How Tech Can Help You Swim Faster Than Ever Before

20 Minute Fitness Episode #67

This week on the 20 Minute Fitness podcast we’ll push you into the pool and take you for a swim. During the swim Charlie will introduce you to all sorts of gadgets that can coach you under water. So by the end of the episode, you’ll be able to swim faster than before.

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Listen to this week’s episode to learn about the tech that can turn you into a pro athlete in the pool!

Three Things You Will Learn 

1) How To Become A Better Swimmer At A Low Cost

Hiring a swim instructor is just like a personal trainer. Expensive and time-consuming. But luckily, there are other  cheaper solutions out there. The Finis Tempo Trainer is a waterproof device that secures beneath your swim cap and transmits an audible tempo beep. It has various modes that will help you to become a more efficient swimmer. 

But if you’re looking for something more comprehensive that will focus on your efforts not only in, but also out of the water, MySwimPro is going to be your guy. This app, which can connect to your smartwatch, will provide you with fully customized training plans and guided workouts that will ultimately improve your endurance and speed in the water.

Tune in to hear how both the Finis Tempo Trainer and MySwimPro can become trainers for swimmers of all levels!

2) Wearables That Are Made For Underwater

Normally you might be like ‘Uhm, is this smartwatch waterproof?’. Well the Swimovate PoolMateHR and the Moove Now definitely are!

The PoolMateHR that comes with a pod and a chest belt is designed to accurately measure your HR while in the water. The watch displays your HR in real-time, but you can get a much more detailed analysis of your swimming style and technique after you’re out of the water. 

While PoolMateHR is purely focused on swimming, Moov’s Now is a multifunctional wearable that you can also use for running, cycling and boxing. When it comes to the water, it uses 3D motion sensor technology to track and analyze your movements. Thanks to the 3D sensor technology Moov Now is able to distinguish between all 4 types of strokes and provide detailed stats on each lap you’ve taken. 

Press play to learn how Moov Now can help you improve your turning time and optimize your breathing!

3) The First Real-Time Swim Analyzer

Seeing your HR real-time is not that outstanding, but getting feedback on your performance during the swim is. Even though we’re already used to this in most other sports, like running or cycling, for some reasons there hasn’t been a device developed that lets swimmers enjoy the same feature too. But this is soon to be changed by SwimAR “a holographic heads up display for swimmers that attaches to a regular pair of goggles”

With SwimAR‘s cutting edge technology, swimmers will be able to see their performance metrics without having to get out of the water. Listen to this week’s episode to hear all about SwimAR and how it’s planning to revolutionize the world of swimming. 


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Full Transcript

00:02 Speaker 1: Hello and welcome back to another episode of 20-Minute Fitness, once again a big welcome to any of our new listeners, and to our listeners that shoot in every week. Thank you very much for your continued support. If this is your first time listening and you do enjoy the podcast, please make sure to subscribe in whichever podcast player you listen to your podcasts on. And of course, do not hesitate to get in touch with us, we’d love to hear your ideas for future episodes on the show anyone you think we should interview, if you’ve used any of the tech, we’ve mentioned this episode or in previous episodes we would love to hear from you so make sure you. So make sure you start engaging us, that’d be great.

00:36 S1: And of course 20 Minute Fitness is powered by ShapeScale, ShapeScale is a 3D body scanning scale, you simply step on to the scale and a robotic arm will spin around your body capturing, all sorts of incredible body insights. This is then synced over to your phone, you’ll be able to see metrics such your body fat percentage, your lean muscle mass, your muscle girth measurement, as well as a visual representation of your body or an avatar. So it truly makes ShapeScale, a comprehensive fitness tracker, you can now pre-order ShapeScale, at shapescale.com, so definitely check it out while the discount is still there.


01:10 S1: So we’re back with on the episode of “The how technology can help,” series, and this time we are looking at how technology can help you swim faster. Before I start, it’s definitely worth saying that from what I found this market is less mature than others. We haven’t seen that much fusion yet between tech and the swimming world, so it’d be really exciting to see what sort of development innovations come out in the future because it’s something obviously that’s less developed than technology that can help you increase your lifts in the gym for example. But having said that, we did still manage to find some really exciting mix of tech and we can’t wait to tell you all about them.

