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Vasa SwimErg Secret Weapon Workout series

Welcome to our new blog series, Favorite Vasa Secret Weapon Workouts.

We’ve asked successful coaches and athletes in the Vasa worldwide community to share their favorite Vasa workouts that get great results.  

Below is the first interview with Coach Keith Watson and his answer to the important question:

Q: Do you have a favorite Vasa secret weapon workout, using the Vasa Trainer or the Vasa SwimErg, and what do you call it? 
KW: I have several. One of my favorites is the Race Day Simulation Session on the Vasa SwimErg.

man on Vasa SwimErg in the gym

Q: What does the workout consist of regarding warm-up, main set Distance, Time, and Intensity (power and/or RPE or heart rate)?


Warm Up: 

200-300 meters are easy to loosen up, with the damper door set at 2, just like on race morning.

Get off the SwimErg, have an energy gel, and do some light stretching, as you would on race morning, while waiting for your wave to start. 

  • Wait 10 minutes, hop on the Vasa SwimErg, and start the Main Set.

Main Set: Race distance (for example, the swim of a 70.3 triathlon is 1900 meters)

  • Damper Door 3
  • 500 meters hard, just like the start of the race. Try to elevate your HR quickly. 
  • 1000 meters settled into your race pace focused on good catch and pull/finish. 
  • 400 meters, building the pace every 100 meters, holding good technique. Finish strong with tired arms and an elevated HR.

***Transition onto the bike (a great opportunity to practice smooth transitions)

Bike (set up on an indoor trainer)

  • Do a race distance session based on time and effort using a training platform like TrainerDay, Zwift, or a course on FulGaz or Rouvy. 

***Transition to the run (a great opportunity to practice smooth transitions)

Run: (on a treadmill or outside)

  • 20-40 min easy jog just to get the legs used to running after the bike. Once they start feeling good, the session ends as I do a longer, harder race-specific run the next day.

Q: Why do it? (state the purpose and intended physical, technical, and mental training goals)

KW: It prepares you for the demands of race day. Repetition is the mother of skill development.  If you don’t do it in training, you won’t be able to do it on race day.

Knowing you can “race” the distance and how hard you can go on race day gives you confidence. It also allows you to train your nutrition plan so you don’t have to guess what you should do on race day. 

It’s the ultimate confidence-building session. It’s like going into a final exam during college, knowing you studied hard and know the material inside and out. When you open the test booklet and can answer all the questions without any doubt or guessing, that is a great feeling!

Q: How often per month do you recommend athletes do this workout?

KW: As a coach, I start prescribing this session about 8-9 weeks out. As far as a progression goes, the distance/duration would not change, just the session’s intensity as they progress. 

For example, at 8 weeks out, we would just do the distance at an easy, controlled effort to achieve the volume. 

Then, with each passing week, I modify the session to fit the demands of race day and how the athlete will “race” it.  By the time we are three and two weeks out, we are executing the session exactly how we want to race it on the day. 

1 week out, we keep the same swim session but shorten the bike.

Q: Describe a specific success story you can attribute to this workout.

KW: An athlete I coach just completed Gulf Coast 70.3 last weekend. The swim was non-wetsuit, which he had never done before. He was very nervous about this, and all I had to tell him was he was ready because he had been doing this swim and training for this day for two months. He conquered the swim without any issue and went sub-5 hours for the first time ever at age 53. 

Competitors swimming out into open water at the beginning of triathlon

Want to share your favorite Vasa Secret Weapon Workout?

We would love to read it and share it with the Vasa Community!  Please use this form, and in the Message block, answer these 3 questions:

  1. What is your favorite Vasa Secret weapon workout? (and mention if you use the Vasa Trainer Pro or the Vasa SwimErg)
  2. Why do you do it?
  3. What results and benefits have you achieved by doing this workout?

Author: Keith Watson

Keep it Simple Coaching
Triathlon Coach (Full, Half, Olympic, Sprint, Offroad)
Specializes in Triathlon and Open Water Swimming
USAT Level 1
TriSutto Certified Coach
Charlottesville, VA 22911
[email protected]

Coaches and Athletes, do you have a great Vasa Secret Weapon Workout you would like to share? We’d love to see it. Use this contact form to answer the same questions in this article and send it in to us: