Category Archives: swimming

Addicted to a feeling

I’m attempting (with some difficulty it must be admitted) to get addicted to a couple of feelings. Just two. They are

  1. the feeling of relief that comes with having a tidy kitchen before you go to bed; and
  2. the feeling of sanctimoniousness that comes with going swimming.

My kitchen has been in chaos for two days. It’s quite impressive because I don’t have much in my kitchen at the moment. Well over 90% of what I own by way of household kitcheny goodness is in storage in Ireland and that was about 50% of what was left after I went donating and recycling before leaving Dublin. But I’ve had broken nights so things…accumulated.

It’s all tidy now and I feel FANTASTIC. If I could bottle that feeling – but you know, I could get it every night if I only ensured that every night, instead of 5 out of 7 or 2 out of 7 on a really bad week, the ware was washed and the kitchen was basically ready for use the next morning.

It’s the same with the swimming. Mostly I attempt to have a swimming bag ready to go so I can decide to go at the drop of a hat. Currently that’s not the case here because after the last swim, which was basically fantastic, I discovered that the goggles were no longer keeping out water (bad goggles – they haven’t been used so often), and I need to replace a noseclip from the kitbag too.

I don’t want to wax on about how great swimming makes me feel because actually, I am swapping up to a 50m pool at the moment so there are moments of abject failure, and near drowning, usually around 45 minutes in, but in general, I feel better for having gone swimming than for not having gone swimming. There is no point in trying to bottle that feeling either; I can get it simply by going swimming.

So I’m trying to train my brain into getting addicted to those feelings so that I automatically clear the kitchen at some point before I go to bed, and that I have literally no way of talking my way out of picking up the kitbag and leaving the house. It is still better than most things that people get addicted to all the same.

 

Sundays at the pool

This is about the best motivational poster I know. There’s a variant for running as well. 

It stands out quite a bit to me as there are any number of other motivational posters which operate on the basis of making you feel bad about how poorly you’re doing. I think that misses the point in a lot of ways.

I had a truly terrible swim yesterday. Mostly it’s because I learned the hard way that sometimes, at 10.30 on a Sunday morning the swimming pool is a bit packed. Both pools were packed, both the 25 and 50m pools. There were people messing around in the diving pool as well.

Mostly young boys it has to be said. It leaves me conflicted. As a general principle, I think it’s important that children and their parents spend quality time together doing stuff, like swimming (for example). But I spent most of the last 10 years of my life in Ireland as a member of private gyms which had as a plus point pools which were generally usable – very few children  and generally not so busy that they could not be used.

I sort of envied the kids playing on the diving boards. As part of my project to reduce the number of things I regret not trying, I signed up for springboard diving lessons in the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin. They didn’t go well for me.

But as far as actual swimming is concerned, I got very little other than regular collisions because other people just don’t seem to care if they swim into other people, don’t care if they block lane ends, don’t care in general. I think in total I managed to swim around 150m. This is basically pathetic.

But at least I went; it’d be worse if I didn’t.

Swimming Data Overwhelming Options

I’ve found the collection of precise data about my swimming habit has been helpful for at least keeping me reassured that despite the fact that I am way short of my main goals, I am making progress. As such, if other people were wondering whether it was worth their while even though they can barely swim a length, and sure it’s a bit of overkill, isn’t it, I’d say, if you have the money and a smartphone and a computer, get it.

The problem is around what to do with the data in terms of analysing it. There are no perfect solutions.

Currently, my swim watch populates 4 data outfits. Obviously it feeds Garmin because it’s  a Garmin watch. I also send the data to Swim.com which tells me how I rate compared to other swimmers in my pool (this is great when I am swimming in Syrdall because I’m top of all the rankings but have no competition at all. Even in dCoque, for distance I rate 10th out of 11 swimmers although the top 6 I will not catch unless someone stops them swimming), to Sporttracker.mobi which for various reasons I slightly prefer and as of this week, and therefore missing two months of data, Speedo’s brand new tracking site at on.speedo.com

As a special aside, I also log how I feel about the swims in a notebook because I feel better writing it than typing it. But that does very little number crunching.

For the number crunching software it is hard to say what’s best. Swim.com has some really nice features, and it taps into the population of swimming pools which is handy because it also means that you can find swimming pools in strange places. However, the guidance in terms of setting up the data transfer at the outset wasn’t clear and in the end, I have no idea how it comes to be working because I didn’t do anything the site told me to do.

