Water Workouts

Pool and swim spa professionals take aquatic fitness to a whole new level

The Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spa

Photo courtesy of Master Spas, Inc. 

 

For many pool and swim spa enthusiasts, water workouts are the ultimate form of exercise. And industry advancements continue to heighten the experience. This year’s pool trends, for instance, include increasingly sophisticated automation systems, underwater speakers, LED lighting, ultraviolet and ozone sanitation systems, and interestingly textured finishes—all of which make for multisensory submersion.

The name of the game for many in the industry is to make exercising more enjoyable, which is a laudable goal given the health benefits associated with aquatic aerobics. According to the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), whose mission is to “encourage healthier living by increasing aquatic activity through education and research,” water is a versatile—and often expedient—environment in which to challenge many deficits simultaneously.

“Generally speaking, when a body is neck deep in water, good things happen,” says NSPF’s Lauren Stack, noting the circulatory benefits. “Your heart automatically gets exercise just by standing in water. When you layer exercise on top of that, there’s nothing better.”

 

The Michael Phelps Momentum Swim Spa

Photo courtesy of Master Spas, Inc. 

Bob Lauter, Master Spas, Inc. CEO, has a contagious enthusiasm for swim spas, which is understandable, given he works closely with World Champion Michael Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, collaborating on product development. “Getting feedback from the greatest swimmer who’s ever lived and the greatest coach who’s ever coached has really helped us dial in what we’re doing on the propulsion side,” enthuses Lauter.

Master Spas has equipped the Michael Phelps Skill Center in Saco, Maine, with four of their swim spas. “The center works with people recovering from injuries and surgeries or working to lose weight or trying to increase stamina,” explains Lauter, noting the diversity of swim spa users.

“So many people look at the Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spa and recall how he used it to shave time off his weakest stroke to go on to win the gold medal. But the truth is, most people are using it to rehab or for general exercise,” says Lauter. The model is ideal for running in place or stretching or performing activities that can be difficult on land. “People are using it to reestablish their quality of life,” he adds.

Another misperception is the idea that a swim spa is too small. According to Lauter, its size is one of its greatest assets. Noting its minimal footprint, he makes the point that, unlike a full-size pool, it doesn’t dominate the backyard.

 

Master Spas’ digital controls can be programmed remotely through an app.

Photo courtesy of Master Spas, Inc. 

 

Its dimensions are sometimes thought to be a hindrance to different types of exercises, but that’s not the case, according to Lauter. “Because of the propulsion system and the exercise kits that come with them, they are a lot more versatile.”

The most popular model is the dual-temperature Momentum, which has a full-size swim spa plus a six-person hot tub. Features include waterline LED lighting, rowing and exercise equipment, therapy seats, foot massage jets, and a noise-reduction system. Premium add-ons include a fusion-touch sound system, a WiFi module, digital controls that can be programmed remotely through an app, and an underwater camera.

In terms of care, Lauter says it is kept to a minimum. “We have a patented mineral system that aids in keeping the water clean…We use a combination of ozone and ultraviolet light, which is how drinking water is purified.” As swim spas have become more sophisticated, so have their filtration systems, making maintenance easier.

In the works are plans to make the propulsion systems smoother and more consistent. “For really strong swimmers, we need to find ways to keep the water from being moved too much,” notes Lauter.

Cosmetically, there are some interesting things happening with lighting, and they have started using a non-slip, foam-based material that simulates teak decking and eliminates the need for water shoes.

Given Master Spas’ niche, it is no surprise they have teamed up with Ironman as the official sponsor. Lauter notes how difficult it is for participants to find open bodies of water in which to train for the triathlon’s swimming portion. Plus, he says, “training in a pool requires a million turns to get the distance they need to be able to swim. With the propulsion system, they can swim for an hour without making a turn.”

 

The Riverflow System can also be used for kayaking and paddle boarding. 

Photo courtesy of Current Systems, Inc. 

When Current Systems, Inc. founder Peter Davidson patented the predecessor to the Riverflow System in the 1980s, impact sports and joint damage were starting to be linked. At that time, too, backyard swimming pools were getting smaller in response to development trends as well as the need to conserve water.

“Those were the motivations in the very beginning,” says Davidson, who recalls donating a pump to a VA hospital a few years ago. Many of the disabled vets relished being in the current with water flotation devices—demonstrating both the physical and psychological benefits of aquatic exercise. “Those things have motivated me over the years.”

