“Swimming That Changes Lives” — the new TI Book
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on June 21st, 2011

If you noticed that I’d fallen silent in this space–and on Twitter–for the past month, it’s with good reason. I’ve been working intently on an outline for a new book. The working title is Total Immersion: Swimming that Changes Lives (henceforth TI2). I have high hopes, and strong intentions, for this book. This week marks the 22nd anniversary of the first TI camp, June 18-23, 1989 at Colgate University in Hamilton NY. Six forward-looking swimmers took a leap of faith with me and 22 amazing years later I have an undestanding of swimming (and human nature) I never imagined possible.

My earlier book, Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way to Swim Better, Easier and Faster, (henceforth TI1) has impacted the world and influenced swimmers as no previous swimming book since it was released in 1996.  I updated it in 2001, but 10 years have passed and Total Immersion is a radically different organism, even phenomenon, in 2011 compared to then. As well I’m a very different person as a result of the experiences I’ve had swimming and teaching–but even more so because of the interests and influences of TI swimmers. So it’s time to make the public record current with all the changes that have occurred in the last 10 years.

I have great hopes, and a set of what I believe will be eye-opening insights to most readers (though already familiar to readers of this blog) that I think give TI2 a chance to achieve ‘landmark’ status, not just in swimming, but in the wider field of healthful, mindful aging. My plan is to devote myself mainly to this book over the next three months, aiming to finish by September. Readers of this blog will receive a preview of much of the material in the book. I share it here in hopes of getting frank feedback on what resonates with you, as well as what misses the mark. I’d also love to hear personal anecdotes that apply to or illustrate any point made in the book. Some, with your permission, could end up in print.

How they differ:

When I wrote TI1 I was 44 years old and had spent the previous 20+ years mainly coaching competitive swimmers, aged 10-18. Their goals were to win races, medals and scholarships and their time horizon extended a few years into the future.  I wrote the book mainly as a guide to changing your stroke and was taken by surprise when many readers said “Your book changed my life.”

The experiences and perspectives I bring to TI2 are vastly different:

1. I’ve spent the past 20+ years teaching mature ‘adult-onset’ swimmers. Their primary goal is to live healthfully and their time horizon is lifelong.  These students bring a tremendous diversity of experiences and interests to their pursuit of swimming improvement. I’ve been joined in teaching them by a global network of hundreds of like-minded teachers, most of them drawn from the ranks of enthusiasts. This community of teachers and swimmers has transformed Total Immersion from a series of local clinics to a movement – and indeed a philosophy — characterized by a passion for swimming unseen outside TI.

2. I write TI2 with the perspectives and priorities of a 60-year old who shares the motivation of TI students to use swimming to live longer, happier, healthier lives via an approach to swimming that seamlessly integrates body, mind and spirit.  My interests and inclinations have been shaped by theirs. In the 20 years prior to writing TI1, my reading and study was primarily about swimming. Over the past 20 years, my reading and study has been about positive and behavioral psychology, human potential, and neuroscience – fields in which landmark developments have occurred during the 20+ years since the founding of Total Immersion.

3. While the phenomenon of TI1 being received by readers as life-changing was accidental and surprising, TI2 will be written as an intentional, informed, and strongly-documented argument for and guide to personal transformation.

In the next installment I’ll describe the central premise of Swimming that Changes Lives.

13 Responses to ““Swimming That Changes Lives” — the new TI Book”

  1. Yann says:


    I’m a big fan of TI and I can’t wait for your new book. I must say, being myself 39 years old, I found very comforting to follow a swimming method designed by someone 60 years old. I swim to improve and maintain my health in the long run, so I’m sure the technics teached are proven by the time.

    If I could formulate a wish list for your new TI book (beside all the good drills and meaningful practices that will be surely part of it): I’d love to have a chapter about injuries and how to prevent them. Learing TI is also to learn to learn and some path leading to deadends, I’d like to hear from experienced people.
    The second wish would be to have the TI swimming analyzed in a way similar to the way yoga is analyized here: http://www.dailybandha.com

    But that might be for TI3 if you expect to write it by September 🙂

    Thank for sharing the love of swimming.


  2. Yann says:

    Maybe this url is better to get a felling of what I meant by my last suggestion: http://www.dailybandha.com/2011/04/shoulder-kinematics-in-yoga.html

  3. saad says:

    This is great Terry, looking forward to reading your insights! TI has definitely changed my life!

  4. Paul Arvin says:

    Great idea Terry!!!!


  5. Yann
    Thanks for sharing the link to that yoga site. I found it very interesting and know others will be too.
    As for injuries, I will not only have well-researched and documented guidance on how to decrease incidence, but experience-based info on how to turn injury into opportunity. Sometimes,despite your best efforts, simply because of age and use, injuries occur. I’ve found repeatedly that I could find a way to use the rehab period to improve an aspect of my swimming so I was a better swimmer when healing was complete.

