swim in place pools

Your complete guide to swim in place pools

Goggles … check! Swim suit … check. Towel … check. If you want to go for a swim, you have to pack a bag and head to the pool. Hopping into the swimming pool near you can be refreshing, swimming lap after a lap at a leisurely pace. It can also be a chance to see friends in a Masters swim group before a hard workout. There are times, though, when you wish you could just stay at home and swim.

A swim spa, sometimes called a swim in place pool, allows you to swim in the convenience of your backyard. You can hop in for an easy 30 minutes at 4:30 am, when your local swimming pool doesn’t open until 6 am. Or, go in “after hours” when you want to get in a workout but couldn’t find time throughout the day.

When you swim at home, there’s no bag to pack. No drive to the pool or potential for getting stuck in traffic. And you certainly aren’t standing on the deck, waiting for a lane to open up.

Swimming in place is not just about convenience, though. There are benefits to incorporating a Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spa into your exercise routine, whether it complements pool training or replaces it.

swim in place pools
Are you having trouble making it to the pool and swimming regularly? An at-home swim in place pool makes it possible to stick to your training routine.

Swim in place pools

Many people do not have room for a full-length lap pool in their backyards. A lap pool is at least 40 feet long and anywhere between 6 feet and 10 feet wide. Access to a public swimming pool can be seasonal, and not every fitness facility has a swimming pool. 

For swim enthusiasts and competitive swimmers, the best way to regularly get in water are swim-in-place pools. These options take up less space in your backyard and, depending on the model, can offer year-round family fun.

At-home swim options

You’ll find that there are two main options for swim in place pools — a swim machine and a swim spa. 

A swim machine requires a previously installed in-ground pool. The unit attaches to one side of the pool and draws water to create a current. Swim spas are all-in-one units that have either a jet or propulsion system to create a water current. 

The water current mimics the flow of a river. So while you want to swim with the current in open water, in a swim spa, you are swimming against it.  The water is directed down the middle of the unit or pool. A swimmer hops in the pool or spa, finds the “sweet spot,” and enjoys his swim. 

The strength or speed of the current is often measured by how much water it moves per minute. “Weaker” machines or other brands might not be able to keep up with the swimmer. If you swim regularly or are a competitive athlete, you might need a tether or harness to swim in place. 

If you are an avid or competitive swimmer, you want a swim spa that can do more than keep up with you. You want a challenge.

Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas have a propulsion system that creates a water current that is smooth and wide. The swim in place experience is superior to other systems, with better visibility and less turbulence.

The Wave XP Pro system, a standard option on Michael Phelps spas, can produce a current that’s as fast as 54 seconds per 100 meter pace. However, it has swim settings from zero to 100, allowing anyone to enjoy a continuous swimming experience.

stationary swimming

Swim machine vs swim spa

A swim machine and a swim spa both make swimming at home possible, even if you have a small backyard.

But which of the swim in place pools is the best option for your backyard?

When comparing a swim machine to a swim spa, here are somethings to consider:

Cost. A swim machine can transform a family pool into a swim-in-place pool. However, if you do not already have a pool, you will be paying for the machine and installation. A Michael Phelps swim spa is an all-in-one unit with just one price tag. 

Installation. A backyard pool can take months to build. For a Michael Phelps swim spa, you need a concrete pad that can be poured in a day or two. Delivery and installation for the spa takes less than a day once your space is ready.

Swim area. The propulsion system of the swim spa is built into the unit, and the swim area is obstacle free. Swim machines units can be bulky and inhibit the areas for fun and recreation.

Year-round use. Unless your backyard pool is heated or you live in a temperate climate, your pool has a season. You can only take advantage of a swim machine when your pool is open. A Michael Phelps swim spa is designed for year-round use. It has full-foam insulation and a built-in heater so the water temperature is perfect 365 days a year, no matter where you live.

Stationary swimming 101

Swimming in a Michael Phelps swim spa is not like doing laps in a pool. The Wave XP Pro system generates a water current for stationary swimming. Instead of turning at the end of the lane, you just swim and swim and swim. 

For many, the swim experience mimics what it’s like to go for a swim in open water.

Still, stationary swimming is a unique experience. You might find that you have to pay more attention to your body position in the water and engage your core. 

Here are some tips to get started:

Body position. Just like a treadmill, you should not be swimming at the front of the spa. You should be about 6 inches to a foot away from the propulsion unit. You might even discover that your sweet spot is just a bit farther back. The goal is to be in the channel of the water and not swim over the current.

Pace. At its fastest, a Michael Phelps swim spa produces a current that’s equivalent to a 54-second per 100-meter pace. You might not want to swim that fast, though — especially on your first swim. Take a few minutes to play with the settings. It’s better to start slower and build confidence, improving your technique along the way. Going too fast too soon might leave you discouraged.

Swim tools. You might find that using a swim buoy and center snorkel, especially, can help you as you get used to stationary swimming. These tools are also a great way to work on your swim technique.

Form. One of the benefits of swimming in place is the opportunity to work on your form. You can use an underwater camera or put mirrors on the bottom or the swim spa to see what you really look like. Do you have a high elbow catch? Are you crossing over the centerline? Do you have a good feel for the water?

When you are swimming in a swim spa, the most important part is to make it enjoyable. Choose a comfortable water temperature. Find a pace that matches your mood. Swim for as long as you like, when you like.

For more tips on swimming in a swim spa, check out this video!

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