Garmin Swim Performance
If you're doing a non-standard stroke or drill, there's a drill logging facility as well, which can be invoked during a session or even in the middle of an interval. This essentially turns off the lap and stroke sensing, so you just get a timer for that portion. When you've finished your drill, you must enter the length you have swum manually. Despite these added input requirements, you then have a record of your drill which you can refer to later.
There is also a rest timer, where you can pause between intervals and have that recorded as a rest, with a timer onscreen showing you the duration so you can stick to a preset time for the rest. There are alarm and stopwatch facilities, too, meaning you can use the Garmin Swim like a normal digital watch even when away from the pool. However, instructions for these advanced features are only available in the full manual, which annoyingly is only available as a download, with just a quick start guide included in the box.
Offering further insight into your performances, the Garmin Swim allows you to scroll through your workout history on the watch itself, with enough integrated storage space present to hold about 30 sessions. The watch will tell you how long your sessions were, how much of that was spent swimming, the distance swum and how many lengths that consisted of, plus a readout of your average speed and how many calories were burned.
You can also drill down into each interval as well, to view the distance, average speed and stroke type. There is even more information available, but to get access to it you will need to use the Garmin ANT Bluetooth adapter, which is supplied in the box, to download your workouts to the Garmin Connect online service. Like the manual, the software for this only available online.
Once the USB ANT adapter is installed and you are logged into the Garmin Connect service, however, pairing the watch is essentially automatic, and you just need to use a watch menu setting to tell it to upload your latest workouts. You can then see the SWOLF, a length-by-length breakdown, and graphs showing timing, strokes and efficiency. So you can get a really good idea of how your swimming is coming along, although the watch won't help you improve your technique, just the end results. Swim instructors don't need to worry that they will be put out of their jobs.
The Swim has a few small but welcome extra touches, too. The watch will go into sleep mode if it has been motionless for a minute, turning off its screen, but will come back to life again as soon as it's moved, a handy feature that will conserve power when you're not wearing it. You can change the battery yourself, too, rather than having to pay a jeweller. The battery used is the very common CR 2032 type. However, again, details of doing this are only included in the full manual online, although it is fairly obvious that you just need to lever the back off.
Garmin Swim Verdict
Costing a little under £130, the Garmin Swim still isn't a no-brainer purchase, but it is cheaper than most of the Forerunner range, and takes almost all the hassle out of keeping track of your aquatic exercise regime. It's not perfect, and getting the most accurate results does require keeping your swimming fairly uniform, without stops in the middle of lengths to adjust goggles or to change your. Once you get the hang of the few foibles, however, this is a very powerful way to analyse your swimming, and push your exercise routines further in the water.