Speedo has some really nice features – its goal setting feature is user friendly compared to the Garmin one, for example, which focuses on challenges involving other people. And Speedo has monthly challenges. It also has a paid option which allows you to feed into coaching. On the other hand, you’d need to be sure you wanted all that stuff, plus, the site advertises Speedo gear that might support your training – you may or may not find that good.

Desktop wise, I tend to favour Sporttracks although I haven’t nailed down how to get goals into that system, it tends to be a bit better for adding notes to workouts and certain information is easier to find in the summaries than it is on the Garmin site.

Mobile access wise, I’ve not found Speedo to be great in how it displays my data – my rest periods confuse it and to be honest, Garmin is probably the best for that. What’s a little bit frustrating I guess, is that in real terms, I’d like to be admining just one of these accounts – this is what it boils down to at the end of the day. I’d prefer to be swimming than operating 4 separate accounts which all basically describe the swimming. But because none of them cover all bases, it’s not really easy to decide which of them to let drop at this point. I will be revisiting this later, I think.

Swimming Pool Review: dCoque, Luxembourg

I expect this to be the last pool review for a while as I won’t be swimming pool hopping so much until next summer again I guess.

dCoque is basically the home of Luxembourg’s national sports and entertainments centre and it has a swimming complex. It also has a climbing wall but I haven’t been there yet as all my time is Swimming. All the Time, All the Swimming.

It was closed for most of the summer, and while I was there back in February once before I had managed to structure my life in such a way as I could fit in the two hours you need for a reasonable swimming trip, I hadn’t built a habit and when I started swimming more seriously in the summer, I’d pretty much forgotten the details of the pool. So I decided to wait for it to reopen before writing it up.

If you look at the swimming pool reviews on Swimmer’s Guide, you’ll find a lot of positive things said about dCoque. I tend to concur. The complex has a bunch of pools to which the public has access to three, namely the paddling pool for kids, a shallow 25m pool and a 50 pool. There is also a separate diving pool but I do not know how much access is granted to the diving section. When I was there on Wednesday or Thursday this week it was being used for scuba training and it has several diving platforms as well. I’ve done the diving board  thing twice, and gotten profoundly sick both times so regretfully I’ve given up on ever being the type of person who can dive from a 10 metre platform and land successfully and gracefully in the water.

Swimming wise, I believe there are two training pools, a 50m and a 25m which are used for clubs and classes. I have not seen them Outside those, there is an arena 50m pool which is 2.2m deep and a learning pool which scales from 0.6m to 1.35m. I swam in both of them.

People have told me they find the pools in dCoque cold. I don’t quite get this as for me,they are not the coldest pools I have swum in in Luxembourg – I really think that’s Bonnevoie – but unlike Les Thermes, the temperature is comfortable enough to swim in. During the week, evidence suggests the pools can be busy.

Of the two of them, I swam most in the 25m pool because that’s the length I’m kind of used to at this point. It’s a stainless steel pool – I didn’t remember this from the last time I was there, and the main disadvantage is the 60cm depth at one end as my freestyle stroke has enough of a sweep for me to hit the floor if I’m not paying attention. I wasn’t alone swimming lengths in that pool which on one front is gratifying; on the other hand, plans I had around my own training ideas for the next three months are being reframed in terms of “get used to the 50m pool”. Despite being busy, the 50m really is a very easy pool to swim in for the short space of time I was in it. It’s a novelty to be in a pool that has a standard depth start to finish.

Unlike the 25m pool it’s a tiled pool which for some reason I tend to prefer. The fact that it is a wide pool helps in spreading the crowd of swimmers around – I’ve found 25m pools can look crowded a lot more quickly than the 50m pool does and that beyond there being more than double the number of swimmers in a 50m pool. Does not make sense to me mathematically but finding gaps to swim through was far easier.

Anyway.

Facilities wise, the dressing rooms are fine; there are plenty of showers. The lockers lock with your card or bracelet and unlike most of the other pools I’ve been to in Luxembourg, they tend to be short and comparatively wide rather than tall and narrow.

You can swim until 9.30 most days and it is open 7 days a week unlike most of the other pools in the area. It opens at 8am 4 mornings a week and I think, at around 9 on weekend mornings.

Transport wise, it has a car park but it is also served by a bunch of buses, definitely 1, 16 and from town by a few of the RGTR buses as well. 8 goes nearby as well.

