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The “save your season” solution for injured swimmers

How do you keep your injured swimmers in training?

We’ve heard countless stories from coaches and swimmers who’ve relied on the SwimErg for quality training while recovering from an injury that keeps them out of the pool. Their reports are often similar: Not only are the swimmers as fit as they were leading up to the injury, they’re often stronger after some weeks using the SwimErg.

The following interview, conducted in 2009 with Kenyon College’s assistant swimming coach, contains one of those stories.

VASA: How does Kenyon College use the Vasa Ergometer?

KENYON: This season, we used the Ergs as part of a dry-land circuit for our endurance-based swimmers three times a week. Within the “Erg stop” on the circuit, the swimmers would record their distance traveled each session with the idea of bettering that performance the next time. This was a great way to add some directly applicable strength to those swimmers. Another very effective (and extremely important) use was with two other groups. First, we had some people who really wanted to work on feeling a “catch” out in the front quadrant of their stroke, and those swimmers would hop on the Ergs before or after practice to work on that feel.

However, perhaps the most important group to use the Ergs was injured swimmers. Whether it was an ear infection, a broken foot, or bad knees, the Ergs were a great way for them to mimic swimming without putting their injuries at risk. We would have them “re-create” sets from workouts we were doing in the pool, or put together something that would help them maintain strength in their time out of the water.

VASA: Last season, we learned that one of your promising young freshmen injured his foot early on.  Would you tell us about that incident?

KENYON:  Zack had a great first semester, and dropped quite a bit of time at our December shave and taper meet. We were very excited about Zack’s potential for a great NCAA meet, then on just the second day of our Florida training trip, he severely injured his foot while playing catch on the beach. He had jumped up to catch the football and awkwardly came down on his foot. Placed in a walking boot with instructions for no pushing off on the foot for several weeks, we all feared Zack would miss the rest of the season.

VASA: How did Zack manage to make a full recovery and come back to WIN the 50 Free – setting an NCAA record?

KENYON: While still in Florida, we set up a couple of stretch cords in the shallow end of the pool connected to an aqua-jogging belt that Zack wore along with a pull buoy. This allowed Zack to do some swimming workouts without pushing off or standing on his bad foot.

In addition, we had a well-known strength and conditioning trainer, Vern Gambetta, come by a number of times while we were in Florida. He helped us devise further methods of alternate training for Zack. A primary element of this training was using Vern’s Vasa Trainer. This allowed us to set up a number of different workouts that were able to address many of the losses Zack may have otherwise endured to his strength training. While we were able to do many weight training exercises, Zack was certainly limited in some planes by his injury, and his use with the Vasa Trainer very much helped in this area. We really had to keep good care of his foot, as the doctor warned that the joint was quite possibly unstable, and if so, further damage could be done. Obviously, we didn’t have to worry about this while using the Vasa Trainer.

Once we returned to Kenyon, we returned to the same alternate training for Zack with the Vasa Ergometer in place of the Vasa Trainer. This allowed Zack more freedom with the resistance in the training, and some workouts he would spend most of his time on the Erg, with a bit of swimming.

Eventually, we were able to move Zack back into a lane with other swimmers though he wasn’t able to push off with his bad foot. He swam in our last couple of dual meets from a (one-legged) push, and was able to do flip turns about a week out of our conference championship meet. He had a great meet at conference and we were looking forward to see what he could do at Nationals. He ended up surprising us all with a new school record in the 50 (19.86), and actually became the first freshman to win the 50 free at NCAA’s! Zack also swam on three NCAA record-setting relays, and took third in the 100 free. I have to give a lot of credit to Zack, as his desire to perform was second-to-none after being told he might not be able to finish his freshman season.


Do you have a story of your own you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us anytime.

For more coaching solutions, visit our Training Resources for Swim Coaches page.