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Developing an aquatic fitness and rehabilitation centre

Liquid Gym is a one-of-a-kind hydrotherapy and hydro-training facility in Ottawa, and is the brainchild of Karen Snyder and Irene Hammerich. Photo courtesy McKie Pools and Spas and Liquid Gym
Liquid Gym is a one-of-a-kind hydrotherapy and hydro-training facility in Ottawa, and is the brainchild of Karen Snyder and Irene Hammerich.

By Campbell McKie

Liquid Gym is a one-of-a-kind hydrotherapy and hydro-training facility in Ottawa, and is the brainchild of Karen Snyder and Irene Hammerich. After Snyder broke her leg five years ago, and experiencing the challenges of scheduling physiotherapy during her busy schedule, she decided to do something to improve the situation for those requiring physiotherapy in Ottawa.

Spurred by her aquatic training and previous experience developing adapted aquatic programs, Snyder started her research.

Not long into it, Snyder, along with her business partner, knew they had the basis for a strong, promising business plan as the resources of the medical community have been severely challenged by baby boomers and this demographics’ need for physiotherapy. As the population ages, knee and hip replacements are becoming more necessary, and with an increase in workers compensation and insurance claims from automobile, farm, and in-home accidents, hydrotherapy is on the rise. Therefore, Snyder felt there was definitely a strong financial incentive in catering to the rehabilitative needs of the senior population.

Another segment of the business would cater to professional sports teams. The advantages of hydrotherapy are well known to athletes, helping injured players get back into the lineup. In fact, hydrotherapy is being used to decrease training injuries and to increase an athlete’s ability to perform.

Further, groundbreaking research has been completed establishing hydrotherapy as one of the safest methods to weightloss. In research completed by Texas A & M University, which looked at the efficacy of underwater treadmill exercise training, participants took part in a 12-week program that involved exercising three times per week without altering their diet. A summary of the results showed underwater treadmill exercise programs performed by overweight and obese men and women was an effective training modality, producing beneficial changes in body composition and improvements in physical fitness. Additionally, a leaner body mass index (BMI) was gained during an underwater treadmill training program compared to a land-based treadmill training program. Body mass index, per cent body fat, and waist to hip ratio were significantly reduced in participants. Other advantages include the lower risk of pain and injury.

Unique challenges

To provide the hydrotherapy centre with flexibility to accommodate any future business considerations, standard poured-in-place concrete pools were ruled out.
To provide the hydrotherapy centre with flexibility to accommodate any future business considerations, standard poured-in-place concrete pools were ruled out.

Some unique challenges were encountered while implementing this business venture; therefore, to minimize capital investment and to speed up implementation, the decision was made to rent facility space as opposed to constructing a new building. The owners also decided all of the equipment needed to provide flexibility to accommodate any future considerations. As a result, this ruled out the standard poured-in-place concrete pool.

To provide this type of flexibility it created another set of unique challenges. For instance, all of the current standards for commercial construction are based on concrete pool parameters; however, fibreglass pools require a slope on the walls to remove the shell without destroying the moulds. Commercial pool codes state the walls should be perpendicular, like in a standard concrete pool.

Another stumbling block was the variation in height of the potential clients. For instance, a 1.24 m (4 ft 1 in.) gymnast and a 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in.) basketball player are both required to be chest deep in the water while exercising on a bike or treadmill. Therefore, flexibility in water depth was a major challenge in designing a pool that would accommodate every client.

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