Swimming Pool Review: Les Thermes, Bertrange Luxembourg

Truth be told, I was not that lost on Les Thermes which I finally got to visit yesterday. I can see why families might like it but for me, it didn’t do it. With Coque due to re-open on Monday, I cannot see myself going to the trouble of going to Les Thermes unless absolutely every single swimming pool in the area is closed.

On paper, it looks like it should be brilliant. It has a lot of pools – a wave pool, an outdoor pool, a pool with some bubbles, a paddling pool, a short pool which looks around 15m or so, and a 25m pool The 15m pool has an adjustable depth. The 25m pool ranges in depth from 1.8m to 4m. There are 2 diving boards at the 4m end, a 1m board and a 3m board. There is also a water slide that obviously has a landing pool although I didn’t check that out. I didn’t examine the paddling pool in any great deal. All of the other pools appear to be stainless steel. This ties in with the vaguely futuristic style of the building which looks a little like what people in the 60s imagined what the future would look like, vaguely circular and UFOish. The interior has a bunch of red faux leather panels and the windows of zones looking over the pool from on high are weird shapes.

So, to the good points. The wave pool is terrific, it generates really nice breaking waves and they aren’t exactly weak either. I’m not going to say you could go surfing in there but if the pool was a little bigger…bodysurfing wouldn’t be impossible, apart from washing up on stainless steel rather than sand.

The bubbles/jacuzziesqe relaxation pool behind the wave pool is very sweet and the bubbles are likewise, not exactly weak.

The outdoor pool was a bit smaller than I expected, but again, it was quiet enough, the water was plenty warm enough even though the air temperature wasn’t all that high.

For me, the primary issue was with the actual swimming pools as opposed to what you might call the leisure pools. Being somewhat of a wuss, I’m surprised I’m even making this comment, but I found the water too warm. The 25m pool was also, well, difficult to swim in. The diving boards were closed off to swim in and the rest of the pool was populated by people swimming very slowly. And I was much slower than usual in the rather too warm water. I can live without the leisure fun stuff but I’d like a sports pool to be reasonably easy to swim in.

Even the shorter pool – which was beautifully empty – was just too hard to move around in because it was too warm.

Dressing room wise, differently to other pools in Luxembourg, it has gender separated dressing rooms and they are communal with one private dressing room in the set I used. Showers have 2 private showers in the women’s shower sections. Lockers wise, they work with the entry bracelet (I really like that technology) and the lockers are a little wider than is my experience in other pools. Les Thermes also has much wider opening hours to the municipal pools which would possibly make it attractive if you had a car.  But I don’t, so a feature of any pool review for me is always going to be “and how much hassle is it to get to”.

For this reason, Les Thermes has wound up not on top of my list of pools here. Currently, I’d rate the pool in Syrdall to be a better pool – its swimming pool is noticeably cooler than the leisure pools and it’s somewhat easier to get to (one bus as opposed to 2 or 3, against that, a little further away). For actual swim training, I’m not commenting on Coque until I’ve been back in there next week but Bonnevoie is probably a better pool. If you’ve kids though, it’ll be a toss up between Les Thermes and Syrdall and if the wave pool matters, then it would be Les Thermes.

 

 

 

 

Shopping for swimming gear

Back in 1996, so 21 years ago, I decided to start swimming (again) and needed swimming gear because I actually had none. It must be the only time in my life that I had none but such is life. I was living in Paris at the time, and for some reason I took myself into the sports section of Samaritaine, one of the big Parisian department stores; less expensive than Printemps and Lafayette, but in a beautiful building which time had forgotten. They had a huge sports section.

I tried on a bunch of swimsuits that day and eventually bought a Speedo suit which was sort of holographic. I loved it. There’s probably a cutting from it in one of my journals from when I eventually realised it was just falling apart. Even now, it’s probably still my favourite swim suit that I’ve ever owned. It was basically navy with blue shiny bits arranged in squares. They brought out a coloured version of it afterwards which you can actually see on the Sports Illustrated site. I never got around to buying it which I sort of regret.

It was the start of a very long commercial relationship which basically amounted to me giving Speedo money almost every time I needed a swimsuit. In fact, until yesterday, the only time I didn’t buy a Speedo swimsuit was when I made a last minute decision to learn to surf and didn’t have a swimsuit with me. I wound up buying a Zoggs one that day. I think I only actually used it for that surfing lesson which seems a bit extreme.

