9 Challenges of Life in the IM Group

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Kennedy Cutler, Swimming World College Intern

I was recently taught that all swimmers, no matter their stroke or distance, have practices that are less than appealing. Whether you’re distance, sprint, stroke, or IM group, your teammates in other groups are working just as hard. Even if their set appears to be much easier, chances are it’s just as challenging to them as yours is to you. It’s something that I wish I had been told sooner, even if I knew it to be true in the back of my mind.

What follows are some challenges that those in IM group are familiar with, but are not necessarily exclusive to only those who are members of IM group. After all, team bonding is at it’s finest when coach puts an IM set up on the board for the entire team to complete.

1. 200 IM repeats.

April 17, 2015; Aberdeen, S.D.; Kayla Sproles, Northern State University swim team, from a November 2014 team practice. Credit: Greg Smith, NSU University Relations

Photo Courtesy: Greg Smith

Depending on the interval, these aren’t always that bad. Sometimes, even when you have to sprint all of them, they’re actually really nice if you have the right amount of rest.

2. 400 IMs for time.

Apr 15, 2015; Mesa, AZ, USA; 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps swims laps during a practice session at the Arena Pro Swim Series at Skyline Aquatic Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic via USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Arizona Republic-USA TODAY Sports

These are never fun, especially when you have to do more than one in a single practice…and when they are one after another.

3. Not being able to excuse any of your strokes.

Jan 17, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; Sarah Henry swims in the women's 200 meter IM final at Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

You can’t get away with not doing breaststroke if you want to succeed as an IMer. As they say, practice makes perfect.

4. Breaststroke for backstrokers.


Photo Courtesy: Grace Schwiederek

This usually applies less to IMers and more to backstrokers in general, but it occasionally carries over. There’s some truth to long-axis (backstroke and freestyle) swimmers typically not being too great at the short-axis strokes (breaststroke and butterfly). The same is sometimes true in reverse (backstroke being a challenge for breaststrokers).

5. Training 100 IMs.


Photo Courtesy: Alison Murtagh

This is the most upsetting when you get to college, because it’s not considered an event anymore. Except for once or twice a year at meets that don’t really matter anyways.

6. Long course.


Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

The pool just feels too long to many of us who spend most of the year training short course– 400 IMers especially. Well, it feels long to everyone except 50 freestylers.

7. Being faster than your lane mate at one stroke, but slower in another.


Photo Courtesy: Jason Walley

Deciding who’s going ahead of who is always a challenge during IM sets. One fifty, you’re in the clear, and the next your teammate is tapping on your toes persistently. Of course, you could let them go ahead, but then you’ll be hitting their feet on the next fifty.

8. Learning back-to-breast turns.

Photo Courtesy: Leo Mason - USA Today Sports

Photo Courtesy: Leo Mason – USA Today Sports

If you don’t consistently practice the more recently introduced cross-over turn after you first learn how to do it, it’s going to take weeks (or even months, in some cases) to be able to do the turn legally every time. And maybe even longer before you’re confident enough to do it in a meet.

9. Taking out the first half of the race and fading the back half.


Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold / Aringo Photos

Distance swimmers can definitely relate to this one. When you’re someone who runs on adrenaline for the first fifty of an IM, you forget that fly takes up a lot of energy. If you don’t pace yourself, you’ll likely find yourself fading by the time you get to the breaststroke leg.

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