On a daily basis, most pool operators know they’re going to be asked, “What’s the pool temperature today?”. It’s a tough question, knowing just about every swimmer has a personal preference. So, what’s a “good” pool temperature and how can we mitigate the effects of water that feels too cold or too warm to us personally?
Water conducts heat away from the human body far more rapidly than air, resulting in a much different feeling at the same temperature. For example, our gym is kept at a comfortable 68 degrees, while maintaining a pool at 68 degrees would make it nearly unusable. This also explains why cooler water feels better on a hot day, when the body’s core temperature is elevated and the rapid cooling effect is pleasant.
The CDC defines “cold” water as anything under 70 degrees, but also notes breathing difficulties can begin even at warmer temperatures. This can be mitigated by performing a proper warm-up (in or out of the water), or through the use of body-warming clothing like a thermal swim cap, booties, or wetsuit. When water is cool, keep moving with longer swims to maintain body temperature. For swim team, tread water between sets to stay warm and if training on your own save shorter sets with long rest intervals for later in the workout, once you’re “warmed up”.
Conversely, water that is too warm can lead to life-threatening conditions like heat stroke. It can be especially difficult to notice the onset while in the pool, as symptoms like excessive sweating are not noticeable. When in a warm pool, be sure to stay hydrated and consider swimming shorter sets with longer rest intervals. In extreme cases, take breaks out of the water to cool off between sets.
The below chart is a compilation of recommendations from the CDC, Model Aquatic Health Code, and USA Swimming. As you can see these vary considerably based on the user group, yet just about every commercial pool is shared by multiple user groups!
Rory Grigull, AFO, CPO, CPI | Director of Facilities
|USER TYPE||LOW-TEMP RECOMMENDATION||HIGH-TEMP RECOMMENDATION|
|Swim Team & Lap Swim||78||82|
|Therapy & Rehab||87||95|
|Kid’s Swim Lessons||82||82|