Interview with Celeste St. Pierre: Triathlon Coach and Swimming Specialist

Stop Wrestling With The Water And Learn How to Swim Effortlessly From Total Immersion Master Swimming Coach, Celeste St. Pierre.

Celeste St. Pierre

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview a Total Immersion Master Coach all about swimming last week. It was an excellent interview and I’m proud to bring it to you today. I learned a lot about swimming, as I’m sure you will, too. Celeste is truly a professional swimmer and coach, and I just happened to stumble upon her by chance. She’s been competing in triathlons of all distances – from Sprints to Ironmans – for over 20 years, and has been coaching triathletes for over 10 years in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She also happens to be a certified Power Pilates Instructor, a USA Swimming Level 1 Coach, and a USA Triathlon Coach. I guess it’s no surprise that her interview turned out to be a real gem, and we’ll get to it in a minute.

But first, a quick story about how this all came about…

A few years ago, while I was at a MovNat workshop, I had a rude awakening of my true prowess in the water. We had just finished up a long day of swimming and some self defense training, and were paddling our way back to camp in a big rubber boat in the middle of Summersville Lake. For reasons unbeknownst to me, all of us ended up out of the boat and in the water despite the clear day and minimal winds. It could have had to do with Jeremiah splashing Caroline, but I’m sure he’d deny it to this day. Anyways, people were leaping off the boat left and right, dunking each other, and laughing up a storm in between coughs and gags. Fortunately, one of us had the foresight to remain behind in the boat so we weren’t all lost at sea (no surprise that it was the EMT of the group). Unfortunately for us, though, he didn’t feel the need to stick around for very long and so, whilst he paddled to shore, the rest of us were left in the middle of the lake to fend for ourselves. No problem, right? I mean, we had just spent half the day practicing swim technique. We must be experts now!

Now, what happened next may be because a) I was already pretty beat from a full day of training, or b) I just don’t know how to swim well (both if you ask me). Anyways, after the ruckus had ended, and we all realized that the boat was already half-way to shore, we all started swimming back towards the boat launch ramp. I couldn’t tell you what the actual distance was, but I can tell you that it felt like forever. Needless to say, I was struggling to keep up and even to stay afloat. Ok, maybe struggling doesn’t do it justice. I was barely surviving. You know how your mind starts playing around with your psyche when you’re extremely fatigued? Well, at some point, the thought actually crossed my mind to just give up and sink to the bottom. Yes, I was that exhausted. Please don’t tell my shrink I said that. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, one of my calves cramped up – bending my knee at a 90 degree angle in vice-like pain. Wowie kazowie! Fortunately, I’m not the quitting type and thrashed my way back to the nearest land. I chose to climb a massive stone retaining wall made up of giant boulders instead of swimming the additional 50 meters it would have taken me to get to the boat ramp. Swimming just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

At long last, I made it, and was on dry ground again. Ironically, my first thought was that it’s a good thing I signed the waiver before the workshop, eh? They could have been in some big trouble had I actually drowned. All kidding aside, this almost-traumatic experience got me thinking about how well I can swim – really swim, that is. And it’s been in the back of my mind ever since.

So, not too long ago, I was doing a bit of research on how to learn how to swim effortlessly. You see, I learned how to swim the same way that most people do, by taking swim lessons as a child. This was a great opportunity, and I’m grateful that my parents signed me up for classes. However, there’s only so much a guppy and tadpole can learn. My lessons growing up were adequate for learning the basics of getting across a pool without sinking, but they didn’t exactly teach me how to swim effortlessly. Truth be told, most of my life, I’ve been lucky if I could swim 500 meters and stand up afterwards. But nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed swimming and did a fair bit of it growing up and in high school especially.

Lately, I’ve been out of touch with the water except on rare summer occasions and I’ve wanted to change that. You see, it’s not enough for me to just go jump in and splash around for awhile (my version of “swimming” for most of my life). I want to learn how to swim long distances, and to do so without exhausting myself. Thus, I began my search for swim training information. Long story short, I did a search online for swim instructors in my area, which led me to finding Celeste via the Total Immersion website (a method that has been highly recommend to me from a few sources).

So, let’s dive right into the interview. We covered a lot of ground in just 30 minutes, and here are some of the topics we discussed.

  • Learn about Celeste’s background in triathlons and how an out-of-shape person who could swim much faster and easier than she could ultimately led her to discovering the Total Immersion system
  • Why the solution to improving swim performance is rarely trying harder
  • How a little yellow and blue book changed everything about the way Celeste saw the sport of swimming
  • How to cooperate with the water, instead of wrestling with it, to achieve flow-state performance when swimming (Total Immersion-style)
  • What makes Total Immersion unique from other swimming systems
  • The similarities between swimming, yoga, tai chi, and other gentle training methods
  • The importance of mindfulness in training, particularly when swimming
  • How to work with gravity, using optimal body alignment and posture to swim effortlessly
  • The paradigm shift that is essential for effortless swimming
  • Why most people struggle in the water + why learning how to float using a simple balance drill is the best way to relax and overcome fear
  • The value of getting out of the pool and swimming in nature
  • Why going easy and slow instead of hard and fast will get you further, faster when swimming
  • The most common mistake new swimmers, and even experienced swimmers, make when swimming
  • Celeste’s number one recommendation for people interested in learning how to swim well
  • And much more!

So, enough blabbing from me. Let’s get right to it!

Interview with Celeste St. Pierre

*Mp3 audio file, approximate length is 31 minutes

More Information

Talk about GOOD, solid info, eh? For more information about Celeste and what she does, check out her site here:

And if learning how to swim effortlessly interests you, then be sure to check out the Total Immersion site, too. The resource Celeste recommended for getting started is here.

And before we finish up, I’d like to extend a BIG thank you to Celeste for taking the time to do this interview. It was a pleasure and I’d love to do it again sometime!

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Health-First Fitness Coach

P.S. If you have any questions for Celeste, please either leave a comment below or send her an email via her website.

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3 Responses

  1. While I found the TI material pretty useful I find the Swim Smooth approach far more comprehensive. You can find out more at and their other websites (the blog).

    I don’t benefit in any way shape or form from any proceeds Swim Smooth might gain from me mentioning them. I just follow their website and own their book and use their drills and programs in my swimming sessions.

    Keep up the good work with the blog John.

  2. p.s. I’ve owned the Total Immersion Book for over ten years.

    • Thanks for the insight, Brad. I’ll have to check that out. Everyone seems to learn a little differently – that’s for sure.

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