Wearables to help your training session go swimmingly
When you go swimming, you might think it’s just you and the water, but there’s actually a fair amount of technology you can kit yourself out with in order to get the most from your session.
Certainly, there's nowhere near as much as runners have access to, but there are options for merpersons.
Swimming gear needs to be waterproof, as opposed to just water-resistant. It might not sound like it, but there’s a bit difference between the two: water-resistant products will only withstand being splashed or rained on, whereas proper waterproof gear can be fully submerged and still work.
You also want stuff that’s comfortable. If your goggles or MP3 player cause you to hold yourself in a different way to get comfy, you’ll slow yourself down and could even risk doing yourself some damage from bad technique.
Lastly, it needs to be streamlined, otherwise it’ll create drag in the water and cost you valuable seconds.
With that in mind, let’s take a dip into the best gear around.
The Garmin Swim is number one in a field of three, when it comes to swimming tracking.
Its only obvious rivals are the Speedo Shine and Withings Activité, which has limited swim tracking abilities alongside its core step-counting skills. The Speedo Shine has just been phased out to make way for, logically enough, the Speedo Shine 2, and we'll review that and add it to this feature when it washes up in our offices.
Gamrin Swim is a rather more serious proposition than either of its rivals and as such is bulkier and uglier. However, its unsightly facade masks a wealth of tech, including lap counting, distance covered, strokes per length, strokes per minute and calories burned. It can even tell which stroke you’re doing from the way your arms are moving, which is impressive.
Downsides are that it won’t break up your session by stroke unless you start a new interval for each one, though that’s a simple case of pressing the blue button a couple of times. There’s also no ‘free swim’ mode, which would be handy for outdoor swimming (triathletes, we’re thinking of you) or any parents splashing around with their children (that can be quite a workout).
It doesn’t track any activity apart from swimming either. The device is four years old now, so we can forgive it, but we can’t imagine it’d be expensive or difficult to shove a pedometer in there, if there's ever a Garmin Swim 2.
There is a mobile app, but the Swim doesn’t have Bluetooth, so you have to upload your data to your computer first, then transfer it to your phone. This also needs rectifying for v2. As it stands, the desktop app is a bit clunky and confusing; there’s an impressive amount of data, but no way to make it more relevant to your goals.
We’d also like the ability to set a target, and have it vibrate when we’d hit our desired distance/number of lengths. The display is nice and clear, but it’s still a pain having to stop and check it to see how far you’ve swum.
Nevertheless, it’s the most accurate and comprehensive swimming tracker money can buy, and it isn't especially pricey these days, either. If you’re serious about swimming, it’s a great addition to your pool bag.
£95 | Buy Garmin Swim
Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer X Jammer
As well as having the longest name of any pair of swimming trunks around, the Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer X Jammer is also just about the quickest
It’s made to be tighter than a worm’s belt, but with plenty of stretch, giving you greater freedom of movement. It’s in fact so tight, Speedo says it could take 10 minutes to get into on your first go. There’s a video guide and everything.
This super-close fit makes you more streamlined in the water, and also compresses your muscles, which, research suggests, helps them recover faster. Some of the colour choices are so vibrant, they make tinted goggles obligatory.
Finis V2 Neptune MP3 player
Swimming on your own for hours at a time can get a bit boring. That’s why you need this MP3 player.
The Finis V2 uses bone conduction technology to play music using tiny vibrations against your cheek – with no earbuds plugging up your lug holes, you’re free to hear the Jaws theme as a shark approaches. Its 4GB of storage holds up to 1,000 songs, which is enough to get you across the English Channel.
£147 | Buy Finis V2 Neptune MP3 player
Arena Cobra Ultra Mirror Goggle
The colours! As well as having the kind of lenses you’d see in the sunnies of an acid casualty, these goggles come with five interchangeable nose bridges and a dual silicone strap, so you can find the perfect fit.
The shape of the lenses helps with peripheral vision, so you’ll get plenty of notice when that old woman is coming up to overtake you.
Garmin HRM Swim
If you want to see how fast your heart is pumping when you’re swimming, this is the heart rate monitor for you.
It’s completely waterproof, of course, and every time your chest emerges from the water – including during butterfly and breast stroke – it beams your current heart rate, interval summaries and stored heart rate to the Garmin Forerunner 920XT fitness watch.
The non-slip design helps it stay in place even during fast push-offs from the wall.
£71 | Buy Garmin HRM Swim
TYR Men’s Hurricane Wetsuit Category 5
In many parts of the world, including the UK, if you’re going swimming outdoors, even in the summer months, you’d be advised to wear a wetsuit.
This one has more give around the shoulders, so you can reach further with each stroke, making you more powerful in the water and helping you expend less energy. And let’s be honest, that’s the aim of the game.
From £420 | Buy TYR Men’s Hurricane Wetsuit Category 5
Finis Tempo Trainer Pro
Sure, you think you haven’t slowed down after the first 10 lengths, but it’s natural to slack off a little when your arms start to ache. With this underwater metronome, there’s nowhere to hide.
Strap the Finis Tempo Trainer Pro to your head, and you can set it to beep at regular intervals, so you know when you should be reaching the end of a lap; that way you can stay on pace.
Now let’s see how hard you’re really working.