Total Immersion Smart Speed and Open Water Skills Camp (Part 1)

Thursday, 13 June 2013  |  Running + Triathlon

I was invited to cover the Total Immersion Smart Speed and Open Water Skills Camp last May 31 to June 2, 2013 at Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club, Nasugbu, Batangas. The head coach of the camp was Shinji Takeuchi, Total Immersion Japan’s Head Coach who is the #1 viewed swimmer on Youtube (more than Michael Phelps!) for his graceful freestyle swim. For many Total Immersion fans, Shinji is truly one of the masters of Total Immersion (TI), a swimming technique developed by American swim coach Terrry Laughlin which teaches one how to swim efficiently. (Think Chi Running for Swimmers which, by the way, Shinji is also a certified instructor of.)  The camp was organized by Total Immersion coach, Ria Mackay of Aqualogic Swim Co.

The camp was recommended for: swimmers who wish to swim longer with more confidence, those who wish to swim faster while preventing injury, or competitive swimmers or triathletes who wish to improve their speed. It was open to international and local participants with a tuition fee of $550 and $450 respectively. The fee included camp fee, open water race registration fee, bus ride to and from venue, lunch and dinner buffet, swim cap, t-shirt, flash drive with drills, swim demos, and participants’ underwater and surface videos. For accomodation at Pico Sand Hotel the cost was $155/night.


I enjoyed the comfortable 3-hour ride to picturesque Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club aboard an air-conditioned bus along with my swim camp classmates. The hubby and kids were to follow later that evening. We arrived at Pico around 1:30PM with just enough time to check in, grab a quick bite, freshen up and change, and head to the first session at the pool.

– View by the pool at Pico de Loro Sands Hotel. Loved the place! I’ll definitely come back. This view reminded me of Angsana Hotel in Laguna Phuket –

1) Pool Session – 1 hour

Before we began the session, each of us were videotaped swimming one lap. It was unnerving to swim in front of all our classmates and instructors, but I must admit that I couldn’t wait to see my imperfect form on video and see how and where I could make improvements.

– with one of the most graceful swimmers in the world, Shinji Takeuchi –

– Waiting in line with my swim camp classmate for our “shooting” –

The formal sessions then began with Shinji.  He was assisted by other TI instructors, Sandra Taylor and Karen Robertson, from Hong Kong as well as our other TI instructors from Manila led by Ria Mackay.  Shinji announced that he would share the secrets to his world-famous graceful freestyle. With that, he got my attention.

We were given basic TI drills to follow from floating like a jellyfish, superman, and gliding. He said that we should learn how to relax during a swim to avoid releasing too much carbon dioxide. He also taught us how to lean forward as we started to swim, then allow our bodies to collaborate with the water, not fight it. Water takes our bodies forward.

– Lucky enough to be between two runners, Joy and Reagan –

– Listening intently to swimmming guru Shinji’s every word –

– The first drill: Floating like Jellyfish. We were asked to relax everything from our neck, shoulders, down to our limbs. One of the TI instructors, Karen, supervises us –

2) Video Analysis – 1 hour

After the drills, we met at the Function Room for the classroom session.  Shinji discussed proper form and technique.  He reminded us that we could learn all the theories and practice by ourselves.  Ria Mackay reminded us that it takes 200,000 repetitions for a skill to be imprinted as muscle memory. 200,000.  Wow, I got a long way to go!

We also viewed each of the videos of ourselves swimming for us and the rest of the class to see!  Gasp! Much to my relief, the entire room did not burst out into laughter when they saw my video.

– Shinji discusses proper TI form and technique –

– with classmates and new friends Al and Reagan –

3) Open Water Session – 1.5 hours

At dusk, we headed off to the beach for an open water session with Shinji.

– I love open water swims. Would choose this over the pool anytime –

– with triathlete friends Mark Hernandez, Raymond Racaza, and Sid Maderazo –

It was here that Shinji swam before us and, I kid you not, my jaw dropped (along with everyone else’s!) He swam silently, gracefully, rhythmically as if he was gliding through the water. It was amazing…and it was inspiring!

Shinji then taught us more practical techniques for racing such as sighting, course correction, and turning. These tips were very practical for me as well as the triathletes in the camp.

– Shinji with other TI instructors and swim camp students –

– Posedown with triathletes Mark Hernandez, Raymond Racaza, and Sid Maderazo –

The night ended with a sumptuous buffet dinner by the beach. It was a great way to meet other classmates in the camp and also to chat casually with Shinji who, by the way, could not stop talking about swimming all through the night. Truly, this man is passionate about swimming.

– with TI coaches after a full day of swimming and right before we called it a night –

Next post: Total Immersion Smart Speed and Open Water Skills Camp (Part 2)

* Some photos courtesy of Aqualogic Swim Co. Photographer VT Roman