Doug Alt

Swimming Can Change Your Life

“Total Immersion” is a methodology of learning how to swim in a better, smoother, more efficient way than usual. It is also described as a program that can “Change Your Life.”  It has indeed changed mine, putting me on a path toward my 70s enjoying a rising curve of physical and mental health.

Swimming was never a major part of my life. I’d “learned to swim” in camp and even earned a Red Cross Lifesaving certificate, but never thought of myself as much of a swimmer. For 40-plus years since college, my swimming was limited to an occasional pool length or two, or body-surfing a few times each summer.

At age 64, I saw an advertisement for the Ray Licata Memorial Swim, an ocean mile event at Long Branch, NJ. Because it was labeled a “swim” rather than a “race” (and the organizers promised plenty of support boats, kayaks and lifeguards along the course) I decided to give it a go.

I practiced my crude crawl stoke between the ropes at my local beach a dozen times prior to the event, covering at most about a half-mile on any single day. I doubted that I would be able to swim continuous crawl the whole way in the full mile, but was planning to do whatever it took (elementary backstroke, sidestroke, even bobbing) to reach the finish line.

I was elated to finish the Long Branch Mile in 70 minutes. The next two summers, I entered three more mile events along the Jersey Shore, and managed to squeak my finish time in a bit under an hour. But each was an exhausting ordeal, leaving me feeling like a basket case for a day or two afterward.

At age 67, while searching the NJ Masters Swimming web site to find an indoor pool, I saw an ad for Total Immersion (“TI”). In November of 2009, I bought their “teach yourself” book, began learning the swimming drills, and got hooked.

I bypassed the 2010 ocean mile events, preferring to practice more until my new technique was solid enough to endure an extended-distance swim. I had a coaching session with TI Coach Mike Trunkes in New Paltz, NY and became a regular on the Total Immersion Website’s “Forum”, where I received invaluable help and support from fellow TI enthusiasts.

In 2011, I finished the Manasquan Mile in 45 minutes! Besides being thrilled with the 25 percent time reduction, I waltzed out of the water at the finish, tossed on my shirt, shorts and sandals, and drove off to complete a busy schedule for the rest of the day, marveling at how relaxed and enjoyable the swim had been.

Even more important than the feeling of accomplishment from events like the Manasquan Mile, is the daily mental stimulus of TI Practice.  Practicing with deep concentration replaces life’s usual distractions with the “Flow State” that Total Immersion founder Terry Laughlin has written about.

Practicing with strong and targeted focus has also introduced me to the “Cocoon of Calm” concept, which allows me to swim in open water situations with new confidence. Now, when I experience currents, rips, rougher surf, or cold water upwellings, I relax and concentrate on my stroke until my fingers scrape the sand.


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