If you’re a runner or gym-goer, you’ll easily find a fitness tracker that caters to your activity of choice – but that’s not the case for swimmers, who find their options more limited thanks to the pesky fact that electronics don’t get on so well with water.
There are still good options, however, for every swimmer – from those who just want to keep tabs on calorie burn to people who are looking to improve their efficiency with focused metrics like the SWOLF score. Here are the devices worth considering.
The Best Waterproof Fitness Trackers Under £100
There are plenty of waterproof options in this bracket, but most lack screens so you’ll have to rely on automatic movement recognition rather than starting and stopping a session manually. That’s not necessarily a downside because the tech is reliable, and if you’re anything like us you’ll regularly forget to press stop until hours after you’ve stopped exercising anyway.
Budget waterproof trackers can also be a smart option for people who only exercise by swimming – the more you pay, the more likely you are to get a heart rate monitor included, and these don’t tend to work so well in the water.
Fitbit Flex 2
The only waterproof Fitbits are the two smartwatches and this entry-level tracker, which is essentially a smart accelerometer in a light, slim case. Once the swim tracking feature is enabled in the app, the Flex 2 automatically tracks a pool session that’s longer than ten minutes (although this can be adjusted), recording time in the pool, calories burned and, if you’ve set the pool length in the app, stroke type, distance and pace as well.
Bear in mind that the better your swimming technique, the more accurate the data will be – if you’re stopping to rest for more than a minute between lengths or switching stroke mid-length, the Flex 2 can get thrown off its game somewhat.
This isn’t the most advanced swim tracker on the list, but it’s certainly one of the more affordable and you can expect to find it in Fitbit’s seasonal sales. £69.99, buy on fitbit.com
Misfit Shine 2
For an even cheaper option than the Fitbit Flex 2 try the Shine 2 or its close relative the Misfit Ray. Both Misfit devices require an upgrade of an in-app purchase to the tune of £9.99 to track swimming, but considering both models currently start at £29.99 that’s not too hard to swallow.
We’d plump for the Shine 2 because it will sync with Speedo’s excellent training platform Speedo On, which offers drills, training plans and pretty much everything else you could possibly want to support your swimming. In fact, the Shine 2 is the cheapest tracker to play nice with this free service. The only downside is that it can only count laps in 25m or 50m pools. Take note if you use your gym’s pool because these tend to be a little smaller than those standard lengths, especially in city centres where space is limited. £29.99, buy on misfit.com
You may not be as familiar with Moov as you are with brands like Fitbit or Garmin, but you should be. The Moov Now is an amazing piece of kit that offers unrivalled swimming stats beyond the usual lap counting and stroke recognition such as distance per stroke and turn time. Even smartwatches that cost four times as much struggle to match that.
Moov can also bring heart rate zone analysis to the mix if you purchase the HR Sweat, a waterproof heart rate monitor which slips into a headband and gets a much more accurate reading from your temple than a wrist-based tracker ever could. If you’re really dedicated to improving your swimming, this one’s a no-brainer. Moov Now £45.35, buy on store.moov.cc. Moov Now + HR Sweat £98.39, buy on store.moov.cc
The Best Mid-Range Waterproof Fitness Trackers (£100-£200)
Take a step up in price and you’ll be able to keep tabs on your session in the pool thanks to a screen. Plus, you’ll get a device with more advanced features like a heart rate monitor and/or a GPS chip, which will be especially useful if you’re also keen on cycling or running.
Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
Samsung’s cheaper fitness wearable is equally as good in the pool as its bigger sibling, the Gear Sport, offering stroke recognition, lap counting and *gasps* a decent crack at heart rate tracking from the monitor on your wrist. Afterwards in the app it’ll calculate your best and average length duration, pace and SWOLF score. If you use a Samsung phone as well, the device will sync with the Speedo On platform – the excellent free training resource mentioned earlier. The Gear Fit2 Pro lets itself down, however, by giving pool length options of only 25 or 50 metres, or 25 yards. Apart from that, using the Gear Fit2 Pro is a intuitive and reliable experience. £180, buy on samsung.com
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If you like swimming in pools of a non-standard length then rejoice – the Versa can be customised to track anything longer than 10m in one-metre increments. Fitbit improved its smartwatch swim tracking with the launch of the Versa, its second smartwatch, which can now automatically recognise strokes and count lengths. However, it doesn’t offer the depth of metrics others do – a SWOLF score is a notable omission – and it feels like Fitbit treats pool swimming as a calorie-burning exercise only.
