Can Fat Men Do An Iron Man Pt 3 – Total Immersion Swimming

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I have regained 60lbs (having lost 170lbs); I have arthritic knees; I fall off my bike more regularly than Evel Knievel (look him up, Millennials) and I cannot swim.

So my decision to sign up for an Ironman event in 2018 may seem a little reckless and a tad foolish. And it probably is.

Ok, it definitely is.

However, I am a man of dreams and according to followers of the Law of Attraction, I just have to visualise myself crossing that Mallorca Ironman 2018 finishing line and it will happen.

Can’t Swim, Need to Swim

Of course, visualisation is a powerful mechanic but then so is oxygen, so I may also want to do something about that whole unable to swim thing.


I say unable, but that isn’t strictly true. At the tender age of eight, my father instructed me. The instruction being not to drown as he pushed me into the water at Pollokshaws swimming pool. I didn’t, but as you might see from the video below, my technique since then hasn’t changed much. I basically flap my arms and try to stay afloat.

For years, I have vowed to learn how to swim and for years my fear of feeling embarrassed by my weight has stopped me. Even when I lost weight, I didn’t feel completely comfortable and any time I have tried to swim, my complete lack of talent has been clear for all to see. Even the brilliant Olympian Robbie Renwick failed to turn me into a swimmer when I trained with him for my Strathmore Water DoMore Blog.

So, if I was going to conquer my fears and feel confident about a 2.4 mile swim in the sea (what am I thinking?) I decided that I would need some expert coaching. Now, I don’t know any expert swimming coaches but I do know Robert Hamilton (sorry Robert, I couldn’t resist), of Vigour Events, and I also know that Robert teaches Total Immersion, the swimming technique that is seemingly quick to master and which makes swimming almost effortless and less exhausting.

Sign me up!

I had watched videos of Robert’s class in Hamilton and as the weeks passed, my doubts started to drain away. Robert and I engaged in a game of Facebook Messenger tennis. He would serve me an invite to a class and I would volley back an excuse not to go.

I didn’t have the time, it was too far way’ I had child care issues and I wasn’t competent enough to try Total Immersion. I used all of them and more. Eventually however, he broke down my barriers and for the past few weeks, I have been receiving and even enjoying his expert tutelage at Shawlands Secondary School.

With the changing room and pool almost to ourselves, my inhibitions didn’t surface as I approached the pool and climbed in for my first lesson.

The first thing Robert asked was to see how I normally swim and he must be a great poker player as at no point did his eyes or face reveal what he thought about my er, swimming “style”.

He simply advised that over the course of the next few weeks that he would instill upon me the basics of Total Immersion swimming and that the secret to success wasn’t the power or pace of my strokes but in the positioning of my head, wrists and body as I glided through the water.

At his request, I relaxed and allowed him control of limbs and watched as he coaxed my head into a neutral position under the water. It felt so relaxing and so right that my usual desire (and urgency) to break the surface and seek air was replaced by a calmness. Robert had managed, with a wee tweak of my head, to release the tension that courses through my body whenever I attempt to swim.

Next he worked on my wrists and arm position. Again, I allowed him free reign and control of my limbs. He gently maneuvered them under the water until he found a resting point at which my arms automatically returned to when relaxed. Everything felt natural. I knew that I was in safe hands.

Over the course of two weeks and two hours, Robert continued to describe, display and direct me in the many small but vital components of the Total Immersion stroke and the result of our efforts is below.

I am far from finished and over the next few months my lessons and my practice sessions should help me progress even further. However, I have a wee confession. As I watch this clip over and over again, I am beaming with pride.

In just two hours, I had learned the basics of Total Immersion and the prospect of swimming 2.4 miles is a little less daunting.

Just a little.

If Total Immersion sounds like something that you would like to try, then Robert has Swim Sessions on Monday nights at Hamilton College and this January he will again be at Hamilton College for his two day Total Immersion Workshop.

And if you want to follow my progress and support my efforts, please visit my blog at and consider a small donation to my Ironman Cancer Research page.


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