Nancy Andreasen gets the benefits of an Olympic size pool from a 15-foot swimming machine tucked into a corner of her home gym.
Called the Endless Pool, the swimming machine creates a smooth current in the center of the pool to swim against. As she swims, she makes no turns. Neither does she move forward. The smooth current keeps her in one place and provides her with a good cardiovascular workout.
The technology behind the Endless Pool was a graduate school project for the company's founder, says Tim Plummer, vice president of Endless Pools in Philadelphia, Pa. Unlike the jet propulsion found in home spas and Jacuzzis that works like a high-powered hose, the Endless Pool uses a 16-inch propeller to create a river-like current that can be adjusted.
"Jets under high pressure can be uncomfortable for swimming, but with the Endless Pool, we create a broad current in a huge amount of water under low pressure that's totally adjustable for speed," says Plummer.
Andreasen learned about the pools, which are sold factory direct, through an ad in New Yorker magazine. Swimming had become a big part of her fitness routine after back problems limited other physical activities.
"For years I've been a regular at the Coralville Rec Center, swimming there five times a week," says Andreasen, who is the Andrew H. Woods chair of psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. "I used to get up at 6, drive to Coralville and swim until 8:30, and then go back home. This way I'm up at 6:30, and, within an hour, I've done the treadmill and had a good swim."
The Endless Pool was built into Andreasen's home gym, which was part of a three-floor addition to her house in rural North Liberty. The pools can be installed in a basement, porch, patio, garage, sun room or greenhouse. The steel frame of the pool is freestanding and may be installed above ground or in-ground.
"The pool has a filtration system, and it's heated," Andreasen says. "The upkeep involves occasionally vacuuming and checking the pH, the chemical composition."
Andreasen's swimming pool was shipped, then installed by local contractors. According to Plummer, "two reasonably handy people" can install the pool in a couple of days. The company provides videos and professional support to their customers.
The standard-size pool, 8ft-by-15ft and 39-inches deep, was developed by company President James Murdock. "The swimming pool was built on the deck of Columbia University and used for stroke training and warm-up," Plummer says.
Endless Pools became a business in 1988, selling its high-end pools to people who want the health benefits of a large swimming pool in a small space.
Through advertising in magazines such as Smithsonian, Better Homes and Gardens, and House Beautiful, "we get a large and very encouraging response," Plummer says.
An Endless Pool also was installed at a Tucson, Ariz., home during a past season of the PBS' series, "This Old House."
Like many other Endless Pool clients, Andreasen created an attractive surrounding for her pool. She chose stained cedar (because it's the most waterproof wood) and granite to surround the pool area. She also chose to add a few options to the pool: a retractable cover and hydrotherapy jets for back massage.
"When I didn't renew my locker at the Rec Center, the people there told me that they were sad to see me go," Andreasen says. "I told them 'I'm having a great time at home.' "