Swimming is one of the most popular exercises around the world and it is also one of the best all round exercises you can do.
Not only is it a fantastic form of cardiovascular exercise, but due to the fact that water is much more resistant than air going for a swim is also a great form of resistance training. For this reason, it is a great way to meet your fitness goals including muscle toning, weight loss and general all round fitness.
And, if that wasn’t enough you also get the added benefit that anything you do in the pool or water has minimal impact on your joints so it’s a great way to keep active for people of all ages.
Many people, including myself try to incorporate swimming into their fitness routine. You venture down to your local pool at a time when there are no kids and attempt to get a certain number of lengths in. It’s great fun and I love to do it. The problem is I always lose count of what length I’m on. It can be a bit frustrating.
So I started to wonder if I could find any waterproof fitness trackers that would help me record my swimming pool session which I could also use to measure my progress over time.
Is there a waterproof fitness tracker?
When I first started to look waterproof fitness trackers were something of a rarity and often needed third party companies to add waterproof capabilities to your tracker. Because water and electronics are a notoriously bad combination it has been a slow burn.
However, it seems like manufacturers are putting more and more into research and development and there are significantly more water resistant (nothing is officially waterproof) trackers are coming to the market all the time; Fitbit, Apple, Garmin and Samsung now all offer water resistant fitness trackers.
Using a fitness tracker for swimming
Making a water resistant tracker is one thing but making it so it can track your swim is another. Because it is technically challenging to use accelerometers to accurately identify all the different movements, strokes and techniques which are intrinsic to swimming it has taken a while to catch up with trackers for other activities like running.
Manufacturers have been required to closely examine various swimming styles and swimmers to generate millions of data points which have then been incorporated into the algorithms so that we now have trackers capable of identifying swimming specifics such as stroke types, lengths and flips.
What makes a fitness tracker suitable for swimming?
If you want to use a fitness tracker in the pool you should make sure it has been designated as suitable for swimming by the manufacturer. You also need to check the IP rating which gives an indication of how well the tracker stands up to dust and water. Our recommendation for a swimming tracker is a rating of at least IP68
I stands for Ingress and the P stands for Protection – a 2 digit number which is a measure of how much protection is offered from foreign object like dust (the first number) and water (the second number).
For example an IP68 watch would be seen to be dust tight and protected for complete submersion in the water. Be sure to check out this article if you are curious about IP ratings.
Officially, you are not allowed to say that a watch is waterproof. Instead watches are measured again an international standard ISO 22810:2010 which is used to determine how water resistant a watch is.
To get the rating each manufacturer has to perform a series of tests.
The manufacturer placing the watch in a pressurised chamber for around 10 minutes. Each chamber is pressurised using a measurement know as ATMs; 1 ATM = 10 meter. So if a water resistant fitness tracker can survive at 3 ATM it is said to be water resistant to 30 metres.
However, these tests are a bit like the MPG tests on a car they are performed in near perfect conditions and might not be indicative of real world conditions. A fitness tracker with a rating of 4 ATM and above will be good for swimming in a pool.
How can you use a fitness tracker for swimming?
Setting up drills with rest periods
Some of the more advanced watches like the Garmin Forerunner 735XT allow you to set up the tracker to do intervals. You can set it up simply so that you press a button after so many laps and you will get a pre-defined period of rest. Or, you can set it up to repeat at a fixed time. The idea behind the fixed time is that the faster you swim the more rest you get. For example, if you want to swim 4 x 25 metres every 2:15 it will repeat every 2 minutes 15 seconds. If you manage to do it in 2 minutes you will get 15 seconds rest, 1 minutes 45 you will get 30 minutes rest and so on. The idea being the faster you are the more rest you get.
Tracking your stats and measuring progress
One of the main reasons to get a waterproof fitness tracker is to see how you are doing in meeting your swimming goals and pushing you on to greater and better things. For example you might be asking
- Am I any better than last time?
- How long can I swim without a break? Has it gone up?
- Is my lap time for this stroke in this pool improving?
And of course there are many more that you could come up with tailored specifically to your personal needs.
What can be tracked?
Every watch differs and you will need to decide what mix of functionality you think is best suited.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it is good to use for comparisons. Most fitness trackers you would use when you go for a swim should include some or all of the following:-
- Continuous swim – how far you can swim without a break. The aim is to improve this measurement as your endurance, technique and stamina get better. A great way to see how you have improved.
- SWOLF – short for Swim Golf it is calculated by adding together the number of strokes per length and the time it took to finish the length. So for example, in a 25 metre pool a length that takes 30 strokes in 25 seconds would be a SWOLF of 55 (30 + 25).
The general principle is the lower the score the more efficient you are.Ergo, improvement in SWOLF means you are getting more efficient at the stroke.
The best way to use SWOLF is to compare yourself against your current SWOLF score for different stoke types and track how you are progressing.
Downsides of fitness trackers you can swim with
It is fair to say that making a decent swim ready fitness tracker is not an easy task. Introducing the element of water makes components not work as they do on dry land. For example, touch screens really struggle to interpret whether a drop of water or a touch. The way most manufacturers have got round this is by introducing a screen lock.
Other problems arise if you are keen on measuring your heart rate whilst you are in the water. The current generation of optical heart rate trackers don’t really cope well, which means you will probably need to get a separate heart rate monitor like this one from Moov.
Apps and websites to track your swimming data
As more trackers became capable of tracking swimming it became natural to want to be able to record swims and track progress. Hey, if the runners can have it why can’t the swimmers.
- My Swim Pro load the My Swim Pro app on to a compatible tracker and you can load up training plans specific to your needs and monitor your progress against them.
- Speedo On – synching with your Garmin, Apple Watch 2, Misfit Shine, Samsung Gear Sport or Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro tracker. The platform allows you to log and analyse swims, communicate with fellow swimmers and set-up and follow training plans
What type of swimming tracker should I get?
If you are interested in purchasing a fitness tracker we did write up a bit more on the best waterproof fitness trackers here.
Are you a swimmer, do you have any recommendations on the best waterproof fitness tracker for swimming? If so, please leave a comment below.