Total Immersion Level 1 (2nd Quarter)

Shane’s class always starts off with dryland exercises, which are preceded by some really good banter (in Week 3, about trail running) and helpings of zen. I really loved one quote that I’m going to slaughter, but this is how my brain encoded it:

This is difficult. You’re going to have times that you feel like an utter failure. You’ll have times where you feel like a downright gifted, know-it-all Total Immersion sage. When you have either feeling, remember … that feeling will pass.

Week 3

We progressed through the third class building up all of the exercises and skills we’d learned thus far, layering up until we were in the pool and actually swimming. We did dryland “wing night” and what I term “zombie walking”, and I enjoyed getting a rise out of onlookers in the jacuzzi who wondered just what the heck we were up to. I said we were rehearsing for a zombie movie. I wonder if they believed me? In the water, we floated in glide, switched to skate, and all the time focused on having a “laser lead.” Shane suggested we think of a laser running the length of the pool, and that our head, neck, spine and legs would all be aligned to that plane. I processed this, but then as I was swimming kept thinking of Mike Myers in this classic scene. Yes, folks, we are sharks with laser beams!

We did some forearm painting to focus on shoulder articulation, and then we headed to the warm pool for some exploration of what it feels like to enter and extend your arm in the water with minimal disruption. We closed our eyes, focusing on the sensation as our arms entered the water. Yes. Meditative.

Then, a curveball! Shane spent the last few minutes of class talking about breathing. To date, we had been swimming until we ran out of breath, then stopping before resuming. Now, we talked about proper head position for breathing, and he asked us to play with it. I consider myself a violent water breather, so I have a feeling that this house of cards we just built up … will soon crumble. I can’t wait to figure out how to get better at this part!

Due to the Wineglass Marathon on the Sunday between the third and fourth classes, and a killer weekday schedule, I had just one session in the pool this week for practice, but it was a good one. 45 minutes of dryland and swimming, followed by breathing exploration in the warm pool. I managed some good laps while experimenting with getting my breath, but at no moment did I feel like a sage. We’ll see if we can change that up!

Week 4

I was embarrassed to be late for the fourth class, since I had signed up for a massage at Finger Lakes School of Massage as a post-marathon recovery. The massage was great, starting at 5:20, and I was sure I’d be out in time to get to class. I was shocked to look at the clock when it was over, though, and see 7:02 … gulp! I was supposed to be poolside already, and I was 8 minutes away from Island! A quick (safe) drive and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich later, I walked sheepishly into the pool area just in time to catch the tail end of Shane’s introduction and join in with dryland exercises. This time, we incorporated rotating our heads to the side during “front quadrant walk” to simulate breathing.

I was counting on the breathing giving me a challenge, and I was right! We did our routine warmup with SG, swimming, and also spent time doing laps focusing on different things: patient lead arm, shoulder shrug, forearm painting and sleeve slipping. I found this refreshing, to focus on one thing at a time. I got feedback from Shane that my lead arm could stand to be straighter, that I was still bending too much at the elbow. I focused on that for awhile, and will have to remember to practice that along with using my shoulder to help extend the lead arm further.

I loved the next drill, where we put on fins and got into a skate position, breathing to one side as much as we liked. I took on my fair share of water during skate and breathe, sputtering a few times and having to reset. I am a violent swim breather, cranking my head into position and then violently bringing it back into the water after an explosive exhalation and inhalation. Time to inject a little more zen, Scott.

My “aha!” moment for breathing came when he had us do the Breathe-and-Glide Drill with a pause when we took a breath, and I was focused only on the breath. The exhale/inhale cycle is just a quick out and in lasting just a split second, not explosive, but focused. After taking a breath, I need to focus on getting my head downward, but not waiting for the stroke again to do so. This drill is supposed to help break the association of breathing with the lifting of your arm, and I think I’ll get it solidly after a few more pool sessions. So I’ll be focusing on these to help nail these extra breathing cards for our house of cards:

  • Skate and Breathe
    With fins, skate to one side and hold that position, breathing as much as I like just to one side. Reverse the position on the way back (always face the same wall)
  • Breathe and Glide
    With fins, swim, but every four strokes (or three if bilateral breathing) take a breath with your recovery arm pausing on your thigh. After breathing, when your head is facing downward, resume swimming by bringing your recovery arm up and continuing the pace.

Breathe and Glide was tough the first time (oh, that pause!) but the second lap I got it. I was embarrassed but also happy when Shane had me go on another lap to show the technique. It’s kind of like rubbing your stomach and patting your head, but I like games like that!

Finger Lakes School of Massage Clinics

FLSM-logo-9437ae8cAs an aside, if you’re interested in the Finger Lakes School of Massage clinics, they are administered by students and a supervisor, and it was quite relaxing, just what my muscles needed after the marathon. You can sign up on their web site, agree to terms of participation and then a student will call to confirm your time. The cost is $40 and the massage is 75-90 minutes long. Don’t make the mistake I did of having something afterwards, as I felt bad I couldn’t give my therapist more than a few minutes of feedback at the end. Next time I’ll plan to have more time after!


This is part of a bi-weekly series on my Total Immersion learning experiences. If you arrived here and are wondering what Total Immersion is or why I’m doing it, read about my swimming and who inspired me to take this on in my early forties.

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