Three Training Values

Here are three values that I identify in our TI training:

1403 Three Values

Speed is a product of work.

What kind of work?

  1. Work to reduce resistance coming against us.
  2. Work to over-power what resistance is left after Work #1.

Speed is one measurement of how well we accomplish those two forms of work. But it is not all.

Efficiency is using the minimal amount of energy to accomplish that work.

Enjoyment is the pleasurable product of the mind – the self-perpetuating positive motivation to continually work towards solving the problems presented by Speed and Efficiency.

These three together measure swimming excellence in my book.


Let’s define a few terms that come up when swimmers ask questions about these things:

Comfort Zone = the range of swimming work you can do with your best skill, with minimal attention (if you choose), and with strong positive motivation (eagerness).

Comfort Zone does not necessarily mean swimming slow or with a low heart rate unless that is the only way you can swim without placing high demands on your skill, attention, or motivation.

Moving out of this zone means your skill is being tested, increased attention is required, and your motivation is challenged to stay positive when things get difficult. It is our explicit objective in TI training to expand the boundaries of that Comfort Zone. A developed swimmer with a wide Comfort Zone will not merely be capable of but also enjoy swimming in a wider range of distances, speeds, conditions and intensity levels.

Effortless = the perception a swimmer has that an amount of swimming work feels so much easier than it used to feel (lower perceived effort level). And, he feels so much more eager to do that amount of work, and more (higher motivation).

In Effortless Swimming the swimmer may very well be working at the same level of energy expense, but his perception and interpretation of that effort has changed. His improved efficiency gives him an energy reserve he can feel. This sensation builds confidence and eagerness to go further.

Easy Speed = Speed that is derived from Efficiency and Enjoyment. It takes hard work – of the smartest and most enjoyable kind – to achieve genuine Easy Speed.

The ‘easy’ part refers to:

  1. The realization of getting more speed for less effort than before (and compared to your competitors!)
  2. Feeling far more pleasure (the removal of suffering) in the act of swimming at higher speeds, and therefore more eagerness to swim that way.

This is based on the understanding that the human brain is, generally-speaking, genetically wired to solve problems and wired to seek out easier ways of getting work done. The human brain feels pleasure in satisfying these urges – and these are good urges to satisfy. Setting up an activity that satisfies both of them together is a double-whammy of pleasure! And humans are strongly motivated by pleasure, as we all know.

TI Training is not merely about solving the speed problem – it is about achieving speed under the conditions of maximum efficiency and maximum enjoyment. Intelligent swim training is a multi-dimensional experience, if one would like to take advantage of it that way. Speed is just one part of the equation that we work on – as we lay the foundations of enjoyment and efficiency.

This is what makes continuous improvement sustainable, not just from age 10 to 24, but from 10 to 94 (seen Paul Lurie yet?). The potential to maximize Speed by a power-approach diminishes after 24 (or somewhere around there), but the potentials for Efficiency and Enjoyment are limitless.

  • What are your values for swimming?
  • What is your motivation for speed?
  • If you intend to, what foundation are you laying to keep swimming for the rest of your days?


If I may put my own spin on the TI philosophy (at least, as I personally practice and teach it) TI is about expanding my capabilities by removing suffering from my swimming, rather than enduring more suffering. Pleasure may be regarded as the inverse of suffering. The less suffering there is – in reality or in perception – the longer and faster and more frequently I want to swim! It is a pleasure-cycle.

Of course, if one wants more suffering in their athletic endeavors and in their life there are an abundance of programs that teach with that value in mind.


If these three values resonate with you, then you will find them infused in all my articles. On this blog I do my best to answer the questions I receive from Self-Coaching swimmers like you and offer solutions that I personally practice.

But, there is no doubt it can save a lot of time, and be a boost to your confidence to have the attention of a live TI Coach too. If you would ever like to experience a whole week of training and refreshment in these values, swimming in the amazing, beautiful and mild Mediterranean open-water, check out our event calendar this year. And of course, you are welcome to come spend a few days here for a private workshop as well. Or I can refer you to one of my wonderful TI Coach colleagues around the world (in over 30 countries!). Contact me anytime.


6 responses to “Three Training Values

  1. Mat,

    you mention something I’ve noticed in my own practice: that the effort may be the same, but perception of that effort changes. I mentioned in a comment on an earlier post that when I re-started TI, I eventually worked up to cruising 500 yd repeats (i.e. they felt easy and effortless) at a speed I had been unable to match even when “trying my hardest” ten years earlier. I caught myself thinking, “Wow, if I can CRUISE a 500 at this speed now, what could I do if I REALLY try?” But I was enjoying myself too much to bother abandoning what I was doing and “really try.” Eventually I even realized that “trying harder”–purposely increasing physical effort–would only slow me down. The success I was having was because my effort was directed into maintaining good form and precise technique–but the effort was still there, and was still intense. The speed and the easy feeling were direct results of directing my effort and attention into the most productive channels. I don’t train with a heart rate monitor, but I’m curious to know what it would show. Based on my perceived effort, I was not taxing myself aerobically. But if I had managed to increase my HR through physical effort, I bet my form would have suffered and I would have been substantially slower–working harder for less speed!

    Thanks again for your blog–I really appreciate it.

    • Tom, that is the perfect description of what I am talking about

      The success I was having was because my effort was directed into maintaining good form and precise technique–but the effort was still there, and was still intense. The speed and the easy feeling were direct results of directing my effort and attention into the most productive channels.

      One of the ‘secrets’ of how this works is in the deliberate direction of attention on critical features that we control in the stroke that affect energy expense. And the ‘distraction’ from exertion plays to our mental and emotional advantage.

      You nailed it.

  2. Pingback: Three Training Values | Total ImmersionTotal Immersion·

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