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Improved triathlon race performance with the Vasa Swim Ergometer

Cortney Martin saw swim improvement using the Vasa SwimErg

As a triathlete, I’ve always been a strong cyclist and runner but a frustrated mid-pack swimmer. Last year I began training on the Vasa Swim Ergometer and broke decisively out of the mid-pack at the Beach2Battleship half-iron distance race in Wilmington, NC in October. My 35:21 swim ranked 40th out of 334 females, allowing for a 10th overall finish (1st master’s), with a time of 5:15:26 at age 46. Best of all, my swim time was right in line with most of the top-10 female finishers.

Coach Eric Neilsen, who led the Vasa Swim Ergometer pilot training project last winter, asked about the contribution of the Vasa Swim Erg to my racing.

If you can pinpoint three things about the Vasa Swim Ergometer training that contributed to your swim improvement, what would they be?

  1. The kinesthetic feedback of the power paddles and bench helped me to improve my technique. Related to that, since it’s so easy to take video, early on coaches discovered I was not using my core effectively or connecting my pull to the opposite hip. That was a big “aha” moment.
  2. The Vasa Swim Ergometer taught me to recruit the correct muscles to generate power and I see with the Power Meter that when my form slips, so do my power numbers. You quickly discover that you can’t generate or sustain power with poor form, or lazy lats and core.
  3. The Power Meter provides measurement and motivation beyond just the simple metric of time that we use at the pool. I can monitor stroke tempo (important for triathletes to keep that up), power, and left/tright power balance. I will work extremely hard to meet numeric goals on that Power Meter…it doesn’t lie!

Being a time-crunched wife, mother of two, and working a full time job, how did training with the Vasa Swim Ergometer help?

I cannot say enough about the convenience factor of the Vasa Swim Ergometer. It saves so much time and hassle! A pool session is nearly 2 hours out of my day and impacts the whole family. With the Vasa Swim Ergometer I can do an equivalent (or better) workout in 35 minutes. It’s a tremendous workout as evidenced by the puddles of sweat I leave on the floor and on the monorail. The Ergometer also reduces the guilt factor of leaving the house and family to train.

Regardless of the athletes’ situation, (time-crunched, beginner or experienced, access to pool or not), did swim training on the Vasa Swim Erg help build your confidence for racing and / or training in open water?  Has it helped you overcome any fears about the triathlon swim?

Training on the Vasa Swim Ergometer increased my confidence because I could definitively see and measure the resulting improvements in power and endurance, enabling me to race more aggressively in the triathlon swim. Rather than just surviving the swim, I can now change gears and actually race it.

What do you tell other triathletes about the Vasa Swim Ergometer?

I tell them that the same butt-kicking effective, safe, and time-efficient workouts we get on a bike trainer or treadmill can be had on a Vasa Swim Ergometer.  Yes, it’s an investment, but not much more than a good set of race wheels or computerized bike trainer. And the potential upside of of the Vasa Swim Ergometer is so much greater – many minutes off a race swim and many hours of pool prep and travel saved.

Many triathletes who are frustrated by their lack of swim speed and negligible improvement.  Many of us didn’t learn to really swim until we entered the sport of triathlon as adults and so we are way behind those who swam as kids! Improvements can be had with time and repetition to correct neuromuscular habits and to develop power and endurance. The Vasa Swim Ergometer gives us a convenient way to improve the swim quicker.

What’s ahead for you in 2014?

My A-races will be USA Triathlon Nationals in Milwaukee and ITU Worlds in Edmonton. It’s going to be very competitive at Nationals as we vie for Team USA spots for 2015 Worlds in Chicago. There won’t be room for weakness in the swim, bike, or run, and the Vasa Swim Ergometer will have an important role in my preparation.

 B2B finsh