Different Soaks for Different Folks
By Michelle Connolly
Shopping for a hot tub is certainly exciting…and can be confusing. With so many options, sizes, colors and brands, how do you decide what's best for you?
Although many factors come into play, the best guide may be your own "personality" -- who you are often dictates how you'll use your hot tub and the features you should consider. Not into taking involved personality tests, undergoing months of therapy, or flying to Tibet for some mountaintop self-reflection? Consider these sample character types to best match yourself with your ideal spa, features and accessories to make your soaking a truly personal experience.
The Zen Seeker
Any hot tub can do wonders for mind and body, but certain features will soothe the psyche and enhance a more peaceful state. If you yen for Zen in those therapeutic waters, consider a smaller and more intimate style of spa, designed for 2 - 3 people, to create privacy for self-reflection. Models with side tables or flat exterior areas are ideal -- and safe -- for candles or other mood setters. Additional features to consider when shopping:
• A bubbling system, which uses an air blower to produce a lighter, therapeutic full-body massage with less force than most jets. These systems also provide a calm, steady sound of moving water.
• Water features. A waterfall or trickling fountain will tantalize your senses and soothe your soul. These popular features can be enhanced with special lighting that can be mixed and matched to your mood.
• Built-in scent dispensers release specific mood-enhancing or calming aromas without adversely affecting water chemistry. You can also buy specifically formulated aromatherapy scents to mix into spa water.
• A spa mister blows cool mist around the spa perimeter to refresh users and lengthen soaking time.
• Into aqua-yoga? Pay attention to spa depth, footwell size and available seating. When standing in the spa at its deepest point, the water should rise at least to mid-chest level, which maximizes a stretch session through water resistance. The footwell should be at least two feet wide for poses such as "King Dancer," and seats should be comfortably level to accommodate the lotus position.
The Party Animal
To party hearty, pick a hot tub with plenty of room. A larger hot tub style will seat 8 - 10 people comfortably and include features to keep the fun-fest going all night long. Spacious spas also afford a variety of seating options, including a reversible double lounge seat where couples can lie next to or facing each other; captain's chair seats, which often include several massaging jets; and/or bench seating. Other features to make you the host with the most:
• Bars and tables. These attachable units can be connected to one side of your spa, or wrapped around several sides; they often feature faux or premium granite countertops. Bar stools offer seating for party guests taking a break from the wondrous waters. And a table, typically made of waterproof synthetic wood, allows for easy eating and socializing.
• Cold storage. Many hot tubs offer the option of a built-in mini-fridge for drinks and snacks and ice buckets conveniently located so you never have to leave the water to satisfy your thirst. Cupholders built into the spa shell add to convenience.
• Sound systems. Some spas have sound systems that rival top-notch stereos for the dry set. CD and MP3 players are available, often with waterproof remote controls. There are also surround sound systems equipped with special transducers that send sound waves through the bottom of the tub and into the water to "feel" the music, as well as hear it.
• Lighting enhances any mood, but options in which colors flash and change can rival a disco (without the spinning ball). Look for LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting, which is energy-efficient, longer-lasting and requires less maintenance.
The Wet Couch Potato
If your idea of paradise is relaxing in front of the tube, take it to the water. Look for a hot tub style with lounger-type seating, the spa equivalent of "La-Z-Boy®" seats for the ultimate in ergonomic indulgence. Designed with armrests, neck pillows and footrests, these seats allow you to veg out in total comfort. You may also consider:
• Jets that are placed strategically at your neck, shoulder, wrist and feet to massage out all the kinks after a hard day at work. Pulsating jets gently knead tired muscles, while whirlpool jets provide powerful therapy. Look for pressure control options, to adjust the power and force of each jet.
• High-definition TV/DVDs. Designed for maximum outdoor use, these marine-grade TV entertainment systems can withstand rain, splashing and be cleaned with a garden hose. Look for televisions with low glare to ensure a vibrant picture at any time of day. Include a waterproof remote so you can channel surf worry-free while soaking.
• Towel warmers offer comfort, convenience and less dripping for chillin' when it's chilly. Towel warmers can be freestanding or attached to the spa itself, and are ideal for those who enjoy a relaxing soak outdoors.
The Health Nut
Many land exercises can be done in a hot tub -- often better, because water adds resistance to work muscles harder and buoyancy results in less impact on joints. If you want a spa specifically for exercise, look for model styles with plenty of interior space (at least three feet wide). Many manufacturers offer hot tubs with large footwells for exercise, as well as spas with minimal seating designed specifically for water workouts. Great add-ons to enhance your routine:
• Exercise equipment, such as rowing attachments, provides a great workout without the sweaty feeling of land workouts. Also consider accessories such as exercise bands for strength-training and physical therapy, underwater treadmills for aerobic workouts, or even waterproof pedometers. Both the Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org) and the Aquatic Exercise Association (www.aeawave.com) offer water exercise brochures and recommendations on proper water exercise techniques.
• An iPod® attachment allows you to move to the beat -- without disturbing others.