So anyone who’s followed my fitness blogging on my website knows that for long time I have wanted a device or app that would help me with the swimming portion of my training. Well, I finally broke down and spent the $150 and bought the Garmin Swim Watch to help me track all the metrics related to swimming. I got the watch through REI using the fall member discount, so I saved 20% on the price. I debated for long time between getting the Garmin Swim watch and the Finess Swimsense watch. After reading a lot of the online reviews and different fitness sites, I decided to go with the Garmin Swim watch.
The Garmin watch includes access to the Garmin Connect site, which allows you to go and look at a lot of different metrics and analyze each workout. The site also links up to other sites like Strava and RunKeeper, which in the past I’ve mentioned that I’m a big fan of. The watch also features a better LCD display than most of the competitors, along with a backlight and easy to navigate menu. The feature set of the watch can be updated using the USB Ant dongle that you plug into the USB port of your computer and utilize to upload workouts or download firmware updates.
So, I have used the watch for a little over two weeks now and recorded three swim sessions with it. I’d like to say that every session has been a perfect swimming one but of course there is a learning curve to using the. The first session was very close to perfect, but the watch ended up recording a little over 100 meters more than I actually swam. The watch tracks your swimming through various accelerometers and motion sensors that are in it. The watch can differentiate between different types of strokes and you can set up drill workouts that you can then launch during training.
I found the watch to be pretty accurate especially by the third workout, and Garmin provides some tips on how to improve the accuracy. You should push off the wall at the end of each lane, so that you can clearly demarcate the end of one swim length. Also, it helps if you don’t have a sloppy technique as that can mess up the accuracy. The watch can be set for different pool sizes of 25 m, 50 m, yards and so on. I happen to swim 25 m at the L.A. Fitness pool most of the time, so that is what I have to watch that to.
The watch itself is quite comfortable and features a standard rubber strap with multiple eyelets to adjust for wrist size. It has six buttons on the outside that manage the various watch functions. The standard display gives you day of the week, time, date, month and your total distance for that week. You can also access a timer on the watch or your workout history. Additionally, you can get to enter data unique to you like your weight, height and other body metrics. When browsing your workout history you can see all the details of a particular workout all the way down to the individual intervals.
To start a swim workout it only takes a quick click on the blue swim button. From there you can track a workout and pause during any breaks. You can review the previous interval and your total distance and time while paused. At the end you simply hit stop and can save the workout or discarded if you want. The pool training aspect of the watch is both its major advantage and limitation. The watch is designed for pool lap training and lacks a GPS sensor for outdoor training. So, if you want to track open water swimming you’ll need a watch like the Garmin Forerunner 910XT, but that will cost you $400 and up.
The watch also does not feature a heart rate monitor. I was, however, able to track my heart rate by leveraging the Wahoo Blue HR and Wahoo Fitness App. I set up a swim workout and tracked my heart rate against all of the swim sessions. The Wahoo Fitness App allows you to export the heart rate data, which you can then enter into the Garmin Connect, Strava, or RunKeeper websites.
If you’re as detailed obsessed as I am, you will love every piece of data that you get from this watch. The Garmin Connect website provides a great level of detail for each workout including your swim efficiency, calories burned, pace, total distance, average number of strokes, total strokes, etc. You can also compare workouts, set PRs, edit any errors or update any details around a particular workout. I really love using this app for analyzing just how well a swim workout really went. I believe that in the long term, using this watch and the Garmin Connect website will in fact help me become a better swimmer.
Ultimately, it is the raw amount of data that is probably the biggest reason to buy this watch. I’ll probably provide some more updates on using this swim training tool in the future, but for now I can give it two thumbs up. I recommend it for anyone who wants to improve their swimming and get some quality data to pore over. The investment is worth it and not as expensive as the Garmin Forerunner 910XT. If you want to read a more detailed review of the watch, check out this review here.