Kicking Germs Out of the Pool

Maintaining the correct balance of chemicals in the pool can seem like a full-time job, but don't forget about your aquatic fitness equipment and accessories.

As Tamara Wagner was leaving her doctor's office after an outpatient procedure - she had some moles removed - she asked her doctor if she could continue exercising. "What kind of exercise?" he asked. "I swim at the recreation center pool," she replied. He frowned and shook his head. "Better stay out of that water for at least a week."Wagner was surprised. "I'd never thought of the pool as a place to worry about germs," she says. In fact, her attitude mirrors that of most members, who smell the chlorine and think they're safe. It's facility owners and managers who do the worrying.

Better safe than sorry

Maintaining the correct balance of chemicals in the pool can seem like a full-time job, but don't forget about your aquatic fitness equipment and accessories. Tracynda Davis, director of environmental health programs for the National Swimming Pool Foundation, Colorado Springs, Colo., says it's "extremely important" that fitness facilities regularly disinfect these items. "Bacteria and viruses can live on inanimate objects (fomites) for days, especially if there is water or organic material for them to survive on. ... Studies done by myself and colleagues at the Wisconsin State Laboratory showed bacteria can grow on damp surfaces, including handrails, locker room floors and play features, in very large numbers if the growth conditions are right," says Davis.

Fitness facilities that have pools are faced with unique hygienic challenges. Just ask Christopher Bakos, aquatic director at Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics, Huntersville, N.C. The facility currently has three very different pools, the largest being a 50-meter competition pool that holds approximately 970,000 gallons of water heated to 70 degrees for competition swimming - complete with two 1-meter and two 3-meter springloaded diving boards. "Along with the spring boards, we also offer one 5-meter, one 7.5-meter and one 10-meter diving platform for national and regional competitions," Bakos says. "This 50-meter pool is capable of hosting simultaneous 25-meter swimming events, or dive meets and swimming events simultaneously, because of two adjustable bulk heads." The facility's second pool is a four-lane, 25-meter therapy pool heated to 88 degrees "for our guests to participate in programs ranging from swim lessons for our youngest members, to water aerobics and even physical therapy provided by licensed physical trainers," says Bakos. "Lastly, the outdoor family fun pool, open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, is a zero-entry pool that has multiple water play features, as well as a 12-foot water slide. The pool deck around the fun pool is perfect for just kicking back and soaking up some sun. We also host several summer camps throughout the season."

Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics also has more than its share of aquatic fitness accessories - along with all of the headaches that come with making sure they're clean and bacteria-free. "In any sport, recreation or public facility, there can be a variety of risks that could happen if proper preventive measures are not taken," says Bakos. "Germs and bacteria [are] present on everything we touch, from shopping carts to our own steering wheels. Person to person or even airborne illnesses are impossible to neutralize completely. Proper disinfectant and a strong cleaning regimen are crucial to help reduce the spread of any infectious or contagious germs through contact or transfer."

Get on a schedule

To keep germs to a minimum, Davis advocates disinfecting aquatic fitness equipment and accessories daily. "Always wipe down equipment at the end of the night," she says. "Follow manufacturers' recommendations on cleaning; each material reacts differently to certain chemicals, and you don't want to ruin your equipment in an effort to clean it." Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics doesn't disinfect its aquatic accessories daily, but it has a schedule that works. "We clean off all aquatic exercise equipment with a mild solution of antibacterial soap and water ... twice per week, and sometimes more, depending on usage," says Bakos.

On a fitness floor, the responsibility for keeping equipment and accessories clean lies partly on the members' shoulders. Facilities frequently post signage reminding members to wipe down equipment after using it, or to spray it with disinfectant to protect other users. But for aquatic fitness equipment, the member is usually off the hook. "We currently do not require our members to participate in any cleaning of aquatic equipment supplied by the facility," says Bakos. "Those duties are the responsibility of our professional staff to maximize the guests' workouts."

Members can do their part by keeping their sniffles to themselves. Implementing a policy that encourages under-the-weather members stay out of the pool can help control the spread of germs. "We recommend sick folks to stay home until they get better, and always wash their hands with hot soapy water after going to the restroom, coughing and sneezing to prevent disease transmission," says Davis.

No hysteria here

There is heightened awareness within the industry of the importance of keeping facilities hygienic, but there is no sense of hysteria. The marketplace reflects that, as owners and managers are out of luck when it comes to buying germ-fighting aquatics products. Both Bakos and Davis say they are unaware of any aquatic fitness equipment that markets itself as "anti-microbial" or "anti-bacterial." But, there doesn't seem to be an overwhelming demand for these kinds of products just yet. "I believe it is more important to educate people on good hygiene, proper hand washing, and to stay home when they are sick," says Davis.

