Swimming trackers are one of the fastest rising wearables on the market, and companies like Garmin and FlyFit have been busy bringing fitness trackers to the pool. There's a host of pool-friendly watches, bands and trackers available, and they represent the best way to keep track of your lengths, heart rate, SWOLF, times and calories.
While trackers have long been the preserve of runners, it's actually keen swimmers who can benefit most. One key area is measuring the amount of strokes you make per length – known as SWOLF. A handful of wearables will keep tabs on your SWOLF (an amalgam of the words 'swimming' and 'golf'), helping you to become a more powerful swimmer.
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So whether you're looking to keep an eye on your heart rate, your lengths or ignore it all and listen to some music instead, then we've got the best available wearables for swimmers
For any accurate training, it's handy to know what you're heart rate is at any given moment. Normally that means wearing a chest strap while exercising but a lot of those don't really work in water. What's more, they're not the most comfortable of items. But Finis has found a neat way around all that with the AquaPulse.
It's an IR sensor that clips onto your earlobe where it can read your heart rate through capillary blood flow. The information is then sent down the wire to a computer unit pressed up against your temple which translates the information into audio made loud and clear inside your head through bone conduction. Clever stuff. The upshot is that you get told how hard your body's having to work, making sure you can work out at the optimum level for your body.
Swimovate PoolMate HR
The AquaPulse is nice and everything but it is fairly limited. The Swimovate PoolMate HR, on the other hand, does mean wearing a chest strap but it is a fully functioning sports watch too. It'll count your lengths and strokes automatically as well as your speed, rate, calories burned and total distance covered. Once you're done, plug it in to your laptop by USB where it can charge and upload all your efforts to the PoolMate software. Actually telling the time also included.
Garmin's the place to go for sports watches right now and if you're confused by the number of models on offer, well, the clue's in the name with this one. There's no heart rate monitoring on offer but, all the other aquatic business, it does very well indeed – including that pesky SWOLF score. It's as slim and lightweight as these things get and has a nice, clear interface that leaves no room for aimless floating about the menus. As well as distance, speed and time metrics, it automatically detects what stroke you're professing to swim and how efficiently you're managing to do so. There's also the benefit of the superb Garmin Connect online dashboard to monitor your progress.
The antidote to wearing a piece of heavy tech on your arm is the wonderful Misfit Shine. It's one of the few activity trackers that's waterproof and one of even less that looks good too. You won't get an awful lot of metrics. There's nothing here that's going to improve your technique. It's all about how far you've gone, how many arbitrary points you've earned and how many biscuits you can eat as a result. All the same, the fact that you don't have to think about it or charge it up is a serious bonus.
One of two crowdfunded projects on our list, the FlyFit is an interesting way of making sure that your activity tracker never misses a step you take. The answer is by wearing it on your feet, or your ankle to be more precise. That means it'll monitor your running, cycling and most importantly here, the kicks of your legs when swimming. It's set to ship towards the end of the year and, if you can stomach wearing it, looks like it will do a grand job both in and out of the pool.
Ok, enough of the cocking round with wallet-friendly swim trackers. Go and buy yourself a Suunto Ambit 3 instead; well, when it's out anyway. It's more than most people will need for swimming, largely because it's actually a triathlete's multi-sports option more than anything else, but, on the plus side, that leaves you plenty of room to grow into.
The big addition is a new heart rate chest strap that works for swimmers, and Bluetooth connectivity to add smartwatch notifications to this fitness fandango. For indoors or outdoors, saltwater or fresh, and for tracking your every metric and movement, this is the one.
Instabeat is the second of our crowd-funded swimming wearables and it's as close as you can get to a set of AR goggles at present. Rather than a pair of scuba specs itself, it's an add-on to any you might already own and its sole purpose is to track your heart rate. Just as with the AquaPulse, there's no chest strap needed.
Instead of your earlobe, it takes its pulse queues from your temple arteries and displays the information at your right eye as one of three coloured lights. It's blue if you're working at fat burning levels, green if you're pushing your fitness and red when you're maxing out. On top of that, it counts laps and monitors your breathing pattern. Lots to like, apart from the classic crowded-funded delays.
Finis Neptune V2
Another wearable on our list to include bone conduction technology, which sends audio through your cheeks and into your inner ear, is the Finis Neptune MP3 player. Why is that useful? Well, that means there are no ear buds that are going to pop out as you windmill along with your freestyle.
The earpads are hard connected to the player which itself sits at the back of your head. It stores up to 4GB worth of music, or audio books if you want to have one of the more surreal swimming sessions while you listen to Paradise Lost or learn Spanish. It certainly beats the tedium of your own inner monologue.