I’ve had lots of Speedo swimsuits over the years, too many to list. But I put on weight and buying swimsuits got harder and harder. I can look back in nostalgia on that gorgeous turquoise one that I really was reluctant to let go, for example, and it won’t change anything. The last 5 years have been difficult. On one front, my weight and thus size has been inconstant. The size translations seemed to have moved around. More than once I bought a swimsuit that turned out to be a size too small despite it being a size bigger than the one I was looking to replace.

The whole buying of swimsuits became more stressful than buying pairs of jeans. I hated doing it because very often, my size just wasn’t available, it bore no relationship to their translation based on normal dress sizes. And it was a job that I was going to have to do again because I lost my swimsuit while I was on holidays last week. Now, I own at the time 4 other swimsuits all of which had failed to fit me at some point in the last year. It transpired I had lost enough weight to fit into the next one down so that’s now in service. I hate it, however. It isn’t that it’s uncomfortable because it isn’t. I loathe it because it’s black with a radio activecoloured peach piping. I imagine some people in the world might like the style; I’m not one of them. It only has two advantages in my view: a) the breast stuff wasn’t “ooh we should do cup sizes for swimsuits but are too lazy” and it fitted. I think the only reason I even bought it was in theory, on the occasion, it was the only suit in the shop which was my size. And it turned out not to be.

Any searching I did through Speedo’s available options for people who are not Olympic swimmers, you are looking at black. Their pregnancy ones are black. It’s like they want you to just vanish, and not aspire to having pretty stuff. I found it irritating. But escaping was hard.

One of the primary reasons I have stuck with Speedo over the years is I wanted swimsuits made by people who understood people who went swimming as opposed to people who wanted to sunbathe. But after reviewing what they had in their “Sculpture” range this summer/autumn, I gritted my teeth and went and had a look at what Arena and Maru had on offer. Arena’s range this year both for their training set and their “we know you’re not a size 0 flat chest” range was significantly more attractive, even their plain branded ones. And they had a dedicated shop in Paris, in Bercy.

I went to that shop yesterday, and spoke to a shop assistant who eventually sold me two Arena swimsuits. One of them is absolutely beautiful, and I love it. It will probably be my main swimsuit for the next couple of months. The other one is a bit plainer and I like it far more than the plainish black Speedo I’ve been wearing for the last two weeks. I hope to be down another size when they need to be replaced.

There are two swimsuits the next size down in my swimming drawer which are not black and which I do like, so I don’t expect to have to revisit the swimsuit thing for another year at least. But the truth is, my loyalty to Speedo for swimsuits is gone. Arena’s suits this year are just so much nicer. I still don’t get their nose clips or their goggles, so Speedo will continue to get money of me for those.

Swimming Pool Review: Badanstalt (Luxembourg)

One of the swimming pools filed under “closed” for quite a bit of the summer was the city centre Badanstalt. It re-opened on 1 August apparently and I dropped in to have a look today. It’s ten minutes from where I live and the paperwork says it’s 25 m but reviews suggest not great for swim training.

The Badanstalt is a beautiful classical building ended by a lovely windowed hemisphere. From the outside it is gorgeous. Inside is a pool which yes, is about 25m long. It has 2 whirlpools, a couple of bubble beds and some water jets. I don’t know exactly all the facilities it has because I did not really have time to test them all.

What I do know, however, is that the Badanstalt really isn’t a swimming pool you can do much swim training in. It just doesn’t have a clearly defined lap you can follow – I swam some lengths but I can’t really say for certain whether they were 20 or 25 metres and anyway, it seems to me there is some sort of a current in the pool. I could do the lengths in 36s on one direction (suggests 25m) and 23 s in the other decision (suggests about 20 m). As my personal best for 25m at the moment is a paltry 33s, I’m doubting that I could do it in 23 unless a) it isn’t 25m and b) there was some support in the water as it were.

So I’m not really going to review this as a swimming pool – but I will say this – it would be a great place to go after you’ve been training. The water is a degree or two warmer than Bonnevoie but cooler than the leisure pools in Syrdall. The jacuzzis are very comfortable, and I liked the bubble beds as well. There are vertical jets at one end of the pool which may be eternal swimming pools except I was too strong a swimmer for that to work for me.

