The vast majority of triathletes and open water swimmers focus on freestyle in training.
But whether you are either professional and amateur, fast or slow, beginner or veteran, the incorporation of butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke in pool training sessions can provide you with a variety of benefits.
Individual medley (IM) sets are, by general consensus of competitive swimmers, more aerobically taxing and physically demanding than doing straight freestyle sets or training sets with equipment on (e.g., pull buoys, hand paddles, snorkels). IM sets require a blend of technical proficiencies and focus. Doing butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle, especially when done in reverse, help develop physical and mental toughness that straight freestyle swimming sets do not require.
Short and long IM sets include the two sets below.
The session is based on the fastest pace you can hold for 10 x 100 freestyle performed either in a short course yards pool, short course meters pool, or a long course meters pool. Intervals should 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 x 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.