From Childhood Splashes to Total Immersion: Discovering the Art of Swimming

My aquatic journey began in childhood, where my father, despite his water phobia, instilled in me a love for swimming. Those early days at the local swimming baths laid the foundation for a lifelong connection with the water. From Tatton Mere to the beaches of Devon and the meandering River Bollin, swimming was more than a recreational activity; it was a tapestry of some of my most cherished childhood memories.

For as long as I can remember, breaststroke has been my chosen stroke  Delving into literature and scouring YouTube for insights on perfecting my breaststroke, I cultivated a very steady and efficient technique that allowed me to keep pace with many of the front crawlers.  I had never undergone a formal swimming lesson. Any endeavour into front crawl felt woefully inadequate, and my attempts were pitiful. In those moments, I resigned myself to the belief that excelling at the front crawl was an unattainable feat for someone so deeply ingrained in the art of breaststroke.

In 2020, a pivotal year for many reasons, I took the plunge – quite literally – into year-round sea swimming. A pact made with three steadfast friends at the Exeter Phoenix cafĂ© bar, transformed into a shared commitment to brave the elements and the cold, embracing the exhilaration that only open water can offer.

Fast forward to 2022 and I decided that it was time to conquer front crawl. I wrote about that here as it was part of a coaching exercise that lead me to booking lessons for myself. Three private swimming lessons became the key to unlock this new venture.

After becoming vaguely adequate at the front crawl technique, in my typical nerdy fashion, I delved into the vast sea of YouTube tutorials, stumbling upon a simple, mesmerising and gliding style of front crawl known as Total Immersion Swimming. The concept focused not on brute force but on harmonising the body to propel it gently yet powerfully through the water, focusing on minimising drag, and maximising hydrodynamics.

Total Immersion is renowned for its emphasis on technique over sheer power. It rejects the conventional notion of thrashing through the pool and eschews the use of fins and paddles to build strength. Instead, it invites swimmers to cultivate a meditative state, gliding through the water with grace and efficiency. This is about harmonising the whole body to move in unison. 

Over the past few months, I have immersed myself in the philosophy of Total Immersion, seeking to embody its principles. It's not about counting lengths or pushing for speed; it's about perfecting each stroke and feeling the water's resistance yield to a harmonious flow state. When my body aligns just right, it's akin to the sensation of flying— or at least the closest I'll ever come to it.

According to my watch, I'm now swimming faster than ever, expending less effort. My goal is to seamlessly glide through 2-3km of TI front crawl, transforming the exercise from what was a slightly tedious endeavour into a meditative stroll through the water. 

The transition from the sport of swimming to the art of swimming has been a profound and invigorating journey. It's not just about moving through the water; it's about mastering the strokes, conquering distances, and challenging personal boundaries. The rhythmic dance with the water, the mindfulness of each stroke, and the sheer joy of being immersed in liquid freedom continue to be the driving forces – a meditative, joyous dance with the aquatic world, rooted in the splashes of my childhood.

Aged approx 5 with my lovely Aunt (I think it's the River Taw)