It’s worth noting that the more expensive Fitbit smartwatch, the Ionic, is also waterproof and will always match the Versa’s offering since it’s on the same operating system. Whether you’ll upgrade will depend on whether you’re prepared to to sacrifice looks and £50 or so for built-in GPS. Built-in GPS, we should note, that doesn’t work in open water. £199.99, buy on fitbit.com
RECOMMENDED: Fitbit Versa Review
TomTom Spark 3
The TomTom Spark 3 (also known as the Runner 3) is an excellent multi-sport GPS watch that is a superb tracker for runners in particular. Its swimming modes are not quite as full-featured, but it still does plenty to help you keep tabs on your progress in the pool. It’ll track your laps, speed, duration, calories and strokes, and give you a SWOLF score.
What it lacks, however, is stroke recognition, and although the Spark 3 does have a heart rate tracker, it won’t use it for swimming owing to accuracy limitations in the water. Also, despite the built-in GPS, there is no open-water swimming mode on the Spark 3 as yet, or a triathlon mode to take advantage of its multi-sport tracking capabilities.
If you’re a runner or cyclist who also uses the pool for training the Spark 3 is an excellent option, and it’s a genuine bargain if you opt for the basic model with GPS but without a heart rate monitor (useless in the pool anyway) and music storage. Spark 3 £119.99, Spark 3 Cardio + Music £220, buy on tomtom.com
RECOMMENDED: TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music Review
The Best High-End Waterproof Fitness Trackers (Upwards of £200)
If your heart’s set on a smartwatch with GPS on board so you can track running or cycling as well, these are your best options. Bear in mind that by this point there aren’t any big upgrades for swimmers apart from the occasional device that will track open-water swims with GPS and offer a multisport mode for triathletes.
Garmin Vivoactive 3
Garmin’s first attempt at a GPS smartwatch might be a little light on smart features compared with the Apple Watch 3 and Fitbit Ionic, but it excels when it comes to sports tracking, including pool swims. During a swim the large touchscreen is disabled, but it shows your time and distance clearly. You can pause your workout with a long press on the device’s single button, and once you finish a session there’s an array of more detailed stats and graphs showing pace, stroke rate and your SWOLF score in the Garmin Connect app.
The Vivoactive 3 doesn’t support open-water swimming or recognise stroke type, and the optical heart rate tracker is disabled when in the water where it would struggle to take a reading anyway, but for all-round sporty types who value run and cycle tracking as much as swimming, it’s an excellent option. £279.99, buy on garmin.com, buy on amazon.co.uk
RECOMMENDED: Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review
Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch has been able to track swimming since the Series 2, the first waterproof version, but it became a far more capable device for swimmers when watchOS 4 was released in the second half of 2017 to coincide with the arrival of the Series 3. The Watch now not only tracks distance, lengths and time, but also automatically recognises your stroke type (and tots up the distance for each stroke at the end of the swim), as well as recording sets and rests without you having to touch a button.
You can also use the Apple Watch 3 to track open-water swims, when it uses the device’s built-in GPS to provide a map of your route afterwards. During swims of any type the Apple Watch locks the screen. Once you unlock it by twizzling the digital crown on the side it will expel any water in the speaker – a neat trick that means the Watch can have a speaker while still being waterproof.
Opt for the 4G version of the Watch 3 and you’ll also be able to receive calls, texts and emails while swimming even if you leave your phone in a locker or on the beach. From £329 (without 4G) or £399 (with 4G), buy on apple.com
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If you can’t see the advantage to paying more for a smartwatch – or, in other words, the convenience of not having to take your phone out of your pocket – perhaps this tracker for budding triathletes will persuade you to pony up that bit more.
Once you set your pool length (minimum 15m) the Pace offers both live data like distance, average pace, lap time and pace, and post-session analysis like stroke recognition and rate and a SWOLF score.
As you’d expect from a multi-sport watch, the device also offers GPS tracking of open-water swims, tracking similar metrics as in the pool as well as offering a stroke rate alert to ensure you’re keeping your pace up. £250, buy on amazon.co.uk
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