We’re big fans of any kind of Triathlon gadgets so when Garmin sent us their new Garmin Swim to review we were eager to put it to the test. Like many Triathletes we spend hours in the pool doing swim sets as part of our training. Until now, we’ve used our normal Triathlon watch and the pool side clock to time our sessions but we love the idea of a device dedicated to timing and recording our swim sessions, just like the Garmin running watches do for our running sessions.
Initially we thought that the Garmin Swim may also work for our open water swims but as soon as we went through the Getting Started section of the manual we realized that the Garmin Swim doesn’t work for open water sessions. So, if you’re looking for both a pool and openwater tracking device you may want to check out the Garmin Forerunner 910XT.
The Garmin Swim is a stylish looking sports watch, which looks equally nice on your wrist as a day-to-day timepiece. It has a slim profile design with a plastic strap and a large face so you can easily see the data. The device is water resistant to 50 meters and unlike some water resistant devices where you need a technician to change the battery, you can replace your own with the Garmin Swim.
After a quick consultation with the manual going through all the functionality of the watch, we found it relatively easy to access and work the main features of the device. It has 6 buttons, each marked with a symbol, giving you access to its features. The Garmin Swim is able to detect four different swimming strokes, including;
- Freestyle – Free
- Backstroke – Back
- Breaststroke – Breast
- Butterfly – Fly
To start the session simply press the blue swim button on the left. The first time you use the device you are asked to set the pool size. There is also a custom pool size option, which is handy for other size pools e.g our local gym has a 20m pool (note, the device is designed for 20m lap pools or more).
Simply press the start button on the right hand side of the screen and the Interval timer starts. Once you start the timer the device starts to record strokes as well as lengths and time. (The Garmin Swim has an internal accelerometer, which allows it to determine stroke type, and lengths/laps.) Note: It also works out your SWOLF score, which is the sum of the time for one length and the number of strokes for that length e.g. 30 seconds plus 15 strokes equals a SWOLF score of 45. Swolf is a measurement of efficiency and, like golf, a lower score is better. All of this information is recorded for you to review on the Garmin Connect Dashboard after the session. Pressing pause between intervals and the rest timer starts. Press pause again to start recording the next interval.
The Garmin Swim has a ‘drill logging’ feature, which enables you to log drills so they show up in your workout data (note: you need to enable the Drill Log, which is under Swimming in the main menu). You can see total distance and time swam at the the touch of a button. (note: the little circles to the right of the blue swim button below allow you to switch to different screens from the session by pressing the blue swim button).
The Garmin Swim can store approximately 30 swims based on typical use. The history displays the date, total session time, tool swim time, total distance, total lengths, average pace, average stroke count, average swim efficiency, total calories and intervals data (if used).
You need to go to garminconnect.com to register and download the Garmin ANT agent before you can pair the Garmin Swim with the computer in order to then upload your latest swim session data to your Garmin Connect dashboard. This only takes a few minutes and then you can upload your data by inserting the Garmin USB ANT stick that comes with the Garmin Swim into your computer. Your swim data then automatically transfers to your computer when in range and is then displayed via your online Garmin Connect dashboard, which lists all of your Garmin Swim uploaded sessions.
You can view time, distance, stroke type, pace, cadence, stroke count, calories burned and more for a length, an interval or your entire workout. Garmin Connect also shows your efficiency/swolf score as recorded by your Garmin Swim device.
For Triathletes who love to record, analyse, monitor and review their training stats, the Garmin Swim is a great device for your swimming training in the pool plus we also liked it as a stylish looking sports timepiece. It’s also reasonably priced with a suggested retail price of £129.99.
Further details on the Garmin Swim:
The Garmin Swim houses a sensor, called an accelerometer, which measures motion. With software specifically designed to analyze motion, the device will measure three basic metrics for swimming:
◦ Stroke count – counts a stroke for every full cycle of the arm wearing the watch
◦ Length count – counts pool lengths by detecting your turn or stop; one length count is one trip down the pool
◦ Stroke type – displays different types of strokes detected by specific swimming motions
◦ Stroke count and Length count are used in combination with timing to compute other swimming data, such as distance, pace, stroke rate, SWOLF
The distance is calculated on the Garmin Swim by multiplying the size of the pool by the length count. The length count is one trip down the pool and is counted by detecting your turn or stop with the built-in accelerometer (motion sensor).
Consistent Stroke Pattern
The Garmin Swim requires a consistent stroke pattern, which is seen in swimmers with lap swimming experience. If new to lap swimming, the Garmin swim watches may not accurately record swim data. As swimming technique improves, the accuracy of the swim data will improve. Striving for a strong push-off the wall with a long streamlining (glide) phase will also help the watch accurately count lengths.
Four Different Swimming Strokes
The Garmin Swim is able to detect four different swimming strokes. The below list shows each stroke type and the term used in the data field:
◦ Freestyle – Free
◦ Backstroke – Back
◦ Breaststroke – Breast
◦ Butterfly – Fly
If a swim interval contains lengths with different stroke types, the Swim will display Mixed. If a combination of strokes is used in a single length, the Swim will assign one of the above stroke types instead of Mixed. Mixed is used for an interval made up of lengths where a different stroke type is used for each length.