A few weeks ago, a friend convinced me to do a sprint triathlon with him in a few months. Soon thereafter, I decided to go to my gym's pool to see how far I could swim, just to gauge how much work lay ahead. I already knew *how* to swim (via years of lessons at the Y) but figured I needed to work on my fitness level. To my shock, at the end of maybe 75 yds, I had to stop. I was exhuasted, gasping, and had a heart rate through the roof. Even though I'm in decent shape, i figured I must be out of shape for swimming. So to the gym I went, faithfully churning out lap after exhausting lap, trying to kick and splash my way to fitness. But part of me knew there was something wrong. I would see the 65 year old guys doing lap after effortless lap and thought there must be a better way. Well, THIS is that better way. The TI system was recommended in Joe Friel's "Your first Triathlon" and his highly regarded "The Triathlete's Trainig Bible" as well as in "Chi Running".
Now there's nothing magical or mysterious about the TI system. Some of it is just sound swimming technique known by others for a long time (eg looking down, body rotation, streamlining, etc). But there are other aspects that seem to be unique to TI. Where the system really shines is in the step-wise approach and skill-specific drills to building a smoother and more efficient stroke. It's broken down so logically and systematically that one can't help but to improve one's freestyle stroke by simply trying to execute its lessons.
The DVD itself is of decent quality, more than adequate to accomplish its goal. While a couple of the video sequences look as though the camera operator was drunk, it is mostly well-filmed and it is easy to see the details of the drill that is being explained. They are shot both above and below the water and from multiple angles, sometimes even using split screens to enhance understanding. The music and graphics are a little cheap but who really cares. Before a pool session, I usually watch a chapter while taking notes. Then I bring my notes with me to the pool (in a ziplock bag) to jog my memory of the important points I need to keep in mind. This really works but it's not magic. You'll have to drill, be patient, and get to the pool regularly.
While the DVD itself will be sure to improve your stroke, I think the weekend TI workshop is extremely helpful in making sure you're doing the drills properly. Until you see underwater video of yourself, it's really hard to get an accurate sense of how efficient your stroke really is.
All in all, an extremely useful DVD for anyone (especially triathletes) who wants to improve their freestyle. Highly recommended!
I have done about 15 triathlons (mostly sprints but also 3 olympic distance tris) since I wrote this review. Then I took last year off for a variety of reasons. I hardly exercised at all (sad, I know). I restarted training this January and figured it would take weeks (or longer) to be able to swim a mile nonstop again. By the 3rd pool session I was back up to a mile (granted it wasn't my fastest). I had not swum regularly since my last tri in august of 2012. I'm sure my form has degraded and i KNOW my fitness has but, just using what i learned way back then, I was able to do it! It's (nearly) all technique! I remember when a mile swim seemed impossible. Now I can do a mile with relative ease. I have even done 2 miles non-stop (it was in 2012 and, I won't lie, it wasn't easy). I still stand by my original review. And, no, I have no affiliation with TI. Hope this helps.