The three challenges of swimming with trackers

Throughout the years, I could distill the characteristics that make fitness trackers, sleep sensors or devices for monitoring vital health parameters great. In the case of swim sensors, the overcoming of three challenges is necessary. For a starter, the sensor needs to be waterproof, not just water resistant. Well, it seems to be obvious at first, since the gadget has to function under water, but it is not that easy to produce a waterproof tracker as it first sounds.

Secondly, it’s really difficult to analyze movements in the water: counting the turns, recognizing the swimming style, measuring vital health parameters. For being able to measure this complex set of movement, Apple gathered data from more than 700 swimmers and over 1,500 swim sessions and sends GPS data from your wrist to nearby Satellites.

The third challenge of swim tracking is measuring heart rate in water while the usual method for measurement doesn’t work in the pool. The majority trackers use a series of green lights that flash against the skin to detect changes in blood volume to generate those beats per minute (BPM) readings. Therefore, chest straps might be better solutions than wrist-worn wearables. So, there are plenty of problems to overcome when you design a swim tracker, but let’s see the best results currently on the market.

1) Garmin HRM Tri & Swim

US consumer electronics company, Garmin introduced its two heart rate monitors for swimming in August 2015. HRM Tri is specifically designed for triathletes, thus it measures heart rate while running, biking and swimming in open waters, while HRM Swim wants to be the favorite companion of swimmers.

Both HRM Tri and HRM Swim are straps that you can wear on your chest while challenging yourself and others under water. These devices will record your heart rate and your time, which you won’t see underwater on the corresponding Garmin watch – only after getting out of the pool or arriving at the shore in Palm Beach. It’s a handy gadget, although as a reviewer noted, it is actually unaware of what activity you are doing – swimming or some horizontal shuffle.

2) Polar A370 fitness tracker

During summer 2017, Polar announced its latest fitness tracker – promising to track basically every activity from running through swimming until sleeping. While it does not concentrate specifically on movement underwater, the gadget is water resistant to 30 meters, and it is completely suitable for swimming and bathing.

However, the company draws the attention of the users that water may prevent the wrist-based heart rate measurement from working optimally. Yet, it will still collect your activity data from wrist movements during your pool time. Based on reviews, I would rather say, though, that Polar A370 is about to become your occasional swim buddy instead of your trainer for crossing the Seven Seas. But, if you combine running, swimming or indoor training, and you are looking for a fitness tracker able to measure your performance in all three, Polar should be your choice!

3) Suunto Smart Sensor

The Finnish company offers a strap for tracking swimming and any other sports where the use of smartphones or watches is not convenient. The Smart Sensor itself is a tiny little Bluetooth heart rate monitor that clips into the chest strap and is able to store heart rate data while you are doing your strokes and turns. It is water resistant up to 30 meters and very light. It is one of the best straps on the market in terms of aesthetics and comfort.

Whatever sport you do, the Suunto Smart Sensor promises to measure your heart rate with great comfort and accuracy. While swimming, the sensor stores your heart rate data and transfers it wirelessly to a compatible Suunto sports watch or Suunto Movescount App.

Swim Trackers

4) Moov Now

If you have aversions towards chest straps, you should consider testing Moov Now for swimming. It is a multisport wrist-worn wearable, which you can also have on your ankle while practicing the butterfly moves in the pool.

The company promises to capture and analyze your motion in 3D space and offers an unusually durable battery. Moov Now does not need to be recharged, its battery should function for 6 months, and then the user can replace the battery for a new one. The wearable recognizes your swimming style and automatically tracks your laps, time, distance, pace, and strokes. Moreover, it gives you swimming tips for becoming a real pro. An instant get for anyone who practically lives in water!

5) Fitbit Ionic

Of all the brands of fitness trackers on the market, Fitbit is the best-known, and for good reason. Fitbit Surge helped me change my lifestyle after I suffered heavy muscle injury, while the Fitbit Blaze had all the potential to become the one wearable to combine activity and sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring and stress release function, only the smart alarm is missing. So, the company could not allow itself to let down swimmers. They didn’t. They created Fitbit Ionic.

The smartwatch on your wrist has a huge advantage compared to all the swim trackers listed above. It has a huge display so you can not only log your swim sessions but monitor them in real-time. The biggest competitor of the Apple Watch Series 3, Fitbit Ionic is waterproof up to 50 meters, and tracks swim workouts with stats like lap counting, duration and calories burned.

Swimming Trackers

6) Apple Watch Series 3

The Apple Watch has been performing as a swim tracker since it became water-resistant in 2016, but with its latest operating system, the Apple Watch Series 3, it presents a more granular metric: set detection. It knows when you rest at the pool’s edge and then uses that information to divide the workout into sets of laps, showing you how far and long you swam in each, what stroke, and your rest time.

The Apple Watch uses its own smart algorithms to recognize and take note of the strokes of swimmers of all skill levels, as well the calories they’re burning. And as already mentioned before, its development process involved gathering data from more than 700 swimmers and over 1,500 swim sessions. Amazing device for swimmers!

Swimming Trackers

7) Nokia Steel HR

The Finnish phone manufacturing company, Nokia, presented its comeback this year on the wearables market – for example with the launch of Nokia Health, a rebrand of French fitness tracker makers Withings which the Finnish giant bought last year.

Its wearable heart rate monitor, Steel HR is water resistant up to 50 meters, so you can safely take it to the pool. The wristwatch will automatically detect that you are swimming – if you continuously swim for longer than 10 minutes – and track your performance without any action required on your part. Once you’re done swimming, the Nokia Health Mate™ app will let you know how long your session was and how many calories you’ve burned.

swimming trackers

8) Misfit

The company’s smartwatches, fitness trackers, apps, and accessories state their mission unambiguously. They aim to combine elegance, intelligence, and wellness – and they succeeded with every one of their pieces. Just look at their hybrid smartwatch and their fitness and sleep tracker for swimmers!

The Misfit Shine 2 tracks laps and swim distance, steps, distance, calories, light and restful sleep while at the same time it is stylish and perfectly designed for every occasion. Moreover, its replaceable battery lasts up to 6 months.

Swimming Trackers


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