Use This Workout To Fix Your IM!

Jun 21, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Allison Schmitt of NBAC-MD warms up before her event in the diving pool during the preliminary heats at George F. Haines International Aquatic Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

By Ronald Hehn, Concordia College Head Coach

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 2. THIS week’s workout approaches each part of the individual Medley, component by component. In the Individual Medley, it is important for the athlete to have Butterfly and Backstroke speed, and Breaststroke and Freestyle endurance. Consequently, Freestyle must be practiced more fatigued than Butterfly. The workout begins by developing Butterfly and Backstroke speed, then challenges Breaststroke and Freestyle fitness. The Warm-Down Set accommodates the athlete’s physiological needs.

During this workout, each stroke is conditioned relative to its position in the order of the Individual Medley. For example, if an athlete completed a 200 I.M. in 80 total cycles, 20 per stroke, then Butterfly would be performed on cycles 1-20, Backstroke on cycles 21-40, Breaststroke on cycles 41-60, and Freestyle on cycles 61-80. Each stroke progressively occurs at a higher cycle range; the early stokes require Speed and the later strokes require Endurance. Therefore, in the Individual Medley the Butterfly requires 0-25% Endurance and 75-100% Speed, Backstroke requires 25-50% Endurance and 50-75% Speed, Breaststroke requires 50-75% Endurance and 25-50% Speed, and Freestyle requires 75-100% Endurance and 0-25% Speed. The workout conditions each stroke according to its speed or fitness needs.

Warm-Up – General Swim – The athlete should use this opportunity to experiment with ways to get their body warmed up quickly. The athlete is encouraged to mix in scull, kick, or drill during the swim.

Main Set (Part 1) – Butterfly and Backstroke Speed – This segment is designed to improve Butterfly and Backstroke speed. Butterfly must be executed as efficiently as possible in order to minimize fatigue before Backstroke. During Backstroke, the athlete must maintain the greatest speed at their fitness threshold. It is crucial that the athlete transfers the tempo established in Butterfly throughout Backstroke despite fatigue; diminished tempo often results in slower speed.

The Freestyle (Meters) or Kick (Yards) segments allow the athlete to actively recover while maintaining a reasonable pace. The athlete should execute these segments as efficiently as possible in order to conserve energy for segments demanding greater effort.

The final IM Swim challenges the athlete’s ability to transition Butterfly and Backstroke speed into the final two strokes. For Meters, the athlete must swim 6 cycles for Butterfly, Backstroke, and Breaststroke, finishing the remainder of the length Freestyle. This segment is an opportunity for the athlete to properly execute recently practiced skills at a BEST Effort.

Main Set (Part 2) – Breaststroke Fitness – The 50’s Butterfly / Backstroke / Freestyle encourage the athlete to maintain consistent rhythm (i.e. tempo) throughout each stroke transition without the normal interruption of a turn. BEST Effort Butterfly must be swim for 4 cycles (4 Double Arm-Strokes), Backstroke for 5 cycles (10 Single Arm-Strokes), and low-effort Freestyle may be swum for the remainder of the 25/50. This segment prepares the athlete to transfer Butterfly and Backstroke speed into Breaststroke fitness.

As aforementioned, it is not necessary for the athlete to have Breaststroke speed; rather, the athlete must condition Breaststroke fitness. The 50’s Breaststroke are an opportunity for the athlete to work on conditioning the stroke that needs the second most amount of conditioning for the Individual Medley. Fitness level is determined by the athlete’s ability to maintain PROPER technique despite fatigue. The athlete must strive to maintain consistent Stroke Count and pace throughout the component; increased Stroke Count due to fatigue often results in decreased speed.

Main Set (Part 3) – Power, Turns, and Freestyle Finishing Speed – This component is designed to improve each stroke’s swimming power and turn technique, as well as Freestyle finishing speed. Mid-Pool starts should be begun from a floating position with no initial forward momentum. When the athlete begins to swim, they must try to reach peak speed as soon as possible. Mid-Pool starts build power by overcoming inertia (i.e. that which is at rest stays at rest until acted upon by an outside force). To increase difficulty, have the athlete glide backwards before attempting forward progress; the backward momentum increases the force required to overcome inertia (i.e. that which is in motion stays in motion until acted upon by an outside force). In addition, the athlete is introduced to one extra turn per repetition.

This 50’s that transition from Swim to Kick are designed to prepare the athlete to execute each stroke with PERFECT technique, then transition into PROPER body-alignment during the Kick. The athlete must monitor distance-per-stroke by achieving consistent distance with a consistent number of strokes. Butterfly must be swim for 4 cycles (4 Double Arm-Strokes), Backstroke must be swum for 5 cycles (10 Single Arm-Strokes). Breaststroke must be swum for 6 cycles (6 Double-Arm-Strokes), and Choice of Kick for the remainder of the 50. Cycles increase as the stroke occurs later in the order of the Individual Medley to accommodate each stroke’s needs.

The Freestyle segment is designed to condition the athlete’s cardiovascular system by gradually increasing respiration and heart rate. Similar to the Breaststroke component, the athlete should focus on maintaining a consistent Stroke Count per length while maintaining consistent Kick-Outs in order to demonstrate Freestyle fitness.

Warm-Down Set – The Warm-Down Set is extensive in order to utilize any lactate produced during the workout. The athlete is to focus on peak speed through short bursts of speed. For both Meters and Yards, the first segment of 50’s (meters) / 25’s (yards) requires the athlete to perform either 6 strokes of Backstroke / Freestyle or 3 strokes of Butterfly / Breaststroke; the second segment of 50’s (meters) / 25’s (yards) requires the athlete to perform either 4 strokes of Backstroke / Freestyle or 2 strokes of Butterfly / Breaststroke. The athlete should focus on improving and executing efficient breakouts. The remainder of the length is to be done at a very low-effort with a non-competitive stroke.

The 100’s are designed to actively recover the athlete with aerobic exercise. The athlete’s Freestyle fitness is gently challenged. The athlete should focus on PROPER technique that utilizes the most efficient stroke mechanics.

Ronald Hehn is entering his second year as head coach at Concordia, and is the founder of the DakotaSota Swim Club in Fargo. Hehn had an impressive collegiate career as a All-American at Indiana University, and also swam at both the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. To see more from Hehn, check out his swimming workouts Facebook page.