back home. In in Florida now (easy to swim year round), but will be back up north to Long Island in September and I'm determined to find/join an indoor pool so I don't have to wait 10 long months.

Once again--thank you all! I was at a low point, but your generous replies have rejuvenated me!
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Old 08-20-2012
andyinnorway andyinnorway is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,680

If you are in the Orlando Area then Andy Heinrich could probably give you a single private lesson to unlock your frustration. That wouldnt cost you $999. Click on Learn TI and look for the nearest coach to you.

Some people appear to pick things up much quicker than others but this maybe because they are masters at self learning. Discovering new skills as an adult is really challenging as many of us have had years off.

However, I have found through learning to be disciplined in my approach to TI and swimming in general it is helping me learn other new skills at a much faster rate and with deeper focus (Triathlon, DIY, car mechanics, singing).

For me the TI approach is much more than swimming, its teaches you how to solve a challenging or new problem through patience, focus and breaking down the whole into manageable parts. This is why I think so many of us are so addicted to it and why it transforms so many lives beyond the pool.
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Old 08-20-2012
Rincewind Rincewind is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 340

Originally Posted by rgiven View Post
Before giving up, try the drills with fins. I think people get over worried about getting addicted to them, but if the alternative is all this frustration you have nothing to lose, get some short aqua sphere zip fins or the speedo silicone ones.

Even if you never swim well without them, who cares if the alternative is not swimming at all!
Exactly my view as well. Also the balance drills despite appearing at the beginning of the learning process are actually not 'beginner' level drills at all.

Those drills are really really hard to do if your kick generates little to no propulsion.

Even the extremely advanced swimmers have problems with balance if they are not moving in the water.
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