3 Things to Consider When Getting a Wearable for Swimming

Ready to get your lap swim on? Here’s what you need to know about one of the essentials of crushing it in the water—a waterproof fitness tracker for swimming.

Wearable tech has come a long way over the past few years when it comes to accuracy, capability and looks. For swimmers like myself who grew up in the 80s and 90s the most we could hope for was training with a digital clock at the side of the pool, which wasn’t very accurate. Our coach could also read aloud splits and results, but getting lost in a group of 20-30 swimmers meant we weren’t getting a lot of data on how we were swimming.

The latest wave of waterproof fitness trackers have solved that problem and then some. Whether it’s the waterproof smartwatches (Apple 3, Fitbit Ionic, Garmin Fenix) or the swim-dedicated watches (FINIS SwimSense, MisFit Shine 2), we’ve come a long way when it comes to being able to break down our workouts.

Here are some things to check out before you pick up your new watch for swimming:

Does it count strokes? This is the new must for swimmers—being able to count your strokes each lap can get tiring and is impossible to keep track of over the course of a 1-2 hour swim. Some laps you will tire and your stroke count will increase. This is just part of the deal when it comes to working out. Instead of trying to keep track of all those stroke counts, your watch should be able to do it for you. Wy is stroke count so important? Because it is a measure of efficiency. If you can do a lap of the pool in 30 strokes instead 32 strokes, you are getting faster and more efficient (as long as you swim it in the same amount of time, obviously).

Does it count SWOLF? While we are on the topic of efficiency and stroke counts, does your new watch have the ability to keep track of your SWOLF score? Also called “mini-maxi” by more seasons competitive swimmers, this number is the sum of your stroke count and time elapsed for a lap. So, for example, if you took 30 strokes to complete a 50m lap in :30 seconds, your SWOLF or mini-maxi score would be 60. The cool thing about this is that it gives you a two-pronged approach at improvement: either you can get more efficient or you can get faster (in a perfect world—it’s both!). Not all waterproof fitness watches offer this, so be on the lookout for it!

Does it have third party app support? The Apple Watch Series 3 is the only one that does this at this point. All the rest of the waterproof fitness watches, from Garmin to FitBit have their own dedicated swim tracking apps and software. The Apple Watch Series 3 comes with a workout app that allows you to track all the basics of your swimming, but it also includes the ability to load up 3rd party apps like Swim.com to get even more detail from your swim practices. The major upside on these apps is that they usually come with pre-written workouts that you can load up to your watch, and you can add your own custom workouts as well.

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