For his part, Bakos says his club's reputation is enough assurance for members that germs aren't welcome in his club's pools. Says Bakos, "The members [who] attend any water-related class understand that any equipment that is here for them to utilize during or after exercise is well-cleaned, properly taken care of and stored with care." FM

Purchasing Guide

Aquatic Access Inc. 800 325-5438; Aquatic Access builds water-powered lifts that provide access to pools and spas for people with disabilities, including those requiring heavy-duty lifts and larger seats. Powered by the environmentally friendly and readily available power of ordinary water pressure, each Aquatic Access lift is built to fit the pool where it is to be used. Every lift includes all necessary components for a complete installation in its base price, and is ADA-compliant.

Aquatic Trends Inc. 800 775-9588; The Aquatrend water workout station is aquatic exercise equipment designed for indoor or outdoor in-ground pools. Its lightweight and compact design takes little pool space, and it is designed to provide effective, low-impact aquatic workouts. The Aquatrend water workout station is manufactured of marine-grade stainless steel for durability.

AQx Sports 800 203-1276; Aquatic training shoes are designed for deep water running, aqua jogging, swimming, water aerobics and aquatic therapy. The strategically placed series of gills (hydrodynamic fins) on these shoes add 20 to 30 percent more resistance to leg movement patterns in the water. The shoes feature a cushioned insole for greater comfort, arch support for stability and drainage ports for quick drying. A free mesh storage bag is included.

CAT Controllers 800 657-2287; CAT Controllers' pH and ORP sensors feature a flat-tip design to reduce cleaning and maintenance. These sensors are fully compatible with salt chlorine generators and are a direct upgrade to any pH ORP Controller.

CCSI International Inc. 800 537-8231; Atria commercial pool enclosures allow for water activities year-round. Atria's powdercoated, colored aluminum rafters and frames, and sliding glass doors, are designed to be durable and to require minimum maintenance. The light-transmitting insulated opening roof panels allow for natural ventilation.

Extractor Corp. 800 553-3353; The Suitmate swimsuit extractor is designed to extract 95 percent of the water out of wet swimsuits in less than 10 seconds. Members who use Suitmate can pack a drip-free swimsuit to take home or leave in their locker without worrying about water damage and mildew. The U.L.-listed Suitmate is easy to mount on the wall and connects to any 115-volt circuit.

Hach Company/ETS Business Unit 888 278-2243; The Accu3 Portable Colorimeter is a digital meter customized for the pool and spa market. It delivers lab-comparable accuracy, and tests three critical parameters: total chlorine, free chlorine and pH. Digital results appear in just five seconds. The meter stores the last 10 measurements and the time each was taken. It's waterproof to IP67 standards, and doesn't require manual calibration. The Accu3 Portable Colorimeter comes with a carry case, reagents (100 tests each), mixing cells, a wrist strap, four AAA batteries and an instruction insert in 15 languages. Reagents refills are sold separately.

Kendall Products 800 348-2398; The Dri-Dek self-draining floor system is designed to solve the problem of wet, slippery surfaces in showers, steam rooms, locker rooms and pool decks with its raised, textured surface. Dri-Dek allows water to drain away, and lifts people above the wet surface. Available in 12 colors, Dri-Dek tiles snap together and can be trimmed for custom wall-to-wall fitting or around equipment. The tiles can be cleaned using a spray hose.

Kiefer 800 323-4071; Part of the line of PowerCords for aquatics and dry land training, the PowerCords Swim-In-Place Lane Trainer was developed to enhance strength training in a concentrated area using racing lanes as attachment points. The product allows trainers to isolate swimmers, perform stroke analysis, and teach and refine proper stroke technique. The cords can also be used for stationary swimming.

Lincoln Equipment Inc. 800 223-5450; Lincoln Equipment Inc. distributes commercial swimming pool equipment, chemicals and supplies. It markets its services to cities, school districts, colleges, country clubs, YMCAs and other facilities with commercial-sized pools. Lincoln Equipment Inc. has a coast-to-coast network of sales offices and representatives.

Med-Fit Systems Inc. 800 831-7665, ext.2; All-tile pools can be custom-built in virtually any size, shape or design, either as in-ground, above-ground or partially above-ground installations. Plyometric cants, running cants, resistance swim jets, ROM and jet benches, multiple depths and viewing windows can all be incorporated. Its manufacturing process and the ADA-compliant, all-tile construction are designed to ensure maximum heat retention and longevity. Pools can be shipped complete as one piece or in sections to accommodate new construction and existing facilities with difficult access.

Natare Corp. 800 336-8828; NataDek floor and deck surfacing is for wet recreational environments, water parks, aquatic facilities, swimming pools and locker rooms. NataDek is a specially formulated PVC/polyester composite that can be installed over concrete, tile, masonry and wood surfaces to provide a waterproof, slip-resistant surface. It resists staining, deterioration, delamination, cracking and ultraviolet light. NataDek provides a safe and sanitary floor surface, and is available in six colors: sandstone, red brick, tan, sand, light grey and dark grey. Custom colors are available upon request with large orders.

