Quite a ridiculous statement, in many ways, at this point in preparation for a Channel swim. But thanks to a new friend and work colleague, Alan Kok, from Singapore, I have been introduced to the concept of Total Immersion swimming. Essentially, it revolutionises everything most of us were taught about how to swim.
To see what I mean, take a look at this video: Click here
Captured by the possibility of this almost effortless style, I bought the book by the pioneer of Total Immersion (or TI), Terry Laughlin, determined to learn how to swim this way myself.
The book spend seven chapters describing the benefits of slaking off our bad swimming habits, and why TI is a more practical application of the laws of physics. It's impossible to argue with. Chapter eight then begins a series of 'drills', designed at teaching your body to accept these new and alien movements. It's about 'muscle memory', training yourself to perform these movements instinctively.
BUT.... I failed utterly at the drills, based on the fact that drill one is all about floating in a balanced position on your back. My legs always sink like stones, resulting in a very frustrating experience, but not daunting my desire to swim TI style.
So instead, I decided to simply try and mimic the movements shown in the video, and described at length in the book. For two and a half hours (admittedly less than the four I had planned), I diligently ensured I was reaching forward, rolling onto my side, angling my body downwards to achieve a balanced stance in the water, and rolled my hips to produced the swing delivered by my arms.
I discovered that my laps of Hampstead pond had decreased from ten minutes to eight. I initially thought this was due to me being fresh, so I decided to swim three laps without a break. I was still at eight minutes. And yet, with regards to physical effort, I felt like I was strolling. It was mentally tiring, certainly, and required utter concentration, lest my muscles instinctively try and revert to movements they were familiar with. Moreover, those muscles were being used in slightly different ways. They began to ache.
After 2.5 hours I estimated I had completed six km. My back muscles were showing signs of fatigue, and maintaining the correct style was becoming difficult. My lap time was dropping as a result, and I decided to take the advice of the author and quit whilst I was ahead. To continue would effectively mean practising bad habits, and this would undermine all of the muscle training I had just done.