SAME Strokes for Different Folks
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on November 20th, 2013

Different strokes for different folks is a seldom-questioned axiom among old-school swim coaches. It says that people with different body types and goals should use widely varying styles.

Put another way, anything goes when it comes to form.

This week’s webinar will feature three swimmers who make a persuasive case for a very different–even revolutionary–credo: Same Strokes for Different Folks. 

Breath 2

The techniques taught by TI are based on the well-established fact that a universally recognized set of ‘laws’ of physics and hydrodynamics  govern how any body moves through the water.

If naval architects and researchers in marine propulsion are guided by those laws, why should swim coaches think the human body gets an exception?

The fact that the typical efficiency of  swimmers who have been taught traditional techniques is just three percent is evidence enough for that.

Beijing Olympics Swimming Mens 50 Freestyle


An Improvement System

But in this case, by ‘strokes’ we don’t just mean a way of swimming. We also mean an approach to thinking and improvement.

The three swimmers featured on the webinar are Joe Novak, Suzanne Atkinson, and Jeanne Safer.

Each came to TI with distinct differences in age, athleticism, body type, motivation and priorities:

Joe was introduced to TI as a 20-year old varsity swimmer at the U.S. Military Academy.

Suzanne began learning TI as a 34-year old physician–then trained as a TI Coach at 41.

Jeanne took her first TI lessons as a 57-year old psychotherapist.

Joe was a 6’3” 165-lb ‘beanpole’ when I began coaching him.

Suzanne and Jeanne are each a foot or more shorter than Joe with body types that could not be more different from his.

Joe didn’t seek out TI. Rather it found him when I began coaching the sprinters’ group at West Point in 1996 at the beginning of his third class (sophomore) season. His goal was to compete at swimming’s elite level—NCAA Division I competition—in the 50 and 100 Freestyle and 100 Butterfly.

Suzanne and Jeanne both came to TI initially for fitness that heals—Suzanne seeking relief for back pain (she now competes in triathlon and  open water events) and Jeanne to find a gentler activity after suffering a series of orthopedic injuries while pursuing her lifelong love of dance.

But despite their very different motivations and goals, each followed an identical learning process—mastering the same series of skills (Balance–>Stability–>Streamline–>Propulsion) in the same order, and arriving at strikingly similar form countless folks recognize as TI Technique.


And each ended up swimming much faster than they had imagined possible–even, as in Jeanne’s case, when speed was not remotely a goal when she began.

More importantly each also came away with a sense that swimming for improvement (or Kaizen) rather than speed– yields more meaningful and enduring lessons than the momentary satisfaction of a fast time.

We learn far more from the journey than the destination.

I’ve taken the same journey, breaking national Masters records for 1- and 2- mile swims in open water at age 55—a prospect I never imagined possible during my teens and 20s—or even my 40s.

All of us–and thousands more–have learned to swim with a studied grace that is radically different from the way any of us swam before TI. And the inherent efficiency of that form has translated naturally into speed.

But the exacting and disciplined process by which we learned this technique also taught us behaviors and mindsets characteristic of people who have ‘over-achieved’  in a wide range of other disciplines .  . . as well as those who enjoy better health, more happiness, and even longer life.

You see, Total Immersion is not only a way of swimming.  TI is a way of learning you can apply to anything worthwhile.

Tune in to the webinar, during which we’ll unveil the TI Swim Academy, the first on-line ‘institution of learning’ for improvement-minded swimmers where you’ll not only learn how to swim better–and faster- but how to learn anything faster, and how to live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Click Here to register for tonight’s webinar.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.