Garmin Swim Review

Thank you for reading my website. This is my first review.

This is an independent review written entirely from my own opinion and experiences from training with the Garmin Swim . The watch has been on test for approximately 4 weeks, during which I have swam an average of 3,000m to 5,000m per week.

I should also say… I’ve been wearing it daily as my main watch.

Garmin Swim Review

On arrival

Garmin Swim review

Garmin Swim Review

Opening up

Garmin swim review

Very much standard packaging for high end components. Compact, neat and a feeling of quality to match the money you’ve just parted with.

What’s included

Garmin swim review

Garmin Swim review

Ant+ USB and instructions

This version of the Garmin Swim included the mini Ant+ USB stick. It’s about a tenth of the size of the original stick but does exactly the same job. Despite being impressed by the size I am slightly worried about losing the thing! Seriously it’s thumbnail small.

The cool thing about the Garmin Swim is that it doesn’t come with a charger as it doesn’t need one. It has a battery that is said to last up to a year and can be replaced just like your standard digital watch. One of the ways it saves on power is by entering ‘sleep mode’ during periods of inactivity. As I wear it all the time, all it needs is a quick flick of the wrist to bring it back to life. Most of the time I forget what a nifty little gadget I’m wearing on my wrist.

Getting it on

Garmin Swim review

Garmin Swim Review

Garmin Swim review

Wrist profile

Unlike many Garmin and other sports watches, you really could just get the Garmin Swm  straight out of the box and begin a workout. Upon turning the device on, you are prompted to add a few of your personal metrics and set the time. Other than that, you are good to go.

Just press the the main blue button to the left side of the watch to bring the device into swim mode and get ready to start. If you are anything like me you’ll have your regular pool for the majority of your training. Mine is a standard 25 meters. You can set the watch to most standard distances in either meters or yards. There is also a custom feature should you find yourself in a non standard pool (it happens).

Most features for setting the watch can be accessed via the bottom left hand ‘Menu’ button and then the arrow keys on the right. Selections are made with the middle right (‘start/stop’) button.

Going Swimming 

After pressing the blue button you are ready to push off from the wall.  As you do so, press the start button and be sure to give a decent strength push-off.  At this time you’ll hear a series of beeps from the watch informing you that the timer has started.  It’s important to give a decent push-off the wall each time you complete a length (or lap) as the watch is equipped with an in-built accelerometer that will sense your changes in speed as you start a new length.  That is how the watch is able to tell that you have changed direction and the total distance you have to travelled.  Bear in mind that this is a pool based watch and does not run any form of GPS (unlike like the Garmin Forerunner 910XT).  The watch is fully reliant on the accelerometer for sensing your movement. It is not designed for open water.

At the end of your set and as you stop at the wall, press the bottom left button (which will have a flashing pause sign) to complete your interval and pause your set.  As you do this, the watch will begin to time the the amount of rest you are taking between intervals.  When you are ready to start your next set, simply press the pause button again and you will hear that familiar tone as you once again push-off from the wall. If it’s the end of your swim simply press the start button and you’ll be prompted to either save or delete your workout (you can still resume from this point if your have pressed the middle button accidentally).

During rest time the display will show the distance of your last interval, the time taken and the total workout distance. These are very useful features if you are keeping to a specific pre-determined workout or you need assistance keeping track of your distances or lap count. Great for comparison purposes too.  Whilst resting you can also press the blue button to see the stats of your last length including your stroke count. Scrolling between these screens will assist if you are keeping to a pre-planned workout. You may also find it useful to enable the ‘Rest Timer’ function  (Menu > Swimming > Rest Timer) which will then count and display the rest interval taken before you commence the next set. This is an important feature for me as my sets often stipulate the rest times.

When swimming with the watch I like the ease of use and one button functionality to capture my entire workout. The display is the right size for visibility but not too big for the watch to be felt during your stoke or to catch on ropes or garments. I have even managed to take a quick glance at the watch under water whilst swimming to double-check my distance. So far I have not experienced any inaccuracies in distance (pretty impressive really).

The watch is able to recognise all regular strokes.  Although 99% of my training is front crawl is has recognised the few occasions when I have shifted to breast stroke on cool down.  Again, this is detected via the accelerometer. Not only does the watch detect your style but it will also count the number of strokes taken per minute and per length.

I swim in a triathlon club with many of my clubmates using the Garmin 910XT triathlon watch.  Aside from the additional features in the Garmin Swim I prefer this watch just for the size alone [I have also used the 910XT and it is a great swim watch especially in open water].

Although not displayed in full during the workout, the device will also be capturing a vast amount of data for your use after completion and once uploaded to Garmin Connect.

Post Workout 

Back at your computer you will have received instructions for installing Garmin ANT Agent. The software you download will in turn communicate with your personal profile on Garmin Connect.  Once that’s completed you are ready to upload your your activities from the watch following each completed workout.

The upload process is incredibly simple. Just turn your computer on and plug in the Garmin Ant+ USB.  Once in range and after a few seconds, the watch will display ‘Data Transfer’ as it syncs your activities wirelessly to Garmin Connect. You are then free to view your stats one either the desktop site or on the Apple or Android app.

I find the App useful but for full intervals details you will need to visit the the desktop version of Garmin Connect.