Today, he recognizes the trend of combining fitness and fun; the Riverflow System fits the bill for both. “Whether using it for jogging or swimming, when you’re in the current, you are exercising…Even kids will stay in the pool all day inventing stuff to do with the current.”

The Riverflow System can be described as utilitarian and versatile, which explains its appeal to serious swimmers. “We get lots of calls from swimmers who don’t have the room or the finances to put in a full-size lap pool,” says Davidson. “They can shrink it down to 20 feet or less and have all the functionality of the lap pool and more. It has a smaller footprint and is less expensive.”

 

Photo courtesy of Current Systems, Inc. 

The current itself is non-turbulent. Davidson talks about an “appropriate” current for swimming. “Swim jets, in my opinion, are the wrong approach to creating a current. I often ask potential customers if they feel that putting their face in a Jacuzzi jet and trying to swim makes sense.”

Unlike harsh jet streams, the low-pressure Riverflow System current is efficient and quiet, making it feel natural. (It is so quiet and natural feeling, in fact, that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida uses it with their dolphins, which are very sensitive to mechanical noise.)

For an optimal swim workout, Davidson notes the importance of an exercise-appropriate water depth as well as markers on the pool floor, which help swimmers orient themselves and set their pace. Adjustability is also key a waterproof wireless remote easily adjusts the system.

Davidson’s current is even used for kayaking and paddle boarding. He also recommends tying off a rope at the source for resistance exercises.

Among the reasons for Riverflow’s popularity is its power. “We’ve had ocean swimmers and triathletes comment that they can’t get the same kind of power anywhere other than in the ocean,” notes Davidson.

Ultimately, the current adds a dimension just not found in a static pool.

“It becomes dynamic,” says Davidson. “When you turn it on, you have another environment entirely.”

 

Designed by Skip Phillips, Questar Pools, and built by Dave Peterson, Watershape Consulting.

Photo courtesy of Current Systems, Inc. 

 

Because the entire body of water in a SwimEx pool is moving, president Suzanne Vaughan compares the experience of being in one to a salmon running upstream. “The beauty of the SwimEx,” she says, “is that just by using your imagination and positioning your body appropriately, you can get a great full-body workout without having to use a lot of gadgets. There are so many different exercises you can do using the handrail and the current.”

Vaughan notes a misconception of some athletes who feel that because their heart rates don’t get as high in water as on land, they aren’t working out as hard. The truth is, the heart functions differently in water, affecting the rate. A water workout is just as good as, if not better than, given its low-impact nature, a land-based workout. And because you aren’t feeling the pressure on your joints, says Vaughan, you can workout for longer periods of time.

 

Swim Ex Spas are tailored to indiviual styles and needs.

Photo courtesy of SwimEx

 

A SwimEx pool is like a micro gym. In addition to swimming, running, and biking, people use it to do step ups, squats, and core and upper-body work. (The company offers a flash drive with over an hour of footage demonstrating all of the ways in which its pools can be used.) According to Vaughan, the paddle wheel-generated current forces a body into proper alignment for performing exercises such as squats—if not done correctly, users will be knocked off their feet.

Given the rehabilitating effects of being in water, it makes sense that Chicago Cubs trainer Mark O’Neal uses a SwimEx as an aid in helping baseball players recover from shoulder injuries. “It’s been a great tool for people who are rehabilitating from surgery too,” says Vaughan. “Water decreases the swelling and helps with range of motion.” Because the paddle wheel current is so gentle, smooth, and even—unlike propellers and jet-stream systems that are more turbulent—it facilitates passive stretching, post-surgery.

Of the models offered, people tend to gravitate toward the 500 OS, a highly versatile one-piece pool featuring a state-of-the-art water system with 99 speeds, built-in seats, an angled running pad, a deep well, and the option of varying the water depths to accommodate users of different heights.

Each pool is built per owner, so colors, tiles, and configurations can be customized. “We really tailor our pools to the individual users,” says Vaughan. SwimEx pools are also programmable—like treadmills—to offer interval training and sprint workouts.

 

Photo courtesy of SwimEx

Whether getting into a fully loaded, gadget-central pool or a pared-down model for the basics, the point remains the same: water workouts are good for body, mind, and spirit.

 

current-systems.com

masterspas.com

nspf.org

swimex.com

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