Swim Spas – Sink Or Swim?
August 30, 2017 8:47 AM   Subscribe

So I’ve had the crazy idea of training for a triathlon. I’m super unfit and have a long way to go, but it’s something to work towards at the very least. I’ve got the running and cycling covered, but the swimming is something that is going to be a big problem for me. I’m not a strong swimmer, and it’s what im going to need to work at most before I even consider competing in an event. Long story short, i live out in the sticks and have no access to a public swimming pool anywhere closer than a 2 hour drive away.

There’s a hotel that has a pool about an hour away but I’ve been told it’s for guests only and I can’t pay to just use it.

My home isn’t big enough for a swimming pool, but I could just about (maybe) squeeze a swim spa into it. However, im a little confused about these new fangled swimming machines and thought id ask you guys for some advice.

Mainly I want to know what it actually feels like to swim in a swim spa. I’ve never tried one before (I will before I buy one for sure). But what’s the swimming experience like? I find it hard to believe that it feels anything like normal swimming.

I’ve heard that with some models it’s an acceptable (but different) experience, and ive heard that with other swim spas it’s almost detrimental to training because you have to swim differently to how you normally would.

The manufacturers all say they feel super natural, but something tells me they might have some kind of a vested interest in saying that…. Hmm…

I expected to find out how much swim spas cost as the result of quick google, but it seems like I have stumbled across a super secret swim spa world that simply doesn’t want to sell anything (because they don’t list the prices).

I’ve done a lot of research on this. I’ve done everything apart from calling a sales rep because I hate being sold to and I’m still none the wiser. Seriously, give it a go yourself. There are no swim spa price lists, or sales brochures with pricing information anywhere online. You literally have to call these companies and have a sales rep pester you to find out.

The closest thing I found that even remotely resembles pricing information still leaves me with lots of questions. Apparently you can get cheap Chinese swim spas for around $8000, and ive also heard heard that you’re looking at around $20,000 to $50,000 for a decent US made swim spa.

It’s so darn confusing. Please somebody, put me out of my misery, how much do they cost!?

Whatever the answer is, i know that swim spa is going to be super expensive when I finally find out how much they cost. That much I am sure of.

But can anyone think of any other ways I can train for the swimming segment of this triathlon without using a swim spa? It’d be great to have one, and I’m sure the family would have lots of fun using it. But are there any other ways I can train in the meantime?

There are no natural open water swimming opportunities near me. Perhaps i’m not thinking out the box enough..

Any ideas of other ways I can get in the water?
posted by jenjen23 to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I used to have a membership to a hotel pool (20m length) that did monthly memberships. They didn't advertise as they didn't want so much activity that their guests were crowded out, but call up hotels advertising in your area (particularly non-chain ones) and see if they can work something out with you.
posted by notorious medium at 8:59 AM on August 30, 2017

Is there a local triathlon group or a neighborhood group you could join and see if anyone has a pool? You could also look for area swim coaches/teachers (who would presumably have access to a pool) or a community center or university?

Have you done any 5k races? Or long bike rides like an organized century? There's a lot of training that goes into those two events and typically people do races geared toward those sports in addition to doing tri races. Usually people are weak at one of the three aspects of the triathlon and many are weak at swimming for similar reasons.
posted by amanda at 8:59 AM on August 30, 2017

I would pull up google maps and see if there are any ponds/lakes/big creeks/rivers nearby that you could swim in. Most triathlons don't do their swim in pools, so it might be beneficial to train in a body of water.
posted by gregr at 9:20 AM on August 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There’s a hotel that has a pool about an hour away but I’ve been told it’s for guests only and I can’t pay to just use it.

$20,000 buys a lot of hotel rooms over two or three years. Also quite a few bottles of wine for the neighbor with a backyard pool.

The places I went swimming for fitness in the sticks were the YMCA and the community college.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:03 AM on August 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

Does your area have a Masters Swimming program? You can look for groups by zipcode here; often those groups will use high school, community college or Y pools before hours and it might be worth joining to get access to a pool. In my experience they are very welcoming to new people, regardless of swimming ability or fitness level, and it would be a huge benefit for you to train in a structured way for your triathlon; joining also gets you access to triathlete-specific workouts in their web forums. Even if you decide not to join, you'll be able to work directly with their facility to see if you can negotiate access to water.
posted by stellaluna at 10:21 AM on August 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Ok. So I was also considering a swim spa and took my "wet test" this Monday! I was in the $43k 17' long high end one and the swimming did not feel like swimming laps in a pool to me, much more like in open water (so maybe that's
good training for a Tri?). The smallest, cheapest one I found was the "Original Endless Pool" at $23,900 + cover, cabinet, tax, delivery and installation - whatever special is on at the time (around 10-20%).

In the end I decided that it was too large and expensive for basically an above ground pool for my kids to cool off in.
posted by saradarlin at 12:16 PM on August 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you want to go a cheaper, you can get harnesses that go around your waist, and you swim against an elastic band. Not as realistic as the swim spas, but WAY WAY cheaper. Of course you would still need a pool. Just one random brand: Stillswim.

The gold standard in "dry land" swim training is the Vasa system. It's not cheap, but way cheaper than a pool. Of course, you are not getting the training in regards to breathing in water. If you could somehow get access to a pool for swimming once a week, then use a vasa once or twice a week, that would be awesome.

Your first triathlon swim will be an experience no matter what. When you add in navigating in open water, and having many other people around you at the same time, it can be quite different to swimming in a pool. Everyone manages to do it though, and you'll get better with practice.
posted by trialex at 3:16 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

My husband I just looked at swim spas last weekend at the Minnesota State Fair. They look so fun! The pricing was very up front (listed on each individual unit). The sales guy we talked to did say that prices were "flexible." So of course there's always that. The swim spas we saw ranged from $15,000 - $35,000. MeMail if you're interested and I'll send you the company's information.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 5:19 PM on August 30, 2017

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