Garmin Connect

Now that you’ve got some data it’s time to analyse it.  You’ll find your screen looking a little like this:

Garmin Swim review

 

On the left is a summary of your workout totals and averages. You’ll get a quick idea here how long you you spent swimming and your average pace (min/100m). For me this was a training session with my triathlon club (Team Cherwell) where clearly I pushed myself a little harder than usual. With the watch telling me that my average pace was 1:45/100m I already know that overall I was 3 seconds faster than my usual average pace for the workout.

The pink text is each of your lengths which you can view by scrolling left and right. In each interval the watch will have recognised the stroke you performed. Below this feature is a set of graphs sowing pace, strokes, and SOLF. The spikes in each graph illustrate the rest intervals.

I find the right hand panel (below) very useful as this gives you your splits for each interval in time, distance and average pace.  Very helpful for analysing if your pace drops over the distance or improves after rest.

Garmin Swim review

On the second ‘Intervals’ page you will find a more in depth view of every aspect of every interval. The picture I have attached below does not take into account that you can scroll right for more detail. If you want to know about your efficiency in the water then this is where you can really start looking looking in-depth at your stroke count and averages.

Garmin Swim review

If I have one criticism it’s of the Garmin Connect site rather that the Garmin Swim. What would be really useful here is the ability to compare two workouts side by side, by way of a comparison tool.

If you have viewed content of the pictures of my workout you will have seen that the watch has assigned me a ‘SWOLF” score.  SWOLF is a combination of the words ‘swim’ & ‘golf’ to create a method of analysing a swimmer’s efficiency in terms of time and stroke count. I have found it useful in improving my swimming, particularly since training with the watch.

Click here for Garmin’s explanation of SWOLF

Drill Log Mode

This feature is particularly useful but is something I only discovered after the first few workouts. During my swims I often include drill sets to hone skills in, kicking, arm technique, body position and sometimes breathing. Obviously, these drills are focused on technique rather than speed or efficiency. What I found, therefore, was that perform drills (if included in my workout stats) completely skewed my data.

Step up Drill Log mode!

This mode allows you to keep your timer running throughout the workout but set the distance of each drill manually after each drill set. By doing so you will override the features measuring your pace and efficiency to end up with  the simple time and distance stats for your particular drill(s).

You will need to have enabled the Drill Log feature in the menu of the watch. You can find it at Menu > Swimming > Drill Log.

To switch to drill mode during your swim you can press the blue button to scroll through the bullet points (it will be the one at the bottom) where you will be prompted by an arrow to press the start button and begin  your drill.  After you’ve finished, hit the button again and you can uses the arrow keys to set the distance you have just competed. Pressing the start button after this point will save the drill.

From here you can either continue with your drills in the same way or use the blue button to return to the regular swim mode.

In Garmin Connect the lengths and intervals completed in Drill Log Mode will be labeled as ‘Drill”.  Hey presto, the stats and averages are no longer skewed!

The Drill Log is a feature that sets this watch apart from other swim watches and even the the Garmin 910XT.

Summary

In the UK you can now find this watch for less than £100.

I am particularly impressed by the clarity of the screen and the ease of function during my workouts. When completing a regular swim I need only press the start and pause buttons to record an entire work of over an hour. Even if I’m completing drills, the extra use of the blue button is worth the preservation of the data and is hardly intrusive.

I can’t see myself ever going back to the simple stopwatch or the poolside clock. This is probably down to the battery life and the fact I can simply keep this device on my wrist 24/7. Even if I didn’t, I could stow it with my swim kit safe in the knowledge it would be ready go for my next swim.

This watch will appeal to regular swimmers and triathletes. If you already have a multisports watch your only benefit would be obtaining the additional Drill Mode (probably not worth the outlay). If you are debating whether to invest in this this or a triathlon watch, your choice will come down to training functionality vs race day. For me, this is a better everyday training watch but will not assist during a triathlon. Having said that, my preference is not to rely on a watch for the bike phase.

If you are a pool only swimmer, this is the watch for you.

Overall, as a feature rich and simple watch, this has to be one of the best training and data logging devices for swim functionality

The bonus is the usability as a practical everyday watch without the need for charging. I’m also a big fan of the the weekly total at the bottom of the watch display acting as a constant reminder of how many meters I’ve swam.

The Garmin Swim is a great watch. I use it every day and for every swim.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Battery life
  • Size
  • Accuracy
  • Drill Log
  • Every day watch

Cons:

  • Pool only
  • No heart rate function

N.B neither of the above are really disadvantages at for my personal training and probably for the majority of users

Buying Options

I want my reviews to be as independent as possible. On that basis, I thought a link to Amazon would provide the most impartial method of you looking at other user reviews before making a purchase.

2 Comments

  1. Hello Tim, Thank you very much for your review. As I live far away from the big cities, I have no opportunity to see and understand how the watch works. Is the glass piece easy to see? I am a Masters swimmer whose pool has only one clock and we cannot see where we are on our sets and I get all my sets from the coach via internet from the big city. Thanks, Susan

    • Hi Susan. I would say that the display is a good enough size to take a quick glance as you push off form the wall. It’s clear enough to see the interval distance if you need to to (or have lost count). It provides a really useful analysis between intervals too. I’ve just finished reviewing the Garmin FR920XT and whilst that’s a more sophisticated swimming watch I’ll probably still keep using Garmin Swim.

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