01:45 S1: But let’s start off and talk about quickly why swimming is such important or useful, or beneficial sport to incorporate into your routine. So frequent swimming, does come with a whole host of benefits, not only is it a great work, in fact you can actually burn anywhere from 600 to 880 calories per hour, according to Live Strong and depending on the stroke and speed you go at, but it’s also full-body workout as it incorporates nearly all of the body’s muscles, regular swimming has also been known to help reduce stress levels and anxiety and because it’s a low impact workout it can be a great way to recover if you have sustained any injury and you can’t potentially gonna run, or you can’t do any activity in the gym. So it stops your joints from stiffening up and it stops that muscle deterioration that might usually happen if you were just to sit idly and just stay sedentary. So it’s a good way to get your workout in, and recover faster without just getting bored doing no exercise at all.

02:44 S1: So, without further ado, let’s start how we always do and look at the lowest level of accessibility, obviously depends on your proficiency level and the cost of the items as well. And the first thing we’re going lookout is the FINIS Tempo Trainer Pro. So the FINIS Tempo Trainer is a small waterproof device that easily secures beneath your swim cap, or onto your goggle strap and it transmits an audible tempo beat. The FINIS Tempo Trainer has a few modes that help make your swimming in strokes more efficient. So for example, you can look at your stroke rate, which is the number of strokes per minute to work on your rhythm and timing, within the stroke. So what it’ll do is basically make you perform your stroke upon every beep, so every time you hear the timer beep, you would perform your stroke, and you can adjust the timer to increase the number, or decrease the number of strokes per minute. So if you want to or need to develop a higher stroke rate, then obviously you would increase the number of beeps. And if you’re fighting the water and want to lengthen out your stride. Then you would decrease the number of beeps.

03:41 S1: Most swimmers have a dominant side in their stroke and as a result of this, their stroke is often lopsided or they favor one side and this results in the less efficient stroke, a hitched or galloped stroke, they sometimes call this, is common, as I said, when we favor one side over the other and getting a good rhythm going is obviously really hard in these scenarios. So reviews I’ve seen, say that the temp trainer will help you develop some cadence and rhythm in your stroke and this will obviously help you increase your efficiency. If you can go the same speed with fewer strokes, you increase your ability to be efficient in the water, and obviously you can try and develop this by using the device. You can also look at the lap interval mode, so you can set the Tempo Trainer to a speed that you wish to swim for 25 meters and this is like a bleep or a beat test in the gym, and then you simply pace your swim so that you’re pushing off each end of the pool on each lap on the beep. Most swimmers have poor pacing, they often start too fast, they start to fade out, or they often glide for too long, and don’t get swimming quick enough so end up losing or in a race, for example and this obviously completely destroys their performance.

04:55 S1: So if you can better improve your ability to stay on pace and not burn out too quickly or not to go too slowly then you’ll definitely increase or decrease the amount of time it takes for you to complete your set distance for example. What’s nice about this is you can reduce the time taken between each beep slowly over time, to ensure that it’s an incremental progression, and then you’re not trying to jump to a time that’s far too quick for you, far too quickly. And according to swimsmooth.com having a stroke rate beeper like the FINIS Tempo Trainer Pro is the most effective way to remove dead spots and pauses from your stroke technique, and dead spots are brought about by techniques where the focus is too much on gliding, so this lowers your stroke rate when you glide and greatly harms your sense of rhythm, so you using the FINIS Tempo Trainer Pro, you can progressively lift your stroke rates and remove the dead spots in your stroke. So, this all sounds great, obviously, and it’s a very simple bit technology and you can pick it up off Amazon for around $45 so definitely something that’s worth looking into, because it is so simple and can shave off seconds off your lap times.

05:57 S1: Next up, we have an app called the MySwimPro app, and this app’s been uploaded by Olympic swimmer, Peter Vanderkaay. The app claims that with the help of his guided workouts, it’s training plans, it’s drill videos, and it’s also got swim tracking and analytics, you’ll be able to swim much more efficiently and much faster. Thanks to the data and the programs that it has incorporated and actually allows you to download the guided workouts, and you can store them on your phone, or as a PDF. And you can even sync them onto some compatible smartwatches. So your Apple watches, your Fitbits and your Garmin Ltd, with the free version of the app, you can access the standard capabilities of logging your previous swim data and obviously looking back at the historical data and trying to improve on it, and you can follow some of the custom workouts, you can even obviously sync your workouts to Strava so your friends can.

