A Paralympian's Top 3 Benefits of Endless Pools Training
Since Joe Townsend lost both his legs in Afghanistan, he's been on the move more than ever. The Royal Marine Commander-turned-paratriathlete has competed at the IRONMAN World Championships in Hawaii, in ITU events from Geneva to Yokohama, and at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
After his fateful accident in 2008, he turned to the triathlon to regain his feeling of control over his body and to raise money for Help for Heroes, a charity supporting wounded UK veterans.
He's seemingly embraced every challenge to come his way; fortunately, his triathlon training got less challenging last year. Reports Joe, "I'm really fortunate to have an Endless Pool® right in my house."
Becoming a Paratriathlete
"After my injury, I was asked to do an IRONMAN to raise money for charity." At the time, Joe was "not at all" a competitive swimmer; "I could pass a basic swim test, but I needed extra lessons." He almost opted for the bike/run duathlon option. "I eventually decided, 'Why not try to learn to swim so I can call myself an Ironman.'"
"I've been swimming six days a week ever since." That hasn't always been so easy. At the nearby public pool, where he had to share lanes with less focused swimmers, "serious training wasn't possible."
"When I swim in a traditional pool," the double amputee notes, "I can't kick off the wall." That means additional effort to get back up to speed, so "I can't get in my race pace."
As a result, "I was really struggling with my swimming time," Joe laments. He recalls thinking to himself, "It would be awesome to swim whenever I wanted without any interruption."
Bringing Training Home
Joe now swims in a Performance Endless Pool, courtesy of our award-winning dealer, Home Counties Pools & Hot Tubs. A step up from our Original Endless Pool, the Performance swim current adjusts from a gentle warm up to its demanding top pace of 1:11/100m.
"The Endless Pool is an absolutely fantastic piece of equipment. It's more open-water specific," he observes. On a more personal note, "I wanted to optimize my training environment at home so I can be close to my family."
Of course, Joe found other benefits of his Endless Pools training…
#1: Stroke Analysis
"First, for swim stroke analysis and working on technique, the Endless Pool is just brilliant," Joe finds. "It helped to improve my swim times dramatically."
Joe uses Endless Pools' two stainless-steel underwater mirrors. The Swim Mirror, which is at the front and angled upwards, lets swimmers monitor their hand entry, pull through, and shoulder rolls. The Floor Mirror lies flat to reflect a swimmer's body position.
#2: Video Feedback
"Second, I can video myself and look back" to review swim technique and body position.
In-place swimming makes it easy to record a full swim with a stationary camera, either underwater or just above. Joe can then assess the real-time adjustments that he made using the mirrors.
#3: Immediate Pace Signals
"The third thing I love, it gives you the opportunity to try different things." In the Endless Pool, you set the current for one pace, just as you would with a runner's treadmill; once you get on pace, you can't help but notice if you slow down or speed up.
With each tweak to his form or body position, "If it's having a negative impact, you get pushed to the back of the pool. If it's having a positive impact, you hit the grill in front. You can't really get that feedback in the open water or pool very easily."
With 50+ pace settings on the Endless Pools swim current, "I can drop my pace in increments of seconds. It's very easy to measure improvements in your training."
Last month, Joe completed the Race Across America. He's a triathlete, but he calls the California-to-Maryland bicycle race "a challenge I wanted to be part of," especially as part of a team of 18 disabled servicemen. They completed their "epic ride" in 6 days, 12 hours, 36 minutes.
Even when training for the bike race, Joe still turned to his Endless Pool. "I'm swimming six days a week, typically. The swim, the bike, and the racing wheelchair all complement each other."
What's ahead for Joe? "I have the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018. That'll make a nice stepping-stone leading into the Games in Tokyo 2020."
In Tokyo, he's hoping for a better finish than Rio's. "I had a great bike, and the fastest run time. As I crossed the finish line, I collapsed. It wasn't that positive or glamorous, but it also meant that I was a Paralympian.
"That's something that can never be taken away. Every day, I wake up knowing that I’m a Paralympian."