Swimming in the sand

July 21st, 2011

The Vasa Ergometer allows Nicholas to "swim" without any water.

My deployment to Kuwait has been a unique roller coaster with its many ups and downs. Lucky for me, this experience has been nothing that I have had to face alone, thanks to friends, family, and others like Vasa. Although I am an Army Officer first, focusing on accomplishing my unit’s mission, I am an athlete second, during my free time.

One concern I had was the accessibility to facilities and an environment conducive to maintaining and improving my fitness. One such struggle was the access to a pool, even though I was assured that Camp Arifjan had built an outdoor pool a few years ago that was set up for lap swimming.

The Vasa Ergometer allows Nicholas to "swim" without any water.

When I got here and conducted my initial recon, I found out terrible news that the pool had been closed since November for heavy maintenance issues.   Of course I followed up with those in charge and the lifeguards who were continuing to maintain the pool and its deck used for sun bathing, but my pressure and pressure from other swimmers on base did not produce any desired outcome.  As the weeks went by and having only the opportunity to run and bike, I began to become more and more frustrated.  My swimming fitness had been better than it had ever been upon deploying, and to see it slowly go away wasn’t pleasing at all and I was not sure what to do.

My triathlon coach, Tim Crowley, eventually raised the question about getting a Vasa Ergometer, something that he had recommended to me before.  Soon enough I was talking with him and my manager/swim coach, Louis Tharp, about the possibility of get one sent here to Kuwait.  After a few emails, it arrived.

Since using the Ergometer, I have noticed a remarkable improvement in my swimming. This is a machine that simulates the ideal swimming alternative.  For so many years, I tried many different toys and devices and strength exercises in order to improve strength and power that would translate specifically to swimming, and none came close until I got the Vasa Erg.

What is unique about this device is strength and power training almost identical to swimming. Isolation of the pull phase of the swim stroke, also the most important part of the stroke, is the number one reason why I personally like the Erg.

At the same time you are working your muscles in the identical motions you swim and in the same horizontal position, users of the erg can also focus on technique, specifically hand and arm placement.

In addition, a data screen is available that provides important information like power output (wattage), stroke rate, and distance, among other data that can be used for training measurement.  Oh, and I cannot forget to mention that the Erg barely takes any space, and can be set up or stored in less than 10 minutes.

The pool eventually opened in mid-May, nearly four months after I arrived in Kuwait.  During the closure I had found a way to occasionally go off base to the Kuwait Naval Base to swim at their indoor pool, and for months I had not swam more than one, maybe two times every other week, if I was lucky.

However, at that time I had been using the Erg for all or most of my swims.  Incredible! — to say the least. Even though I was not swimming I was still maintaining and gaining valuable swim fitness that I noticed immediately when I started swimming regularly in the pool.

I continue to use the Erg as a tool to maximize my swimming and the specific speed, strength, and power that goes into trying to compete at the ITU triathlon level.