06:44 S1: Applaud you for whatever distance you’ve done like marvel at… If you’ve done a massive swim or an open swim and you can obviously receive motivational feedback by the Strava app. There’s also an elite or premium version of the app and the elite subscription costs $19.99 a month, which is billed monthly, or you can pay $9.99 a month, which is billed annually, it’s about $120 a year. So with the elite version or the premium version you’ll have access to thousands of swim workout. So more than just with the standard free version of the app. And these are suitable for beginners, and also competitive swimmers. So it tries to match and tailor to your different proficiency level, which you’ll set. And the drills are designed around your speed and your skill level. So for the app, you can start a personal training plan and these range from different time frames, and they also have different goals depending on what you want to achieve. So you might choose a two-week plan or a 12-week plan. All depends on what you want to achieve.

07:39 S1: And much like every sort of training without a comprehensive training plan, you may well improve, but you’re not going to improve anywhere near as efficiently as if you had a training plan set by professionals. And obviously, this is what we’d advocate in almost every sport you do. For example if you’re training for a half marathon race, have a running plan, if you’re trying to improve your strength and size in the gym, then maybe follow a gym program. It’s just make sure you’re one, stay accountable and also it gives you these instructions so you don’t have to go into somewhere and try make up your own workout. It’s not gonna leave you confused about what to do and why you’re not improving and why you are not hitting plateaus because these are professionally produced to help you overcome all of these different issues.

08:17 S1: So the plans are like this. You may choose the get fit plan, which aims to get you swimming a mile continuously in six weeks or you could opt for the 1500 metre, open water swim at which it would take 12 weeks to achieve. And the plans allow you to choose whether you want to focus on improving your swimming endurance, if you want to improve your swimming technique or improve your pace. So if look at the ‘Get Fit’ workout, you might be asked to do three sessions a week, you might be asked in the first session to start with a 400 yard swim, the second one after a rest day, maybe a 600 yard swim and it might be focused on technique and so on. The workouts allow you to complete them obviously according to our own calendar, they do recommend you for example on the Get Fit program doing the three times in a week, with a rest day in between but they’re all there for you to compete in your own time as obviously not everyone’s able to get to a pool on the daily. And as I said, it’s nice that your workouts are prepared ahead of time so if you are someone on a tight time budget, you can get straight down to business and complete them in the most efficient manner, because you know exactly what you need to do.

09:14 S1: And having a concrete goal of continuously swimming for a mile, it’ll make you more motivated and you’ll feel that sense of accountability as you got an end destination you want to get to and you’ll have an idea about how to get there, how long it’s going to take to get there. The guided workouts are perfect for learning swimming technique and improving your cardiovascular fitness and this fitness from swimming is really transferable for all other aspects of life. It’s not just sports, which includes swimming like being an Ironman athlete or a tri-athlete or a competitive swimmer. Swimming is so beneficial for all different types of sports. So I often do it and I play rugby. You could do it to be American football player, anything really. It really does… Because a low impact, high calorie burn, high heart rate, it gets your heart rate really high.

09:56 S1: It is really beneficial no matter what sport you play, basically. I also like the fact that MySwimPro is a great community to allows you to connect with like-minded swimmers and you could actually learn from them, you can ask them about how you can overcome time plateau, if you can’t swim 100 metres any faster, if you can’t… You can try to break that time you’ve set for a while. You can schedule calls with MySwimPro coaches and you can talk through the pain points you might have. And you can also start it when you first settle the elite subscription with MySwimPro by having an onboarding phone call with the coaches, and they’ll give you access to the swimming tips and drills and videos and put you in the right direction where to start based on your proficiency level and experience. So that’s another great feature in my opinion.

