Getting to Swim Anytime

Written by Stu Watson

Advice on being able to successfully swim anytime without looking for a pool or dealing with crowded lanes.swimming tips

I'm a water rat. A former collegiate swimmer and water polo player, former surfer, currently nuts about windsurfing, I can't get dry. So when I stayed at a motel for three weeks recently, I was thrilled at the prospect of daily access to a swimming pool.

Get in the Swim
Water is supportive for people trying to recover from injury.
Water provides a slow motion workout that reduces risk of injury while boosting aerobic demand.
Lap swimming will add variety, help alleviate soreness and build aerobic strength
Even if you're not the best swimmer, you can still benefit from a dip in the pool.
Before working out in a public pool, make sure to buy a good pair of goggles.

Or so I thought. But in those 24 days, I swam just three times.

As much as I like the idea of getting back into a pool for aerobic workouts, it hasn't happened, and I'm not sure it will. Pools are difficult to find, and often far from home. Lap swim hours don't mesh with busy schedules. Even then, you've got to mesh your pace with those of other swimmers.

All of which explains why I became a runner. And that explains why my hip is starting to hurt, and why swimming again exerts its pull.

This may explain why Annette Vonjouanne Yokochi of Corvallis, Ore., and Virginia Walker of Mill Spring, N.C., and dozens of other people in between have bought into the idea of an aquatic treadmill.

"It's just great for your body," says Yokochi, a former competitive swimmer and now an engineering professor at Oregon State University. "It's low impact, and with the buoyancy of water, you're not putting a strain on your joints."

She shares the passion with husband, Alex, a one-time Olympic-caliber swimmer for Portugal. They also shared the hassles of chasing down water time at public pools. Two years ago, they got fed up and bought a pool that lets them swim in place.

Produced by Endless Pools of Aston, Pa., their pool and others like it create an adjustable current that essentially holds the swimmer in place. The swimmer can move to the side and out of the current for a rest, kick it up a notch for an interval workout, or just dial the current in to a long-distance pace.

A propeller creates the current. Competing products use jets of water. Company spokesman Chris Wackman says standard pools measure 7 by 14 feet and cost around $16,400 without shipping or installation, which 30 percent of purchasers do themselves.

The Yokochis got a customized model, which lets them both swim side-by-side in parallel flumes.

Wackman says many boomers are starting to feel the body break down from running. If they aren't ready to quit, or switch to swimming, the Endless Pool lets them aqua-jog in place.

"You get the same aerobic exercise in about 25 percent less time," he says.

After years of swimming laps, each lap punctuated with a flip turn, the Yokochis appreciate not having to turn, and turn, and turn again. In the daylight basement of their home, they can swim as far as they do in the open ocean on visits to Hawaii.

When she was 12, Virginia Walker started swimming to deal with a leg disability. She and her husband later built pools at each new residence. They were costly to build, heat and clean, says Walker.

Now 63 and a masters competitor in synchronized swimming, Walker says she needed an indoor swimming pool for year-round training, but a full-size pool was out of the question.

"When this came along, it was perfect for me," she says.

To fight boredom, the Yokochis have placed swim mirrors on the bottom of their pool. "You can see the effect of different stroke techniques," says Annette Yokochi.

And when the family all shows up, the pool has room for more than lap swimming. "It's six feet deep," says Yokochi. "That's enough for Marco Polo."

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