The point where I think it really oversells itself is when it talks about how you never need to swim hard to get fast.
Can you point out where it says this? I've heard this criticism of TI before and did not come across it in the book I read, nor the video I watched. I've seen it propagated on the internet but I've yet to come across a TI source that claims this.
I took a workshop at TI hq. Talked to my instructor, talked to two of the McLaughlin daughters who are TI instructors. The idea that they'd say "One never needs to swim hard to get fast" is laughable. Or that "swim easy" will get one to FOP is bullshit.
I'd like to see some evidence that TI says those things or else this persistent bit of mudslinging should be killed.
I haven't seen the most recent edition of TI; they may have changed this, but the edition I read was just 3 years ago so not that old.
In that edition, it clearly says to NOT do hard sets. It clearly, explicitly says that by focusing on form, you will naturally build the strength and speed needed to swim fast. Not once does it mention intervals or overdistance sets, but repeatedly brings up the 'swim smooth and easy' concept. At least in the older edition, it was very obvious - and probably a good thing for me, as I bought into the kool-aid, and dived into the pool as a raw beginner most enthusiastically expecting some big gains on easy swimming.Had I known how hard it would be to get faster, I never would have started triathlon in the first place! This is not mudslinging in the least - that's exactly the thing I remember as most unique about TI - not the techique drills, not the smoothness, which are all exactly what every good swim coach recommends. It was that swim easy focusing on form but get fast concept. Not overstating this in the slightest at least with the edition I read.
There were two concepts in my edition of the book that struck me as flawed (I'm a lousy swimmer so don't trust me,go see for yourself) but I agreed completely with everything else in the book and it's still my #1 referred to book when I talk to total newbs asking me how to get into tri.
1) The whole 'swim easy' thing - as discussed above. Didn't work for me at all - actually for me, didn't even work at 2:05/100yd pace - I had to swim significantly harder (but not gutbusters) to start improving from even that pace. And yes, I took a few swim lessons which verified that I wasn't horrendously ugly in the water. Just didn't have the arm endurance - my max turnover rate then was nearly half as slow as it is now and I'm only at like 1:32/100yds for T-pace.
2) My edition of TI really emphasized swimming on your side, and had an entire popout box explaining that for heavier lean males like me, you had to find your 'sweet spot', which it clearly said could be nearly completely on your back (!!). Yes, that's exactly what it said, and that's exactly what I followed - so my breathing rotatin ended up with most of my face completely out of the water, to the point that people in the pool were asking my what stroke I was using since it didn't look like a freestyle stroke anymore. After nearly 6 months of swimming like this, took me 6 weeks of dedicated drillwork after a coach told me to cut it out, to eliminate that over-rotation, which hugely increased my speed - like a 20sec/100 legit gain with no fitness increase. That corkscrew effect really killed me. I don't know if the current book still talks about that 'sweet spot' being nearly on your back, but that was some of the worst advice I've ever gotten in swimming, anywhere.