5 Ingredients for a Successful Individual Medley Swimmer

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5 Ingredients for a Successful Individual Medley Swimmer

All events in swimming are challenging, whether it’s the 50 freestyle or 1,650 free. Each event is difficult in its own way, but the individual medley certainly has its own challenges. All four strokes are unique and usually take a special set of people to do them and do them well. However, the one breed of swimmers often lacking in credit is the IMer, the one who needs to be sufficient in all four strokes.

It takes a determined, strong, and somewhat crazy swimmer to swim the individual medley.

If you take all the positive aspects of all four strokes and mold them together, your end product is the perfect swimmer to call an IMer. Personally, I have always wanted to be an IMer because if you take out the “P” in my last name it literally spells IMer. But, you don’t need IM in your last name to be successful in this event, just a combination of qualities that makes you stand out from the rest.

5 Ingredients for a Successful Individual Medley Swimmer


High Pain Tolerance: Much like a butterflyer, IMers have to have the highest of pain tolerances. Something about taking out the IM with relaxed speed always seems to bring the pain of speed, not relaxation. And, by the time breaststroke rolls around, true IMers know how to push through the pain, and not how to use the third leg as a break.


Ability to Focus: Unlike the other strokes, backstrokers really aren’t aware of where their competition is during a race. For some swimmers, this is better. Putting your blinders on and being able to focus is not only a quality of a backstroker, but an IMer as well. Not everyone will have the same race strategy, so IMers tend to be confident in their abilities and are able to zero in on what they need to do to swim their own race. IMers don’t let anything get in their head.


Photo Courtesy: O Sports via USA Today Sports

Flexibility: While physical flexibility is always beneficial, mental flexibility is equally important, especially for breaststrokers. IMers are typically thrown into any event a coach needs them to swim, whether they like it or not. They are dependable, reliable, and usually successful if they put their mind to it. Everyday tasks seem simple when you do them one at a time instead juggling four at once. IMers tend to be great multi-taskers as well.


Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Stay Calm Before the Storm: IMers need to be a mixture of a distance freestyler and a sprinter. Ask anyone: In the last four laps of a 400 IM, you are relying on your distance background to get you to the wall, but it is an all-out sprint to the finish. There is no real pacing. It’s a 100 freestyle. IMers have the ability to do both of these at the end of an IM, as well as in general. IMers are typically laid back, relaxed, and generally fun to train with. But when it comes down to racing, nothing is going to stop them.

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Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Being a Good Teammate: But what is that extra special something IMers have that make them stand out? The best quality of an IMer is that most are some of the best teammates. They know what it’s like to do all the strokes, all the varieties of sets, all the drylands and the lifts, and they know what it’s like to carry the weight of the team on their backs come the end of a dual meet. There is nothing more thrilling (or nerve-wracking) than when a meet comes down to the 200 IM, where really anything can happen.

Combine all of these qualities and you get not only an IMer, but a successful one.

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7 years ago

Here is how I explain the IM to someone doing it for the first time (100, 200 or 400).
Fly: squeeze the knees, breath on the evens.
Back: make your chin and belly button touch the ceiling and splash the toes.
Breast: look at your hands when you breath and knees stay together as long as possible.
Free: breath on your second stroke and splash the toes.