10:32 S1: They also have a thorough analytics page where you can track your progress and look for your stats and this can be things like number of laps you’ve done, the heart rate, if you’re obviously attached it to a heart rate monitor or a smart watch, your strokes per lap, your lap split, your calories Burn, distance and even your SWOLF. SWOLF is an abbreviation for swim golf. And it’s a measure of your swimming efficiency. And you basically calculate this by adding together your strokes per length and the time for the length. So if you’re doing a length in 40 seconds and you’re using 30 strokes, you have a SWOLF score of 70. Unlike golf, the lower the score the better, so we should strive to get a SWOLF as low as possible to make our stroke as efficient as possible. And the best way to improve your SWOLF score is first, obviously, to calculate it by swimming one lap, then continue to repeat over a number of lengths while trying different variations of stroke lengths and rates. And by doing this drill you should find a method that results to the lowest SWOLF score and thus improving your efficiency.

11:29 S1: And it’s recommended obviously, to get your gliding to a minimum as this would help you get an accurate idea of your score. So when you’re pushing off from a wall or when you’re diving in, start getting into the stroke pretty promptly. And then you should use your past performance data set, to set yourself new goals and ensure your constantly improving, constantly reviewing in historic data, and making sure you’re moving in the right direction. Now we’re moving into the mid-level category and the first thing we want to look at, first for the technology is the Swimovate PoolMate HR. The PoolMate HR is a wrist wearable that’s obviously in the name being specifically designed for the pool. You can use it to view your heart rate on the watch during your swim because when you buy a PoolMate, you get the accompanying chest strap to track your heart rate and then you can download all the stats afterwards, for further analysis.

12:15 S1: So what’s good about having the chest strap, you’re obviously relying on a small watch that calculates your heart rate because most optical-based heart rate sensors use a series of green lights that flash against the skin to detect changes in blood volume and to generate those beats per minute, readings. And the water can quite often interfere with these readings. So many sources say that actually heart rates onto chest straps are considered the most reliable way of tracking heart rates once in the water. You can also use the PoolMate HR as a harrowing monitor out of the pool for other sports and activities. The PoolMate allows other statistic tracking as well. It allows you to track your laps, what type of stroke you’re doing, the speed you’re going at, the distance you’ve done, calories burned, your stroke length, your strokes per minute and your efficiency.

13:00 S1: And these are all calculated by the movement of your arms. There’s quite a lot of in-depth information about your swimming style there and how you can improve it. The PoolMate also comes with a vibrating alarm which you can set off or you can program it to go off once you’ve completed a set amount of laps, for example, or after a set amount of time. So, this could be a really good feature if you’re really going into the clock key or trying to get to 10 laps, say, as quick as possible, you don’t want to stop and have to look or watch without an interfere of your rhythm and your cadence so you basically will hear when you’ve completed those ten laps from the vibration.

13:35 S1: As far as I can see, the PoolMate’s HR is very well-reviewed and what’s cool as well is you can track your heart rate when training, also when you’re at rest, and at the time it takes to get back to rest after training. Also, tracking your heart rate, why is this good when swimming? Well, it’s good for every sort of exercise really because many people say if you’re not assessing you’re guessing or if you want to say this in a different way, what gets measured gets managed. So, unless you’re actively measuring and assessing your performance improvements you’re just really guessing whether your program is working. So, once you’re tracking your heart rate you can actually see whether you’re truly pushing yourself, if your heart rate’s getting up into that really high heart rate zone or whether your cardio endurance is improving, depending on the time it takes your heart rate to return to its resting rate.

14:15 S1: So, if it’s the amount of time for your heart rate to return to a resting rate is decreasing, then you’re obviously getting fitter and you can hope or presume that your training program is actually working for you. So, if you’re somebody who wants all that in-depth metrics about your swimming style, then you can pick up a PoolMate HR for just under $190. We’re now looking at another wearable and this is the Moov Now. The Moov Now is a multi-functional wearable that can be used for a number of different sports such as running, cycling, boxing, and swimming. Of course, we’re interested in the swimming at this stage so Moov Now also recognizes a number of different statistics about your swimming style, which includes tracking your laps, your time, your distance, your pace, and you’ll get a full breakdown of each individual lap with more advanced metrics such as the distance per stroke and the stroke rate. And you can look at this obviously after your swimming session is finished by accessing the app via your phone.

