(From Coach Chris)
Back in February, I fell out of love with swimming. I had no interest in getting in the pool, getting on the Vasa, or doing anything in the water–not even getting in the hot tub. I am not sure what triggered my disenchantment because I was coming off a series of breakthrough and peak performances.
Over the course of 4 months, I had gone from 1:25 per 100m pace to sub 1:20 per 100m pace. I looked forward to swim practices throughout the week even more than running, which had always been my favorite. Each morning, I woke up and wanted to get in the water and continue to improve.
Yet, overnight, it all went away. I have not touched the water since: not even to play around with friends at a pool party. I have been completely dry. That all changed though this past week, when I dusted off (literally) my swim bag and headed to the pool. Welcome to the #SwimReboot project.
The reason I am sharing this project with you is that I am in the same position that many of you are in: a relative beginner, who struggles with motivation getting into the pool. And I can get discouraged and frustrated with swimming, and how hard improvements can be in the water.
You might be saying to yourself, “But Chris, you are A SWIM COACH?! How can you be bad at swimming?! I thought you were supposed to be fast”. To be honest, I was fast, but right now, I am starting back as a beginner again.
As my first pool swim, which I will talk about in the next installment, shows my form needs A LOT of work. Right now, I fatigue easily and even a short workout going “slowly” left me beat. I actually had to take a nap on Friday afternoon. I would bet that many of you struggle with the same form problems too.
Moreover, I am more time strapped than ever. Between classes, thesis research, lab projects, not to mention family commitments, getting to the pool is tough. As so many of you can relate to. Since I live and work near the pool, I do have an advantage. But it is not a matter of getting to the pool but trying to fit the very specific rec times into my own schedule.
The pool is owned and operated by the University. So varsity athletes and clubs get top time picks, followed by the high school teams, then the youth rec teams and then the clubs, and finally me and everyone else. The leftover time slots do not always fit with my schedule and can change on a whim with swim meets, extra long practices, and weather conditions.
Looking at my schedule, I found that I was only going to be able to get to the pool 1-2 a week–hardly enough time to make the ambitious improvements that I want to make over the next 16 weeks, so I realized I was going to need some help.
I reached out to my friend Rob over at Vasa. He put me in touch with Coach Eric Neilsen, one of the best swim coaches Rob knows (which is saying something) and a big proponent of Vasa training.
After talking with Eric, we worked out a plan that has me on the Vasa for two sessions a week and in the water once a week, not be your traditional approach to swim training.
This made me a bit nervous about whether I would see the improvements that I want. Eric, however, was positive and reassuring. “These workouts are going to be very targeted and specific. So we can fix your form problems and improve your endurance without trying to guess.
The Vasa Swim Erg is going to be essential for this. There is no taking on the walls, doing flip turns and drafting off team members on the Vasa. It is scripted and form specific each and every minute.”
When Eric put up my first week back, I was a little shocked at how short the sessions were initially. They were only 15 to 20 minutes. And unlike the pool, I just had to throw some shorts on a get on the bench. Are these going to be long enough to even elicit improvement?
Well that answer was quickly answered after 1 min of swimming. While short, they are intense. Each minute is definitely being used and each meter is being felt.
To add to the non-traditional nature of the project, the Vasa workouts will also be power based.
I use power for both cycling and running and have seen great progress in both disciplines with its insights. So using it for the swim will be very cool. It will also be a good metric outside of the pool to track progress and gains.
My pool sessions will also be focused and directed with the intention of carrying over into the water the form, endurance, and power work that I will be developing on the swim bench. Initial sets are short with little rest so I can keep my form throughout the whole set. It will be a humbling process.
We are launching this the week after Ironman World Championships, a period of the season which many refer to as “Dreaming Season”. My dream is to not only to be even faster than I was by the end of this project, but also to show and inspire you that you do not have to sell your soul to the pool to get faster.
YOU can get faster with dedicated and targeted work on limited time. You do not have to be stuck in the mindset of “I can run and bike but I will never be a swimmer”. And you do not have to believe that you will always be the last one out of the water. You can be the swimmer and triathlete that you’ve always wanted to be, and I hope to help you along the way.
Each week, I will be sharing my workouts, struggles, realizations, and tips on everything, including time management, swim form, and nutrition. So stay posted. Let’s turn dreams into a plan and plans into realities.
Let project #swimreboot commence.
For more on the Vasa Swim ERG and to pick up one of your own, click here to go to the VASA website.
Maximize your power and stamina while improving your technique outside the pool.
- Take your swimming up a notch
- Increase your power, speed, and stamina
- Improve your swim technique
- Measure performance gains
Try it for yourself for 3 months, risk-free—your improvement will be dramatic.