It generally only takes one bad experience with water for people to develop a lifelong fear of swimming. A playful uncle throws you into the deep end of the pool not knowing you aren’t a good swimmer. Or you lost your footing on a slippery sand bank and were under water for longer than you care to recap thinking your life was over. Whatever the reason there are many people who never conquer their fear of water. All the while they have someone telling them how irrational their fear is. For many, it’s as simple as they never find a technique that helps them to fully eradicate this fear. The total immersion swimming technique is the newest in a long line of training strategies that has seen much success in helping people overcome their fears of the water.
Developed by Terry Laughlin, total immersion was developed to assist swimmers on all levels to master and streamline their preferred method of swimming. This method helps people with their body movement and psychological end of swimming that usually halts many folks progress. People who fear being under or in the water are able to develop techniques that will increase the amount of oxygen taken in while decreasing the amount of energy exerted. Generally, when you are young they teach you to increase your arm and leg strength to help you swim faster. In the traditional sense, these two parts of your body worked in opposition of one another causing you to use much more energy to get through the water. Not to mention you’re taught to take short gasps of air when you turn only your head to the side to inhale and exhale. These methods together were both extremely tiring and exhaustive for those who had to swim long distances.
Total Immersion is a renowned swimming method due to the combination of principles including the body’s physical movement through the water. There are three major principles incorporated into this technique. They include balance; teaching one to look at their body much like a boat or a submarine. Balance in the water refers to having hips, shoulders, and head all level with the surface of the water. In traditional methods of swimming, many people keep their head lifted which drags their legs down. Since the legs are already heavier than the head, and our lungs are filled with air your body naturally floats up in that manner. In the total immersion technique, more focus is put on bringing your hips and legs to the surface of the water while keeping your face and torso in the water as well. Streamlining your body to reduce the amount of drag created is another principle that is important to the immersion technique. Static streamlining refers to positions much like that of “skating” in which one arm is extended forward creating a leading point and a tapered body following the arm which makes your arm smaller and shaped like a blade ready to pierce and move through the water. And finally, there is the use of propulsion. This uses full body integration, meaning you are no longer working your torso and arms independently from your hips and legs. This principle utilized coordinated movements to reduce the number of kicks and strokes needed to propel you through the water.
One of the toughest things about learning how to swim is being aware of your body and what it is doing in the water. If you add a fear of water on top of this pile, those who are learning to overcome fears of the water have a ton of things on their plate to think about while in the water. Teaching new swimming mechanics and developing an understanding of their motor capabilities in the water will ensure a novice swimmer improves even after their first practice at learning the total immersion technique.
Laughlin utilized skills that go against what many were taught in their YMCA swim class that help reduce exertions and pain during swim time. Such techniques such as the rag-doll recovery reconditions swimmers to understand the importance of the recovery phase, which had largely been accepted in the swimming world as inconsequential. This core technique of the total immersion practice takes the tiring element of using your arm muscles to pull you through the water out of swimming. For many who fear swimming and panic when they are in the water, this is a great relief. Many people who are not strong swimmers feel they cannot go long distances or tire too easily. This method helps eliminate that as a problem.
If you are someone who has a fear of swimming or you are simply a bad swimmer wishing to refine and increase your abilities in the water, total immersion might be a method worth looking into. As mentioned earlier there are both books and DVD available on this technique. Laughlin goes so far as to explain the tools of the trade that will be needed to ensure success on your new swimming adventures. From what would be the best swimwear to minimize drag, to wearing eye goggles to prevent eye irritation—as your whole face will be immersed in the water. He also suggests starting out in a short and shallow pool until you build confidence and stamina. If ordering a DVD or reading a book on the subject doesn’t seem like the best way to go there are also many aquatic centers that provide hands-on training in the total immersion technique. Checking your local swim centers would be a good place to start on your track for mastering swimming. You can also look here for a demonstration.