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Last week we shared an excerpt from a companion instructional manual that Terry Laughlin created for T.I. workshop attendees, adapted from his 2006 book, “Extraordinary Swimming for Every Body.” The purpose of the supplementary material in this manual was to provide practical suggestions to guide T.I. swimmers through the first several weeks or months following a T.I. workshop (or after learning with T.I. self-teaching tools). Continuing in this vein, this week’s post is another concise excerpt from that manual and is focused on the shift in mindset as you get started with Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) Training, after learning the basics of T.I. fundamentals– and illustrates the contrasting benefits of pursuing a Kaizen Training approach instead of a traditional training approach. In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to share more excerpts from the manual on Kaizen Swimming, including the topics of energy conservation, and increasing mastery, distance, and speed. Enjoy… and Happy Laps!  





I’ve emphasized that T.I. Swimmers have a very different mindset from most swimmers. Our paradigm for training is no less distinctive. Those training the T.I. way are not only improving steadily, but also enjoying it more than ever. In a few words, we believe in the pursuit of pleasure, rather than pain. This section provides guiding principles for maximizing the value– and enjoyment– of every hour you spend in the pool (or open water).

Expect improvement. Most adult swimmers have become resigned to swimming year after year with little to show for it. A T.I. Swimmer’s goal should be Kaizen (continuous improvement) Swimming. Because swimming offers limitless opportunities for solving the UHSP (Universal Human Swimming Problem) and increasing self-awareness, you could continue gaining in Mastery for decades. I still make exciting advances every year, and still sense almost limitless possibilities for further improvement. The refinements I’m making are fairly subtle, but my capacity for fine distinctions in position and timing has increased steadily. My current focus is on greater relaxation, especially when swimming faster.


There’s a great deal of “folklore” about swimming technique and training. One goal of T.I. instruction is to replace those misconceptions with clarity on how swimming works and to make that knowledge the basis for effective goal-setting. Since I entered my 50’s, I’ve begun every practice with two conscious intentions. Since I made this my practice– at an age when most swimmers are slowing down– my improvement not only continued, but accelerated. 

Intention #1: My intention in every practice is to swim better than I ever have in my life. Setting the bar that high keenly concentrates one’s mind. Since I adopted that intention, I’ve enjoyed great fulfillment– and even excitement– in virtually every practice. A key to making this happen is to never push off a wall without a specific purpose.

Intention #2: My intention on every set and repeat is to accomplish whatever task I set for myself (whether technique, stroke count, time, or some combination) with as little effort as possible. In conventional training, the goal is typically to work harder, to increase physiological capacity. But time and energy are finite, while opportunities to increase efficiency are virtually infinite. After more than 40 years, I’m still improving my sense of how to swim more economically. 


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. Conditioning will 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.” T.I. 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 on 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 that the nervous system will be trained the way you wish.

Ideal for Fitness Swimming. Many of those who take our workshops 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. T.I. practice 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 enjoy it, you’ll lose interest. Kaizen– Continued Improvement– Swimming will keep your interest higher than conventional training that you do simply because “it’s good for you.”

(3) Increasing intensity is always an option. Once you begin to master the basics of efficient T.I. swimming, 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 increased skill. So if increased yardage causes you to compromise form, don’t swim those distances until you can do so and maintain good form.

Advance beyond the basic T.I. skills with this comprehensive guide on pursuing the kaizen path of swimming to the highest levels of swimming mastery: 

Terry Laughlin’s book– Extraordinary Swimming for Every Body– shows you how!


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