Why Being an IMer is the Perfect Situation (From the Archive)
By Cathleen Pruden
Full disclosure: I am a 400 IMer and I absolutely love it.
It took me a while to come to terms with my fate as an IMer. I struggled with the fact that I didn’t have a “prime” stroke. It wasn’t until being well rounded started to get me cuts to meets (because when you’re younger, I swear the 400 IM cut is more generous than any other) that I started to appreciate my situation. Even better, learning to love my strength helped me get better at it. So, if your knack is for the medley, embrace it. And to all of you one stroke wonders, here are four reasons why you should wish you were in our club.
1. You Get To Do a Little Bit of Everything
Four rounds of a set? Might as well do one each IM order. (Bonus: Counting is a lot less work for you than the swimmer trucking along doing freestyle for all 16x100s.)
IMers are blessed by a balance. The butterfly portion of a set is just long enough to challenge a swimmer, but doesn’t push them to a near drowning. By the time staring at the ceiling gets boring, breaststroke rolls around. That “Last One Fast One” mentality is extra strong when the freestyle you’re swimming is relatively fresh, and you’re envisioning finishing the race the same way you’re ending the set.
On the days IMers are told to choose just one stroke for a “prime stroke” set, we have a choice: What is feeling best today? Or do we want to get better at whatever isn’t feeling too great?
2. There is a Revolving Door of Something to Improve
Every swimmer has this opportunity–start, turns, underwaters, head position, the list goes on and on. Weaknesses just stand out in an IM event. There is that one split that is slower than everyone else’s.
For a while, my butterfly was survival swimming. “Find a way to finish the first 50 or 100 and then you can join the race” was my thought process. So, I made butterfly my priority for a few weeks. It got stronger, my time got faster, and I had a new weakness: Backstroke. There’s a saying about making your weaknesses your strengths, and in the lane of IMers, that’ll keep you busy for an eternity.
3. Every Set Can Have a Clear Purpose
Being an IMer keeps me engaged in my swimming. I have goals for every stroke and focuses for each stroke’s technique. The to-do list always seems longer than there is time to swim.
I would imagine that when you focus on sprint freestyle, it can be tough to get mentally into a breaststroke set. But, when I swim all four strokes in two different distances, I have no excuse not to be committed to every rep. It matters and can make a difference. I can apply everything I work on to a race I’m visualizing or a goal I’ve created. There is no excuse to waste a single set.
4. The Race
I love being in and watching IM events. Even in a heat of well-rounded IMers, everybody has a strength.
There is always that moment – usually somewhere around the backstroke to breaststroke transition – where you wonder how these swimmers’ seed times are on the same planet. Yet, coming down the final stretch of freestyle, the swimmers are neck and neck. Never has “staying in your own lane” and “swimming your own race” been more important. An IM race develops much differently than a sprint and with less strategy than a distance race, but it’s exciting nonetheless.
I took an age-group swing at being a backstroker, had a two-month span as a 200 butterflier, and have done the on-again-off-again thing with breaststroke. Distance freestyle has been a side job, but the 400 IM has held fast and true as my best event for the past eight years. It wasn’t love at first swim, but it’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it stays interesting. I’ll call myself lucky, because I’m certainly in love with being an IMer.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.