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A litle friendly competition among skiers on the Vasa Ergometer

Mon, Jun  4, 2007 - By Mike Muha

A couple NordicSkiRacers have been out playing with the Vasa Ergometer. We've been trying different competitive scenarios:

  • Who can do a fixed distance fastest
  • Who can do the most distance in a fixed time

We started out with some 100 meter sprints. We arbitrarily picked "100 meters" not really knowing how long it would take: The Vasa Ergometer is normalized for swimmers, so the distance measure assumes the resistance of water, not the resistance of skis on snow.

Regardless, we can use the distance measure as a stake in the ground for repeatable testing.

The Vasa Ergometer has 7 resistance settings from 1 = easy to 7 = hard. We started at level 3 for the 100 meter tests. It was hard enough! Everyone slowed down after the first minute, and we were all huffing and puffing with sweat dripping off our brow by the end of each sprint!

We did 100 meters of doublepoling, both prone (on our stomach) and kneeling, 100 meters of single poling (diagonal stride arm movement) while prone, then 50 meters of single pole recovery. For the single pole recovery, we stood on the floor facing away from the pulleys and did diagonal-poling, but the resistance now was on moving the hands forward during the recovery phase of the poling.

Hugh Prichard doublepoling on the Vasa Ergometer in the kneeling position

Hugh Pritchard doing doublepole sprints on the Vasa Ergometer from the kneeling position

I noticed that it was easy to cheat on these short distance by using shorter and more rapid arm and shoulder motions. The problem with this is that it doesn't replicate skiing. Adding a 3 minute doublepole test took care of the problem at a lower intensity took care of the problem: the resistance was easy enough to push all they way through, and the time was long enough that you couldn't sprint with short arm motions.

Results of the competition are in the table below:

Personal Bests on Vasa Ergometer
as of May 31, 2007
(Best time in group in bold)
 DifficultyMikeHughGreg
Fixed Distance Time
100m Doublepole - prone 3 1:36 1:27 1:21
100m Doublepole - kneeling 3 1:34 1:32 1:38
100m Single Pole - prone 3 1:33 1:27 1:34
50m Single Pole recovery - standing 3 :48 :45 :46
Fixed Time Distance
Doublepole - prone, 3 minutes 1 183m - 185m

Alas, I did not win any of them!

Some observations:

  • Kneeling on the Vasa Ergometer - where you could use your abs to help with the poling - was slower than laying prone. This could be caused by a longer cycle time needed when using the abs or by angle of the pull line from the pulleys being too low so the abs didn't really add any power but still took energy. I think the latter.
  • Longer times on the Ergometer feel more like skiing because you have to pace yourself better.
  • When you first try the machine, it's pretty easy to pull at the maximum resistance (setting 7). Don't be fooled - if you want to do more endurance or interval work, you'll need to crank it down to a lower setting.

I'm thinking the Vasa Ergometer will be great for doing longer interval sessions like 4 x 3:00, 4 x 4:00 or longer intervals. You can measure your training progress by comparing distance or average watts between sessions. And you could modify the resistance for some sessions to compare poling on slow snow vs. fast snow.

Let's see who shows up for this coming Thursday's Vasa Ergometer competition!