Swim Tech II: Garmin Forerunner 910XT

I’m a data junkie. I have a log of every workout I’ve done for the past 11 years, not to mention years worth of GPS tracks. When I run or bike my GPS records my distance and time. Even if I have technical difficulties and the GPS malfunctions for some reason I’m still pretty good at estimating distance. I don’t have that skill with swimming.

My new waterproof iPod Shuffle has been great for my swim training. It helps me deal with the boredom of swimming laps in a 25 yard pool. I can just let my mind go while the laps fly by. But I still need to know how far I’ve gone. I just can’t not know. That’s where the Garmin Forerunner 910XT
comes in.

Swim mode

The reason I bought this GPS watch was for running very long distances (it has much longer battery life than Garmin’s other GPS watches). I didn’t need it for cycling, I have a different Garmin GPS for that. I didn’t need it for swimming, I can count laps (though that does become difficult past 400 yards) and look at the timer clock on the wall. But now that I’m listening to music and swimming longer intervals (up to 1000 yards), not to mention I’m getting old, I can’t reliably count laps.

I really just stick to the basic swimming features of this watch. I tell it I’m swimming. In a pool. Which is 25 yards long. Then I swim. At the beginning and end of each interval I press the Lap button. The watch uses a built-in accelerometer to determine which stroke and which direction I’m going, from which it keeps track of how far I’ve gone.

(I tested the distance features a couple times last year and it was occasionally incorrect, but after a firmware update this year it’s always been correct for me).

One neat feature I’ve just started using is the distance alert. I have it set to notify me (the watch vibrates) every 200 yards. When I feel the vibration right before a turn I take a glance up at the wall timer clock to get my 200 yard split during a longer interval.

When I get home the data uploaded to Garmin Connect shows the distance and duration of each split, and duration, stroke type, etc. for every individual 25 yard length of the pool. If you’re into efficiency you can see your stroke count for every length. It’s a remarkable amount of data. I can easily pinpoint the lap that was 1.5 seconds slower due to a botched flip turn.

The downside is the high price. This has been my go-to watch for running for the past 14 months, and now I use it for my swims as well. I’m not sure I’d buy it for the swimming features alone (GPS would be overkill for indoor swimming), but since I already owned the watch I’m glad to be extracting even more value from it.

Highly recommended.