Vasa Trainer, 22 years later: One triathlete’s experience

By Tom Bamford, Age Group Triathlete and Vasa Trainer owner for 22 years

I purchased my Vasa Trainer in 1990, supplemented my training with the unit and then took a 20-year hiatus from triathlon competition.

Last year I didn’t find much time to return to the pool, but used the Vasa Trainer on a regular basis in 15-minute sessions. I was amazed to come out of the water in the top 10 in each of my races with a total of 10 pool workouts under my belt for the year.

I’m recommending the Trainer to a few of the PRO women I’m competing against.

The Vasa is a secret weapon, after the wetsuit.

Wetsuits provide efficiency through buoyancy (body positioning only competitive swimmers achieve), and the Vasa Trainer provides the swim-specific strength and stroke technique for speed. It’s also a good drill to keep your elbows high and head down, as you should in the water.

In my workouts, I use a 1991 Vasa Trainer with upgraded Webbing Straps and Paddles.

My key workout: 6 x 35 reps with 2 minutes rest in between to alleviate the burn. Something you can do almost every day.

I don’t do swim-bike bricks because I’m only on the Vasa Trainer for 15-20 minutes, and I don’t feel there’s a major blood pooling effect to manage.

You can swim three one-hour pool workouts plus fees and logistics (and burn out), or do three Vasa sessions for 15 minutes each and get the same effect. I started swimming in the pool once a week a month out from my first triathlon. I often wore my wetsuit to mimic body position and swam 1,500m or 2,000m time trials to get comfortable with the feel of the water and pace. I clock a sub 22-minute 1,500 without any trouble this way.

Real swimmers may disagree with this approach, but I’m a triathlete, father of three young kids and strive to be age-group competitive.

I think the age grouper could knock off three plus minutes using this tool. He should use his extra training time and put it into cycling or running, etc.

Where else are you going to get a three+ minute savings? Let’s look at the relative cost and time savings:

Aero wheels: $1,500+ for 2 minutes over 40km
Premier frame and drivetrain: $2,000 extra for 1 minute over 40km
Then you upgrade them every five years anyway. I’ve used the Vasa for 22 years.

How much running does an age grouper have to do to take off 2-3 minutes? If they are already running in the 43-50 minute range, an extra three minutes requires a massive training effort.

Swim technique? Most age groupers are coming out in 24-29 minutes. I can tell you that most triathlon participants these days hate the pool and are “swim weak.” They are fit but have poor technique and strength.

If you are an Ironman triathlete, multiply everything by 2.5 or more. I read an article on about three years ago recommending that age groupers swim more to improve their Ironman finish times. So many are weak swimmers that extra pool time can drop 10-20 minutes from their race. This is hard to achieve in the marathon or bike. The pool time will generate better technique and strength.

That’s exactly what the Vasa Trainer will do for you.


Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a message below or send an e-mail to our Customer Service team at [email protected].

Visit the Training Resources for Triathletes page for more information on using the Vasa Trainer in your triathlon training.

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