Maintain Swim-Specific Strength, Power & Endurance If Isolated At Home.
There’s never been a better time to be an endurance athlete. In the midst of an unprecedented health crisis and a battery of bad news every time we turn on the TV, the best way to remain physically and mentally healthy is by doing what you’ve been doing all along—with a few minor adjustments. Swim-at-home training is the answer.
Chances are your pool or gym is closed by now. If not, it likely won’t be open much longer. And unless you live in a warm climate, like Florida, Arizona, Southern California, or another part of the world, it’s probably a bit early to jump in the open water. While the Coronavirus might keep you out of the pool or open water in the short term, it can’t stop you from putting in a focused block of indoor training that will have you swimming stronger, better and faster in the long run.
Setting At-Home Swim Training Goals
No matter what type of indoor workout you’re doing, it’s important to approach each session with a specific goal in mind. In order to stay mentally engaged while working out in the basement, garage, living room or back yard, sessions need to be short and focused. Now is not the time for long, steady base-building while binge-watching Netflix. And it’s definitely not time to catch up on the news while you work out.
Veteran triathlon coach Tim Crowley encourages his athletes to perform indoor sessions year-round and believes the same principals of interval training apply whether your running on a treadmill, riding on a stationary trainer, or pulling on a SwimErg or a Vasa Trainer.
“My favorite interval set is just an adaption of my favorite treadmill workout: 40 seconds on with 20 seconds rest, starting with 10-12 reps,” he says. “On the Vasa, it ends up being a lot like quality 50-meter repeats in the pool. Focus on a specific stroke rate or power throughout the set, or just focus on maintaining perfect form. Those specific goals will help it go by a lot faster and add value to the workout.”
When you’re swim training at-home, the goal should be on the volume of quality. If 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off means you can maintain better form and do more repeats, then that will ultimately give you a better workout. Like smart trainers for bikes, the Vasa SwimErg provides plenty of options for mixing up your workout. You can change up the stroke rate while keeping the damper door in the same setting, or you can vary the resistance by adjusting the damper door throughout the workout. The power meter also provides instant feedback, which can help the workout fly by even faster than it would in a pool.
Vasa + Variety In Your At-Home Swim Training
Variety is key to staying mentally engaged and building functional fitness, and that’s true whether your goals are swim-specific, you’re training for a triathlon or open water swimming event, or if you’re just maintaining fitness during this temporary disruption of routine. The ability to quickly get on and off a Vasa Trainer means you have endless options to mix up each workout.
“Mixing a little functional strength work into a SwimErg session can make a big difference,” Crowley says. “Whether you’re on a Vasa Trainer or using stretch cords, you don’t get that internal rotation in the shoulders. If you work rotator cuff rotations—either with bands or weights—into your session, you can strengthen those neglected muscles to prevent injuries and ensure you’re working the entire shoulder.
Getting in a “swim” without actually putting your head in water means you can add strength training to swim training in unique ways. With the addition of a suspension trainer like TRX, kettlebells, or free weights, adding lower-body and core exercises to a Vasa session allows you to do an intense, full-body workout in very little time.
“I like doing 10-minutes of swim-specific core work after a workout on the Vasa SwimErg,” says professional triathlete Andrew Starykowicz. “Thirty minutes on the Vasa followed by 10-minutes of working the lower-core muscles—the ones you use while kicking—feels equal to about an hour in the pool.”
Short Workouts & Long-Term Focus
Remember that endurance athletes were built for isolation, and it shouldn’t keep you from reaching your fitness goals. Whether your state-of-the-art pain cave is complete with a Vasa SwimErg, or you’ve just got some stretch cords and a tree, just a few minutes a day can keep your swim fitness sharp for when the pools re-open and the races resume.
“My favorite Vasa workout is just 1-minute easy, then 40-seconds at a moderate power and stroke rate, followed by 20-seconds all-out sprinting,” Starykowicz says. “If you do that five times through, you can get a solid workout in just 10 minutes.”
Chances are your 2020 season is going to look a little different than you had planned, but there’s no reason that should stop you from being the athlete you want to be. As Crowley is reminding all of his athletes during this strange time: “It’s always been important to approach your sport with a long-term focus. This isn’t optimal, but that hasn’t changed. The pools will be open and the races will be back before you know it.”
About The Author: Brad Culp is an endurance sports journalist and lifelong swimmer. He’s previously worked as editor-in-chief of Triathlete and LAVA magazines, as well as media manager of the International Triathlon Union. He’s a graduate of Miami University with degrees in journalism and psychology and resides in Geneva, Illinois.