National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) 719 540-9119; Pool and spa retail and service professionals, and public pool/spa operators, can learn the basics of pool care online through the Pool Operator Primer online training course created by The National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). Students can enroll in the class by contacting any NSPF certified instructor or by going directly to eProAcademy, the NSPF online training center, at Each student who registers for the Pool Operator Primer online course receives the Certified Pool-Spa Operator Handbook.

NZ Manufacturing LLC 800 886-6621; NZ Manufacturing now offers an additional chute size for the StrechCordz Drag Belt/Tow Tether. Users can choose an 8-inch (yellow), 12-inch (blue) or 16-inch (black) chute. Used by swimmers of all abilities, the Drag Belt/Tow Tether allows for resistance swimming, and is compatible with flip turns. The chute clips on and off the tether for quick interchangeability. Each chute is made with a coated material to prolong wear in the water.

OpenAire Inc. 800 267-4877; OpenAire manufactures and installs retractable roof enclosures and operable skylights. These thermally broken aluminum frame structures can clear a span of more than 140 feet, with roofs that open 50 percent or more - perfect for swimming pool enclosures and indoor waterparks. OpenAire structures are energy-efficient alternatives to conventional construction.

Pfeiffer Fitness LLC 305 773-0560; Poolates is aquatic Pilates that trained instructors may teach in group classes or personal training formats. Basic, Personal, Intensive, Advanced, Pre/Post Natal and Master courses are offered. Weekend workshops include 15 hours for Poolates Basic, approved for 1.4 ACE CEUs, which licenses instructors to teach group classes to the generally healthy population. An additional 15 hours licenses instructors for Poolates Complete. A total of 30 training hours are required, with passage of written and practical exams. Instructors are licensed to use the Poolates name and wordmark. 800 287-1588;'s online warehouse sells commercial pool and deck equipment. A variety of brand name equipment is available, including for exercise, cleaning and maintenance, safety and rescue, electrical lighting, pool filtration, pool test kits, water treatment, pool covers, pool heating and more. also provides a host of pool renovation products including PVC pool liners, PVC and stainless steel pool gutters and grating, and modular public pool systems and stainless steel spas.

Recreation Supply Company 800 437-8072; Recreation Supply Company sells a variety of commercial swimming-pool-related items, including safety and rescue, cleaning, deck equipment, water sports equipment, toys and games, fitness gear, pumps, filters, heaters, chemicals, test kits and more. It has been serving the commercial aquatics industry for more than 25 years.

Recreonics Inc. 800 428-3254; Recreonics offers portable vacuum filters that feature a stainless steel cartridge filter, thermal plastic pump, waterproof switch and pre-wired GFI protector, 1.5-inch suction and discharge connections, and 50-foot electrical cord, all mounted on a stainless steel cart with heavy-duty rubber wheels. Two models are available: 1-H.P. pump with 105-square-foot filter (filters more than 5,525 gallons per hour) and a 2-H.P. pump with 155-square-foot filter (filters more than 8,000 gph).

RenoSys Corp. 800 783-7005; RecDeck recreational PVC flooring is constructed of a durable, felt-backed PVC. RecDeck may be used in virtually any recreation area where slip resistance, durability and ease of maintenance are of primary concern. Applications include pool decks, locker and changing rooms, weight rooms, group exercise and fitness areas, recreational and multi-purpose rooms, etc. Other products include RenoSys PVC pool shell, DuraTech gutters and grating, FuturaPool modular public pools, SoftSide safety padding, ToughDeck PVC flooring, and a full range of pool and deck equipment.

Sprint Aquatics 800 235-2156; Sprint Aquatics offers a wide variety of products for aquatic fitness, including the Vertex II Training fins, which have a short fishtail blade that helps to stabilize the ankles. The fin blades are constructed with a hard rubber material for increased propulsion. The fin's foot pocket is constructed with soft rubber for comfort and ease when putting on and taking off. Vertex II Training Fins have sizes available from child size 8 to adult size 17.

Tailwind Furniture 815 895-4247; Tailwind Furniture's lifeguard chairs are manufactured with recycled plastic lumber and stainless steel fasteners, making them virtually maintenance-free and versatile for all climates. They never need painting or staining, and will not rot or splinter.

TMI Salt Pure Corp. 800 818-8266; The Salt Pure system combines In-Line Chlorine Generation with Chemistry Control to automate water balance and improve water quality. The Salt Pure Integrated Sanitizing Control system may eliminate complaints of red eyes, itchy skin and chlorine odors. TMI also released the X-Series commercial chlorine generation equipment line, with individual units capable of producing more than 20 pounds of 100 percent FAC over 24 hours. These generators are designed to be connected to chemistry controllers to make up the TMI Integrated Sanitizing Control System. TMI provides integrated support programs for its equipment.

Water Gear 800 794-6432; Water Gear resistance bells are made of durable foam for a long life. They come with a padded hand grip and offer resistance levels that are a 40, 50, 60, 80 or 99 percent increase over just using the hands. The levels are color-coded for easy pairing during workout sessions.

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