15:08 S1: So, Moov uses 3D motion sensor technology to track your movement in the water and you can distinguish between the four different strobe types that there are. And it will also give you little tips and hints on your swimming style and much more so you can dive deep into the performance of your swim, again whilst looking at individual length. So, you can see how your rhythm and your swimming style is affected when you start to tire so you can consciously hold that in your mind when you go swimming next time so you really focus on these touching points that you need to improve on later on in your swimming session. Looking at those individual lap times as well, you can also look at how many strokes you did in them, how long it took, your turning time so you can even focus on improving that. Pushing off the wall, you can look at any breaks or pauses you had so you can try and reduce those and optimize your breathing properly so it’s really, really comprehensive with the amount of things it tracks.

15:56 S1: It also analyses your pace and efficiency and your calories as well. When looking at things like your stroke rate, you’ll be able to establish, really, whether you’re a sprint or endurance swimming if you’re trying to work out where you fit in the swimming world. And sprint swimmers tend to have higher stroke rates whereas endurance swimmers tend to have a higher distance per stroke. And it’s obviously important to be a good swimmer to find a balance between these two components to make you as efficient as possible. You can also work out your heart rate when using the Moov Now if you connect your Moov Now with the Moov HR sweat, which is a heart rate powered sweatband made for athletes and they can sit underneath your cap. If you do want to do heart rate training as well and look at whether your cardiovascular fitness is increasing, then this is also an option. When you look back at your historic data as well, you can obviously assess whether one swimmer is faster than the other and you’ll also be able to get tips as well that Moov Now will give you through the app.

16:50 S1: So it might say stuff like, “Try not to splash as you begin your stroke or enter your fingers first so you’re more streamlined and efficient as you swim.” I mean small improvements over time will ensure you do become a better swimmer, and Moov do know what they’re talking about because within their team they have ironman tri-athlete and they also have an Olympian swimmer on their team. And the thing that’s staggering about the Moov Now is it’s actually only $60. And considering its multi-functionality of tracking other sports as well, I think that’s incredible and TechRadar obviously agreed because they scored it a 4.5 out of five stars. In the high-end, we could have looked at some more high-end smartwatches like the Apple Watch IV, for example. Another option for us to look at was the Finis Swimsense Performance Monitor but I’ve chosen to look at something that I think could be really interesting to be released in the future, and this is SwimAR. So, SwimAR was born out of the need for real-time data when swimming. The founder, Julian Swan, was frustrated at the lack of technological options for enhancing your swimming performance so he set about looking for a solution.

17:50 S1: So, he found that obviously he had things to track his bike training and how far he was cycling and all those sort of statistics, and this allowed him to race against himself. He also had a running watch which enabled him to gauge efficient pace, and he was able to shave off minutes of his runs during his running season. But in the pool he found he didn’t really have anything to, in real time, check his data. He’d often have to stop his swimming session to check a watch outside the pool. This meant he couldn’t focus fully on his form and he was counting laps in his mind, which took his mind off his stroke. So, in order to fix this, with his partners they developed a hydrodynamic sealed case that swimmers could use with their own goggles which had a holographic display to get real-time feedback. And SwimAR wants to enable you to focus on your strokes whilst being aware of your data so you can, as you’re swimming, see through a holographic display in your goggles all sorts of statistics. As I said, it’s not currently able to be purchased but you can sign up for updates by their website and the estimate is that the device will retail for just under $1,600. So, at this price point I would imagine it’s for competitive swimmers at the top of their game, trying to incrementally improve their performance.

19:00 S1: So, the statistics you can see through the holographic display are things like your lap time, your split time, and your distances. And you can sort multiple streams of data yourself which enables you to focus on your style and your form. And for open water swimmers, they’re actually working on having a GPS feature attached as well so you can track your distances and see the route you took as well so you might, if you want to practice the same swim again so a really exciting bit of tech. And again, it’s the only thing really that you can find that have visual real-time data without you having to check your smartwatch and interfere with your rhythm or your cadence. So, SwimAR will be the go-to solution really for those looking to improve their pace as they swim and to keep track of their workouts without interrupting their session each time.

19:44 S1: So, there we have a number of bits of tech that I believe could help you to swim faster. Please, again, be in touch if you’ve used any of this tech or if any of it excites you, if you’re a competitive swimmer what you think about this tech, if you’re someone who is just getting into your swimming, do you think this would benefit you, what is your experience like with swimming. Just get in touch and let us know is there any other device you’ve been using, we’d love to start a conversation with you. So, I really hope you enjoyed. I will catch you very soon.


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Lilla Laczo

Lilla is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
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