Thursday, 11 October 2012

Garmin Swim Review

The box had arrived when I got home from work. I did a tiny squeal of excitement and frantically went about pulling the package apart. Then I sat there for what was probably a good ten minutes, ogling my brand new swimming watch. Whilst I had been scouting out the swim watch market for a little while, I had bought this on somewhat of a whim and I admit, it was a purchase made in the heat of the moment without too much consideration. Nonetheless, it looked like instinct had prevailed.. based on the fact that it was pretty and it fitted my (very small) wrist.

I immediately emailed some friends to tell them how my life was about to be revolutionised by this new device, or my swimming at the very least. Retrospectively – once I'd calmed down from the high – I started to come to terms with the fact that merely spending money on a swimming watch probably wouldn't be enough to improve my swimming. However, since I'm such a geek when it comes to training data, using the watch might just be enough to get me IN the pool and training purely so I can peruse graphs and analyse my average strokes per length over a bedtime protein shake.

It seemed very simple to use; any button turns it on and you just press the big blue swim button with a picture of a swimmer on it to get started: simple. I kept stopping after each couple of lengths to start with, to make sure it was definitely registering everything and wasn't sneakily doing me out of pool time. It worked perfectly, accounting for every single stroke. At any time I could see how far I'd gone, what my average 100m time was and a whole array of other fascinating (seriously..) data. Until the novelty wears off it may actually end up being counter-productive as I stand at the end of the pool clicking through all the screens rather than getting on with it.

More data than you can shake a pull buoy at! You can
even look at it length by length!
For last nights session I attempted the use the drill log and the rest timer. What I should have done was thoroughly read the manual before attempting such a technological feat. Using the drill log was easy, you simply click through a couple of screens and tell it you're doing drills and when you click to say you've finished it asks how far you went and just averages the time, but after this I couldn't figure out how to get swimming again. The rest timer was on and I couldn't figure out if I was resting or swimming (which is often the case, if I'm honest). This confused clicking caused some extremely sporadic data where apparently I had several rest intervals lasting under a second and my "swimming efficiency" dropped considerably. If I had read the instructions I would have known to not click anything and just get swimming again.

It also recognises different strokes apparently, although I'm not sure exactly how that works, I just know it kept recording accurately during my backstroke cool down. I probably should have used it a bit more before writing a review but quite frankly I was so excited I couldn't help myself.

The only disadvantage is that it can't be used outside. You can swim in different length pools but it doesn't have an "endless" option or a GPS function. But, that isn't what it is designed for and what it is designed for, it does very well. Additionally by not being GPS enabled, the unit is small enough not to cause the enormous arm drag that some of the bigger models do.

The other main disadvantage is that it tells you what your actual swim time is during the session, which for me highlighted just how much time I spend chatting, socialising, "resting" and generally faffing about. On Tuesday I was in the pool for 48 minutes, of which I spent 26:57 swimming. I feel like a fraud, and that I should go back through my entire training log and half the time entered for every pool session!

From my limited Garmin Swim experience, I have decided on just two simple rules for use:

1. Read manual, in particular the bit about the rest timer.
2. Don't obsess over the data during the session, be patient and wait until you're at home.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in the pool..


  1. I don't think so but you should check out, similar idea and it'll be starting soon!