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Learn to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days

September 04, 2008 | 51,986 views

swim, swimmingTim Ferriss, author of the blockbuster New York Times best seller The Four Hour Work Week, has won national titles in several sports, but has always fought to stay afloat. Then, in the span of less than 10 days, he went from a 2-length maximum, to swimming more than 40 lengths per workout in sets of 2 and 4.

Ferriss used Total Immersion (TI), a method usually associated with coach Terry Laughlin. In the first workout, he cut his drag and water resistance at least 50 percent. By the fourth workout, he had gone from over 25 strokes per 20-yard length to an average of 11 strokes per 20-yard length.

I purchased Total Immersion and am halfway through it but am VERY impressed with the theory behind this concept. I am eager and excited to apply it to my own swimming as, like Tim, I was not the most gifted swimmer and it would take me well over an hour to swim a mile in the ocean.  

I will likely do a review on this book after I get a chance, like Tim, to personally use the techniques it teaches.

Using Swimming for Exercise

Swimming is actually a phenomenal form of exercise, but many people do not do it correctly, and therefore don’t get all of its benefits. In fact, swimming has been called the “perfect form of exercise” because it increases your flexibility, endurance, muscle tone, strength and cardio-respiratory conditioning without straining your heart, and with a low risk of injury.

Because it is so gentle, swimming is ideal for people with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis, or if you are pregnant, obese or elderly.

There are a couple of drawbacks, though. Swimming will not give you the weight-bearing benefits that land-based exercise will, so it should not be your sole form of exercise.

Also, swimming in chlorinated pools is not something you want to do often, as chlorine has been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages and more, including an increased risk of asthma and other breathing problems.

I actually don't recommend swimming in chlorinated or brominated swimming pools at all, whether indoors or out, since your body absorbs more chlorine by swimming in a chlorinated pool than you would by drinking tap water for one week.

Ideally, swimming in salt water is best, as the water may help to detoxify and balance your body. After that, a lake or other natural body of water would be best.

If you do use a swimming pool, using an ozone machine is the best way to go. The ozone is an oxidative therapy that will kill the organisms in the pool similar to chlorine (which also is an oxidative agent), but without the health risks to you.

Six Tips to Swim Better

That said, if you want to try your hand at swimming for exercise, here are the principles that made the biggest difference for Tim Ferriss:

1. To propel yourself forward with the least effort, focus on your shoulder roll and keeping your body horizontal (least resistance), not pulling with your arms or kicking with your legs.

2. Keep yourself horizontal by keeping your head in line with your spine -- you should be looking straight down.

3. Think of swimming freestyle as swimming on alternating sides, not on your stomach.

4. Penetrate the water with your fingers angled down and fully extend your arm well beneath your head and extend it lower and further than you think you should.

5. Focus on increasing stroke length (SL) instead of stroke rate (SR).

6. Stretch your extended arm and turn your body (not just head) to breathe.
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