Swim-in-place pools start to gain traction

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Spa-like relaxation is giving the site of a long swim more of a place at home.

Tom Esser from Alpine Pools in Hampton says therapeutic aspects of some current swim-in-place pools are providing the kind of social benefits that make the backyard pool a gathering place for family and friends.

“Exercise is important for everyone, but some of the spa features are really making the idea seem reasonable,” he says, talking about the attraction of sitting in warm water with a friend and a refreshment.

Swim-in-place pools are a form of watery treadmill in which a swimmer can swim hundreds of yards — while not going anywhere. But the pools in the past lacked a jet-fed area for relaxation or even therapy.

Albert Eiler, who owns two fitness organizations in Allison Park, says therapeutic and social aspects were an important part of his decision to buy a swim-in-place pool for his West Deer home.

If they hadn't been there?

“We would have thought about it a lot more,” he says.

Not only are both aspects offered in the pool he bought, but it also will offer a place for the two Eiler daughters to play, he says.

Eiler owns Stick to It Fitness, a gym and fitness firm in Allison Park, and Change Rx, which puts together health and well-being programs for companies across the nation.

He says he is aware of the stress that running and other sports can put on joints and sees great benefits in swimming. He believes the pool will give him the ability to do a 35- to 40-minute workout at home and that the jets will provide a bit of therapy afterward.

He had a hot tub in a former home, but this is his first swim-in place pool.

Justin Rushin of Cheswick Pools says the spa features have made interest in the exercise pools “still small, but it is way better than when it was practically nothing 10 years ago.”

Rob Shaeffer, marketing assistant for Endless Pools in Delaware County, says the company has changed its design strategy to appeal to a market seeking more than one reason to buy one of the workout machines.

“Up to a few years ago, we were dealing mostly with people who just wanted a good workout,” he says. “Now, we can provide other options.”

Besides seating areas served by jets that provide a spa or hot-tub experience, some Endless Pools products also offer a treadmill floor that allows running without the jarring from concrete or blacktop.

Price estimates range according to those options and size. Shaeffer says Endless Pools can be bought for $7,500 to $28,900. In terms of the whole job, Esser suggests looking in the $15,000 to $35,000 range while Rushin says the project could go up to $100,000.

Some costs can be downright attractive, Esser says.

“You are heating 1,000 gallons of water instead of 20,000,” he says.

Exercise pools still have not taken off. Although most people realize the need for exercise, Esser says he sells only eight to 15 annually as opposed to installing and building 120 in-ground pools and 600 above-ground ones.

Bruce Ankeny II, manager of King Cole Pools in North Huntingdon, says the business doesn't handle exercise pools at all because “they just never took off.”

Esser, though, says the practicality of an exercise pool is hard to argue. In a space of about 14 to 19 feet, such a pool will allow swimming or other forms of exercise on a daily basis. Esser and Rushin say outside-mounted pools can be used nine moths of the year, perhaps longer.

“I don't recommend using them in bitter cold,” Rushin says.

But Esser says he uses his hot tub well into the winter. After an exercise, a body is heated so thoroughly that the trip back into the house is easy.

Endless Pools' Shaeffer says the firm offers four sizes, with the largest, at 19 feet, having four seating areas that can be used while someone else swims. Even the smallest pool, a 10-footer, can seat two.

“Our main demographic is those looking for the convenience of home fitness. Endless Pools are popular among baby boomers who can no longer run or exercise outside, but who still desire to keep in shape.”

But the hot tub aspect adds another dimension.

“We got the feeling people wanted a place to relax and hang out as much as exercise,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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