In the last few years, fitness pools (also known as “swim spas”) have become increasingly popular, and it is easy to see why. For fitness enthusiasts, swim spas are the perfect pool. Not only do fitness pools offer a current to swim against, they’re also easier to maintain and cheaper to run than traditional in-ground and above ground pools.
Not all fitness pools are created equal however. While some provide an excellent swimming experience, others can only muster a weak, turbulent swim current. Today, we will show you how to tell the difference between good and bad fitness pools so that you can pick the best fitness pool for you! First, what makes for a good swim current?
What Makes For A Good Swim Spa Current?
Every good swimming experience is made up of 4 parts. These are:
- A Strong Current. The current needs to be strong enough to give you a good workout.
- An Easy To Control Current. A strong current isn’t much good if it can’t be controlled. If you can’t vary the speed of the water enough, the current may be too strong for some to enjoy the swim spa.
- A Smooth Current. The current should also be smooth. Turbulent water creates uneven pressure on your body; pushing you around and making it harder to stay in the swim lane.
- A Wide Swim Lane. The “swim lane” is the area of the swim spa where the actual swim current can be felt. The wider the swim lane is, the easier it is to stay in the current.
Where Most Fitness Pools Don’t Get It Right
Since fitness pools have only really become popular in the last few years, most swim spa manufacturers haven’t been in business very long. Because they are so new, these manufacturers still haven’t figured out how to make a good swim current.
The most common problems with swim spa currents are:
Not Enough Power
Many swim spas simply do not have enough power to generate a strong swim current. The results is a current that even a novice swimmer can easily exceed.
To make up for this lack of power, manufacturers will instruct you to use swimming tethers to hold you back as you swim. These tethers are essentially large resistance bands that you tie around your waist. While they do prevent you from out-swimming the current, they pull at you in an unnatural way and are awkward to swim with.
Not Enough Control
Another common problem with fitness pools is an inability to properly control the speed of the swim current. In fact, most swim spas are only able to vary the speed of their currents by 20-30%! This lack of control means that many people will not be able to swim at a comfortable pace. Weaker swimmers – or those simply looking for a light workout or warm up – will have difficulty keeping up with the current, even at low speed.
Choosing The Wrong Jets
Power and control aside, the most basic problem with most swim spa current systems are the jets that are being used.
Most swim spa manufacturers use several big, round hot tub jets to power their swim current. While these jets are great for hydrotherapy, they aren’t designed to be swam against. Using them for swim currents leads to two problems:
- They produce a turbulent swim. The jet pumps used to power the swim current create a spinning current. This spinning is a positive for therapy as it varies the massage a pleasing way. For swimming though, this spinning creates a ton of turbulence that makes it hard to stay in the swim lane. Since the jets being used were designed for therapy they do nothing to reduce the spinning of the water.
- They produce a narrow swim lane. Hot tub jets are designed to massage a very narrow, focused area. When used as a swim jet, they therefore produce a very narrow, focused swim lane.
Trying to swim in a narrow, turbulent swim current is very frustrating. The turbulence forces your body to move from side to side. If your body moves too much to the left or right, however, you will get pushed out of the swim lane and have to fight to get back in.
What To Look For
Powerful Swim Pumps
To get a powerful swim you first need powerful pumps. To get a true judge of power, ignore the pump’s horsepower rating in favour of its GPM (gallons per minute) rating. Two pumps with identical HP ratings can produce very different currents. This is because horsepower simply measures how much power the pump uses, not how much water it moves. Since water movement is the true measure of a swim current’s power, gallons per minute is a much more accurate measurement.
The reason why most swim spas aren’t able to vary their currents by more than 30% is that they use hot tub style manual valves to control the current. These valves are fine for adjusting massage jets in a hot tub but aren’t robust enough to properly deal with the high water flow of swimming jets.
Electronic valves – like those found in Hydropool’s AquaTrainer swim spas – are much more robust and allow for much better control over the swim current. Hydropool’s Aquaflex Current Control valves allows you to vary the current from anywhere between 3km/h-18km/h!Control like this means that anyone who uses the swim spa – regardless of their swimming ability – will be able to find a comfortable speed to swim in.
The wider the swim jet is, the wider the swim lane will be. Widestream jets, like the V-Twin jets used in Hydropool’s AquaTrainer swim spas, spread the current out over a wider area than round jets will, making it much easier to stay in the swim lane.
Hydropool’s V-Twin jets are also equipped with industry exclusive “swim fins”. These fins are mounted inside the jet and are designed to break up the spinning water created by the pumps; greatly reducing turbulence. This creates a very smooth current that is much more enjoyable to swim in.
Fitness Packages & Accessories
Along with a great swimming experience, a good fitness pool manufacturer should also provide other fitness packages and accessories. Hydropool swim spas, for example, offer an aqua fitness package that turns your new pool into an aquatic cross training gym. Made up of resistance bands and other aqua fitness accessories, this package contains everything you need for a great, low impact, full body workout.
Along with their aqua fitness package, Hydropool offer other fitness accessories to enhance your workouts, like their Aqua-Rowing kit, and track your results, like their Swim Spa WaterWatch.
The Waterwatch connects to your phone via Bluetooth; sending data such as distance covered, calories burned and time to an app. This data is then stored in reports that allow you to easily see how you’re progressing over time. It can also be used to keep yourself within your target heart rate by vibrating every time you fall outside of your target range; letting you know that you have to speed up or slow down.
While not all swim spas are there yet, some – like the AquaTrainer line from Hydropool – have evolved into the best fitness pools currently available. Following this guide should give you the knowledge you need to be able to spot the difference between an average swim spa and a truly great fitness pool. To learn more about swim spas, check out our swim spa basics guide.