Only the most dedicated swimmers can declare an undying love for swimming. For many triathletes, it is a love-hate relationship. Heavy legs, a bad stroke, erratic kicking and irregular breathing are just a few aspects that make swimming an upstream affair. Improvements occur in very small increments and keeping tabs on it requires precise timing.

Fortunately, the guys from Garmin came up with top notch pool and open water apps for their multisport watches. This not only allows you to become a better swimmer but it allows you to track and monitor your progress.The question is, are you using your Garmin watch to its full potential?

To illustrate the efficiency of Garmin’s swim app, I want to focus on a shortlist of five data screens. There are many more options, but these five are an essential selection that should cover all the bases. These are; the main swim screen, a rest screen, a second swim screen, the heart rate screen and the drill screen. Let’s start with the most impressive screen of the lot, the rest screen

Rest screen

For experienced swimmers, the rest screen would make sense right away, but for newbies, a bit of info might help. You can select the rest screen to be on or off. If it is enabled, your watch will switch to rest screen when you press the lap button to rest after any amount of laps. For my rest screen I select the following data fields: “interval distance”, “interval time”, as well as “rest time” and “repeat on”. Of course you can select your own combinations.

All these data fields are easy to understand, but for non-swimmers: the “repeat on” data field may be unclear. You use this if you want to swim 10 x 100m at your best pace and repeat it every 2:00 minutes, irrespective of how long each 100m takes to complete. The faster you swim per 100m, the more rest you get. If you simply want to rest 15 seconds after every 100m, the rest time data field will be the one you use. The rest screen is a thing of beauty and serves a great purpose.

Using your Garmin watch to improve your swimming technique

Drill screen

Next on the wow list is the drill screen. If you want to do swim drills this is the screen you want to use. Press the lap button to pause and scroll to the drill screen. In principle the watch will now become nothing more than a lap counter and a stop watch. Previously, when you did drills such as kicking, sculling or one arm drills, the watch came up with mumbo-jumbo because it could not figure out what you were doing. Lost laps were common, as well as average swim splits that were skewed because the drill’s split pace was equated as part of overall splits. Now, if you use the drill screen, the pace of your drills does not become part of your swim split pace. If you swam 1 km at a 1:45/100m pace and interspersed it with drills, your swim pace will still be correct.

Main swim screen

Let’s get back to the primary function of your swim app, which is recording how fast you swim. After all, that is what really matters. Personally, for a main screen I like: 1. Interval time (the duration of this set of laps), 2. Interval distance (the distance of this set of laps) 3. Interval lengths (how many laps completed) and 4. Interval pace (the swim pace per 100 metres).  At every turn I can take a quick glance at my split to gauge my pace and adjust my intensity level if needed. Initially that amount of info may be overwhelming “at a glance”, but the brain soon steps up to assimilate it in a split second.

Second swim screen

When I press the lap button for a pause, the rest screen will appear, but I allow for more options I can scroll to while resting. The second swim screen I use has three data fields: time (overall), distance (overall) and the time of day. This keeps me in touch with my overall planned distance, overall swim time and it tells me the time of day so I can be on time for work and other commitments.

Heart rate screen

If you want to become really surgical about your swimming, you can use the SWIM heart rate strap to get heart rate data. I like the following selection:  interval average heart rate, interval maximum heart rate, current heart rate, as well as overall average heart rate. Monitoring your heart rate gives you great insight into your effort levels and intensity. If you apply yourself optimally in terms of heart rate based training, you can only become a better swimmer.

The swim app allows a myriad of customizations. You can select endless permutations from Timer, Distance, Pace, Heart Rate, Connect IQ, Stroke, Lengths, SWOLF, Rest, Temperature and Other fields. Currently the Fenix 3, the Fenix Chronos, the 920XT and the 735XT give you the full range of swimming data. Less than a decade ago, getting the stats supplied by the Garmin swim app would have required laboratory or two. The technology we have at our fingertips with the Garmin swim app is astonishing. It will help you to discern what works and what does not. If you apply it optimally you will, without a doubt, become a better swimmer. Have fun! – (c) 2016 NavWorld

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