Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

I know some of you have been on one or at least seen one. If you want to try one, in the Buffalo NY area, contact me for a full demo and “try out”.

Training might be a big priority for you, but on a daily basis, you have to make decisions around keeping your training, career and family in balance. Swimming is often the most difficult of the three triathlon disciplines to fit into a time-crunched schedule. Fortunately, there is a great training tool available that you can use when your time is too crunched to complete a full in-water swim session. Say hello to the Vasa Ergometer.

To use the Vasa Ergometer, you lie on your belly on an elevated padded platform that moves forward and backward on a rail. In each hand you hold a swim paddle that is attached to a resistance unit via a cable. As you mimic your swim stroke, the cables provide resistance and ideally the platform should stay stationary.

This training device is so useful because it allows you to complete a sport-specific strength workout in a short period of time. It can also help improve your swim technique. For example, one important part of swim technique is maintaining high elbows during the catch phase of your swim stroke, which puts your hand and forearm in an optimal position for a strong pulling phase. There are ways to work on this and other components of stroke technique in the water, but the necessities of staying at the surface and moving forward sometimes make it difficult to focus intently on one aspect of swim technique. When you’re on the Vasa you aren’t turning your head so frequently, so you can monitor the position of your arms throughout the entire catch phase of each stroke. Keep in mind, however, that because the Vasa Ergometer doesn’t require all of the integrated motions of in-water swimming, it has to be considered a supplement to your pool workouts and not a total replacement. For example, you are not working on your kick or your side-to-side breathing while on the machine.

When it comes to designing individual workouts on this machine, they can vary for each athlete. The unit has the ability to adjust the resistance or load on your arms through a flap door that alters the amount of airflow into the wind-generating fan. You can also change the angle of the rail supporting the sliding platform. It’s important to remember, though, that even on an easy setting, a Vasa workout will be much harder than a comparable in-water workout. For example, if you usually swim 45-60 minutes in the pool, you might only be able to handle 10 to 15 minutes on the Vasa, perhaps less the first time you use the machine. From the perspective of a time-crunched athlete, however, that’s not a bad thing because a high-quality 15-minute workout on the Vasa is better than skipping your swim training altogether.

It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Vasa with about five to eight minutes of “swimming” to help you determine how your current fitness level translates to time and effort on the machine. Since you’re using the Vasa for more of an endurance swimming workout than a purely strength training workout, you’ll want the angle of the rail to stay almost level, or for more resistance you can raise the front of the rail. Be sure to get in a good two to five minutes of easy swimming on the machine (very light resistance) to warm up your arms before attempting any particular intervals.

We recommend that your first workout be five to 10 x 30-second freestyle intervals with 30 to 45 seconds of passive recovery between intervals. You only want to pull as hard as you can while maintaining perfect form, and there will be resistance on your arms during the recovery phase of the stroke as well. The Vasa places a lot of load on the initial catch phase of the stroke, when your arm is extended in front of you. You want to be conservative on the Vasa because the muscles controlling this portion of the stroke are often somewhat weak, meaning they are easy to overload.

As your fitness and experience with the machine progress, your goal should be to increase the duration of individual intervals while reducing your total number of intervals. In other words, you want to accumulate more total work time and make each work period longer. A typical progression could go from 10 x 30-second intervals, to 5 x 1-minute intervals, to 5 x 90-second intervals, eventually working your way up to repeatable five-minute intervals.

The key is to continue challenging yourself to swim a little longer, but without sacrificing technique in the process. At the end of any series of intervals, cool down with one to three minutes of low-resistance swimming to help facilitate circulation to and from the muscles you’ve been training.

For time-crunched athletes, the Vasa Ergometer can be a great timesaver and a beneficial addition to your swim training. Most importantly, it helps to bridge the gap between missing and completing workouts when training gets kicked off course by your busy life.



Vasa company logoWelcome to November!

How was your swim this last season? Feel you have room for improvement?

Now is the perfect time to work on technique and make adjustments if needed. Piling on the yards does not make you a faster or better swimmer. It does hurt your shoulders and puts the bad habits into the muscle memory.

Get a video of yourself swimming and take a look, you will be surprised at what you are or are not doing. This can be done on the pool deck on a bench or standing with stretch cords or use a swim bench like the Vasa Swim trainer or a Halo system. Get some video of yourself. If you have underwater video equipment it is best or video the dry land, you will be able to see your swim stroke and see where the inefficiencies are. It is one thing for someone to tell you where they see problems but quite the another when you see for yourself.

Once you have the correct technique for you to be the most hydrodynamic you can be, then it is time for distance base build. Long deliberate reach and roll of the body with an almost “catch-up” style freestyle stroke will gain you that desired speed while slowing your stroke turnover. You will be very surprised at the less energy exerted and the smooth flow your stroke now has. Less energy, lower heart rate, same if not just a bit faster for those 100’s… now build up the endurance and distance in the workouts.

Drills I use every time I get in the water:

  1. Fist – close your hands and swim. Some people use a tennis ball or other item to grasp to keep their hands clenched. Turns off the nerves in the palms so you can feel the water pressure in the forearms and up above the elbows. This high elbow, high elbow in the pull not the recovery, stroke gives you more surface area of your arms for catching that water and moving you forward. Use the big muscles in your Lats (Latissimus dorsi) for the main part of the pull. “Early Vertical Forearm” as Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen states and explains in the video.
  2. Catch up – Getting long and reaching for the wall. One hand out in front while the other takes a stroke. Once the stroke hand has “caught up” to the outreached hand, switch and take a stroke with the other arm keeping the other stretched out and waiting. Breathe on one side for this drill! This is the only time I like to see single sided breathing. 🙂 This “Catching Up” will get you to swim “front quadrant”. Take a look at the professional swimmers and how smooth they are. One arm is in recovery and ready to enter the water before the outreached hand begins its stroke.
  3. One arm – This is a tough one and takes a bit of practice. Keep one arm at your side while swimming with the other. Keep it long and glide! Breath only on the NON-STROKE side. This drill has you focus on the entire stroke of one arm as well as making you rotate! Think of an upright washing machine keeping the pivot point of your body at your spine. head down and in neutral position, just as if you were standing and walking (eyes at 90Deg from your spine), looking at the bottom of the pool. Use fins the first few times doing this drill to get the timing down.
  4. 6 kick switch – on your left side with left arm stretched out and your right arm on your side, all of your body pointing to the side of the pool. Not on your belly. Not on your back. On your side. Kick 6 or so times, take a stroke to your right side (the switch). 6 or so kicks on your right side with your right arm stretched out and left arm on your side…

Need a one-on-one to go over these items and get some underwater video? Contact me.

H2O Audio Getting bored with the monotony of laps during your high yardage workouts? Break it up with the same playlist you use on the treadmill. Water proof your music and listen while you swim! 20% discount for all M2Xtreme athletes!