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My Journey with the Vasa Swim Ergometer: Using the Power Meter, Part II

Julia Galan
Julia Galan

Happy New Year to all my readers! Hope everyone has had a great holiday. Pool schedules may have been on hold for the last two weeks, but I’ve still been keeping up on using the Swim Ergometer.

Vasa emphasizes the importance of having an Vasa Swim Ergometer or a Swim Trainer for swimmers or triathletes with tight schedules or who do not benefit from having regular access to the pool. This year, I was able to experience first-hand the convenience of having an Erg to use during the holidays. Generally, my home pool begins to get increasingly crowded as out-of-town relatives begin to visit and come in to get their swim on. Additionally, the pool is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Even after the holidays, New Year’s resolutions begin and the pool can again become very crowded. With a limited pool schedule, it can be a dedicated swimmer’s nightmare! With the Ergometer, however, I could get in a decent, swimming-specific workout without even having to leave home, which was a really pleasant change! It meant that I was not tied down to the pool’s tighter schedules. I can definitely see how this would help an athlete who struggles with getting in pool time on a regular basis.

I’m up to about 800 meters a day, usually 4 to 5 times a week, using the Swim Erg. I really enjoy the ability to incorporate a mix of drills and regular swimming sets on the Erg. This is the type of workout I would do in the pool, as I place a very strong emphasis on technique, and it is good to be able to transfer that style of workout to the Ergometer. This is where the Erg really stands out, in the sense that – whatever your swimming workout style may be – you can apply it on dry land as well with this machine. This is something that is not as easy to do with oIMG_1507ther dryland equipment.

To mix up my workouts, I decided to give the functional training exercises a try. These are a few exercises that are featured in the Vasa instructional manual which could be a great form of circuit training, especially when they are incorporated into a full workout. The chest press, cross cable reverse fly and asymmetric extension can all be done using the handles. This was the first time I had used the handles; normally I had been working with the paddles. The exercises were great; the only one I had some difficulty with was the asymmetric extension. It had been marked as an advanced exercise and it was! Kneeling on the bench while raising your arm over your head requires a strong sense of balance and a strong core, so I limited myself to just a few reps of that particular exercise. I would exercise caution when doing any of the strengthening exercises. Test them out slowly, and listen to your body.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I would be completing time trials, measuring time and stroke power to be able to make comparisons each week and chart my progress. So far, I have completed one time trial of 100 meters – although I had initially planned to swim 200 meters, the shorter distance turned out to be more than sufficient! I set the damper door on setting 3, which in retrospect was probably a bit challenging. Next time I will set the damper door to 2 and see if that is a better adjustment.

In “stroke mode” of the Power Meter, I noted my time, the number of strokes I took per minutes, and the average power for both my left and my right arm. My left arm has always been the weaker of the two in swimming, and I usually balance that out with more kick on that side. With the Ergometer, I don’t have the ability to use my kick, so measuring the power of my stroke showed more of the left side imbalance. In swimming, we want the stroke to be as symmetrical and balanced as possible, so I need to work more on building strength in the left arm to balance out with the right. This means more single arm sets and strength training exercises – both in the pool and on the Erg – using the left arm. This is where the time trial comparisons can be very useful. Over the next few weeks, I can repeat the 100 meter distance and see whether the focus on building up the left arm leads to more overall symmetry in my stroke.

Julia Galan is the founder and head coach at Swimspire. A lifelong competitive swimmer and member of USA Swimming and United States Masters Swimming, Julia has trained both in the United States and Europe at the regional and national levels. She has also spent time on the pool deck, coaching swimmers and triathletes of all levels in the Maryland area since 2004.

In addition to covering inspirational events, teams and swimmers through Swimspire’s news section, Julia has contributed to and Lifehacker.