  6. bkjagadish says:

    Can you please add a chapter on DIVING also Terry ?

  7. Karel Mejsnar says:

    Dear Mr. Laughlin,
    being ten years boy swimming was my favorite activity, there was no pound no lake I didn`t wish to swim over. Now, being sixty, I hate the swimming like hell…
    My key technique problem seems to be poor kicking and from mind point of view, no hope to improve anything.
    BUT, having watched TI related videos and some unknown people in public pool I have recognized some deviations from “ideal freestyle model” that I`m trying to follow for years with poor results. I tried to make some corrections and the feeling was much better, though I`m afraid the speed stayed the same….
    Yeh, it`s very easy to address beginners and TI enthusiasts, as giving them the feeling of balanced position instead of that “buoy, see mark” one you fairly „open them the water“.
    In any case, it should be worth to devote a chapter for swimmers who being comfortably enough can control their body during regular swimming, but they don`t know how, as: Any way they did it no considerable progress(in speed) appeared.
    Moreover, the comparison between traditional „ideal swimming“ and that TI one will be highly appreciated and is Word to a charter, definitely. I don`t mean the way of learning, but final style, eg., if I understand well, body rotation, legs-cut synchronized with hand stroke instead of permanent kicking, etc. I believe you are ideal person capable to do such comparison due to your latter competitive coach practice.
    If you like we can continue better in private way.
    Thanks in advance.

  8. Geoff says:

    When I first stumbled across T.I. I was sceptical at first, I read a lot of positive and negative things on different forums and some personal attacks against you yourself but what persuaded me was when I began studying T.I is that how you have not been afraid to change your methods over the past 20 years. ie the change in your front quadrant view point .

    This to me demonstrates a humility which other “experts” sometimes lack.

    Good luck with your future endeavours and keep striving for the perfect stroke!

  9. Thanks Geoffrey. I’ve been fortunate to learn as much or more from our students–and other TI coaches–as I’ve taught them. The method has benefitted immeasurably from the insights and interests of our remarkable worldwide community.

  10. Karel
    I appreciate your interest and suggestions. I will certainly include much in the book that directly addresses improvement of the stroke, not just your life. If you wish to message me privately my email is terryswim@gmail.com

  11. BK
    I know naught about either springboard or scuba diving so you’d be better off encouraging someone who does know one or the other to read the TI book and try to write one similar on your topic.

  12. emily eisen says:

    HI Terry,
    I’m very eager to learn along with you as you make available to the TI Community you have built, what your most current awareness has brought you to.
    I am also eager to read about the injury as opportunity section…..currently healing a right shoulder rotator cuff….and want to be better yesterday!!!! so I can move forward again!!!
    One of the things I loved at frist about TI was the gentle core rotation=rocking that I experienced while swimming. AS first it was exaggerated and now I feel the subtleness of it and the power of the subtleness. FUnny how the body seems to have a mind of its own and integrates movement and sequence in ways our mind can actually get in the way of…..This in and of itself is counterintuitive in a world where we can come to rely on figuring and thinking and forget that our body has it’s own processing system to integrate new learning. This is also why I love Brain Gym®! Getting back to the rocking…in the course of learning TI swimming I took a course called Rhyhmic Movement. And it was here that I learned how vital the rocks are to the nervous system and brain development, not just for swimming, but for overall brain function and something called reflex integration. And this is a side benefit, very significant, of TI technique. Rocking the core is working the brain! AS it turns out, the early reflexes of an infant are integrated from the buit in template of various rocks!
    WHen these rocks accomplish their job, the reflex is integrated and that particular movement/behaviors are ready to go to more complex functions!
    IF THEY ARE NOT COMPLETED THEY REMAIN RETAINED AND THE INDIVIDUAL IS AT THE EFFECT OF MOVEMENTS FROM REFLEX AND NOT VOLUNTARY MOVEMENT. (Reflexes, Movement and Behavior, by Sally Goddard). Retained reflexes effect a person’s every act and behavior. CHIldren with retained reflexes have learning challenges…and if not addressed, travel along with the person into adulthood….

  13. emily eisen says:

    ooops….sent before done…..so, in terms of lifelong learning and swimming for longevity and healthy fitness, the core work/reflex effects of TI has far reaching effects that are worth knowing and perhaps including.
    AS an adult onset swimmer, starting TI @ 60 and now having progressed to being a TI Coach @62, I can say it has changed my life from the act of it, and equally as much from the contact with the community of TI swimmers who are focused on the very essence of TI philosophy…awareness and learning and noticing and being present for the journey, each stroke and breath of it…… with the confidence that the destination is a byproduct of this kind of sensibility…….cant wait till the next blog…..my vote of confidence all the way to you Terry…and thanks for how you live your life and how your share it and pay it forward….smiles, Coach Emily

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