A Medley of Choices For Open Water Swimmers

A Medley of Choices For Open Water Swimmers

While there are a select few who swim butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke in the open water, the vast majority of open water swimmers focus on freestyle, both in competition and training.

But the Open Water Swim Club has always recommended variety and incorporated a mixture of butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke sets during its training sessions. Incorporating individual medley (IM) drills and sets into pool workouts definitely helps increase variety to your training.

IM sets are, by general consensus of most experienced swimmers, more aerobically taxing and physically demanding than doing straight freestyle sets or doing pulling sets. Individual medley, done frequently by Olympic 10K Marathon Swim champion Ous Mellouli, also requires a blend of technical proficiencies and focus. IM also helps develop a certain physical and mental toughness that straight freestyle swimming sets do not always require.

Some of the team’s favorite – short and long – individual medley (IM) sets include the following. The set below is based on the fastest pace you can hold for 10 x 100 freestyle either in short course yards pool, a short course meters pool, or a long course meters pool. Intervals can be adjusted upwards or downwards depending on your speed. To figure out the appropriate intervals, take your base 100 freestyle time (i.e., the fastest pace you can hold for 10×100) and add 10 seconds per 100 yards (or meters) for backstroke and 20 seconds per 100 yard (or short course meters) for breaststroke. If swimming in a 50m long course pool, then add 15 second for backstroke and 30 seconds for breaststroke.

A sample short IM set is (no rest between each set of 3×100) for 2,100 yards or meters in a short-course pool:

3×100 @ 1:30, 1:20, 1:10 – all freestyle
3×100 @ 1:30, 1:20, 1:10 – with last lap breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly respectively
3×100 @ 1:30, 1:20, 1:10 – with last 2 laps breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly respectively
3×100 @ 1:30, 1:20, 1:10 – all freestyle
3×100 @ 1:30, 1:20, 1:10 – with last 3 laps breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly respectively
3×100 @ 1:30, 1:20, 1:10 – all freestyle
3×100 @ 1:30, 1:20, 1:10 – breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly respectively

A sample long IM set is (no rest between each set of 3×200) for 4,200 yards or meters in a short-course pool:

3×200 @ 3:00, 2:45, 2:30 – all freestyle
3×200 @ 3:00, 2:45, 2:30 – with last lap breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly respectively
3×200 @ 3:00, 2:45, 2:30 – with last 2 laps breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly respectively
3×200 @ 3:00, 2:45, 2:30 – all freestyle
3×200 @ 3:00, 2:45, 2:30 – with last 3 laps breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly respectively
3×200 @ 3:00, 2:45, 2:30 – all freestyle
3×200 @ 3:00, 2:45, 2:30 – breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly respectively

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