It is in a beautiful building, with a high ceiling and room to sit around the edges.  It is the kind of place I would love to go on a Sunday evening for an hour or two before the week starts again. I used to do this in Dublin – go to the water relaxation centre in ALSAA for a while to cap off the weekend and it’s a nice idea. The main problem with doing it in the Badanstalt is that it closes at 12. And they throw you out of the pool at 11.30. So I think it might work as a post work relation place – the pool is usually open till about during the week except Monday’s when the place is closed.

I’d be happy enough to go there again but more in line with going there after I went running (or something) rather than to go swimming. Full marks for relaxation, less so for pounding out the lengths.

 

Pool Review: Syrdall Schwemm

One of the more useful things about swim.com when I signed up for it is that it highlighted all those places where people swam around me and one of the ones it highlighted was Syrdall Schwemm which did not look like it was all that far away. So I resolved to give it a go and that go was today. It is in Senningen, about 12km from Luxembourg Ville.

Syrdall is more a water complex than just a swimming pool. It has a 25m pool, a relaxation pool, a paddling pool and an outdoor pool. The outdoor and relaxation pools are heated to 32 degrees; the 25m sports pool I thought was heated to 28 degrees but it felt colder than that today.  In addition it has a landing pool for what looks like a decent enough slide. I didn’t test that.

By public transport, you can get to it using the 125, 128 and 140 buses. I think there are a couple more but those are by some distance and counting the most regular, the 125 in particular. I think it is outside the Luxembourg Ville area though, so this means that if you use a CityKaart bus ticket, you’re not covered for it (it is for occasions like this that I have an MKarte as well).

Entrance wise, it charges according to time. I paid for 4 hours access which was more than enough. This puts it into the zone of “pricier than usual”, on the other hand, up front, I’m going to say this is the nicest of the three pool complexes I have been in in Luxembourg and if getting home from it after about 7pm wasn’t such a hassle, I’d probably make the financial sacrifices to swim there more regularly.  Unfortunately there are practical reasons why this isn’t going to work for me at the moment.

The pool building is pretty much glass on 2 sides which makes it a very bright place during the day (I tend to like this which is why I didn’t really like the Ben Dunne pool in Santry and loved DCU pool). The sports pool was relatively quiet which made it a joy to swim in.

The 25m pool is 1.35-2m deep which makes it quite a lot shallower than the pool in Bonnevoie, but slightly deeper than the public 25m pool in dCoque. It is split in two sections, one of which I assume is for the strong swimmers, but to be fair, anyone in the other section was generally swimming lengths. It wasn’t busy either which made a nice change from Bonnevoie which occasionally feels like it needs traffic lights. For a lot of the time I was in it, I had it more or less to myself, with that beautiful feeling of seeing flat calm water before me, a joy to most swimmers.  I thoroughly enjoyed that swim and that on its own makes the pool a good one in my book.

It is possible that the sports pool is quiet purely because the other two pools exist; both warm, both with whirlpool beds. They are both relatively big as well  – not as big as the sports pool but big enough to be take all the people in them. The outdoor pool looks up on to a sweeping hill with a forest. Occasionally, planes taking off from Findel fly over or near by. It was sunny today when I checked it out. I found it idyllic. It also is not very heavily chlorinated for a warm warm pool.

In practical terms, the complex also has a sauna section – I haven’t tried this.

The dressing room are basically a corridor of changing cubicles. They are not divided by sex – the split happens for the shower and toilets. As seems to be common (so far) in Luxembourg pools the lockers are tall narrow boxes and they are unlocked and locked using the smart bracelet you get on entry which I think is fairly practical.

There are analogue clocks littered around the place so you generally know or can find out what time it is. There is also a poolside cafe which is a nice touch imo – not sure how often it is open but it was open today. Showers wise, there are only 8 showers in the womens section. There also is little to no drying off space in the showers area and the entry and exit can get a bit clogged particularly if small children are involved.

There is plenty of space to sit around the pool – quite a few loungers and some benches, both outdoors and indoors. There is a play area as well.

All in all, I liked this pool and my main regret is that it is hard to get home from in the evenings after around 7 – the bus frequency drops right off. Otherwise it would be my number 1 pool, at least while dCoque is closed.

website

Address: 3, Routscheed – L-6939 Niederanven

Data junkie: a new Garmin or swim shiny, part 2

There was this.

Yesterday I went to one of the adventure sports shops and bought a Garmin VivoActive HR mostly because in the price sector, it covered most of the swimming stuff and cost less than I plan to spend on a Rado. It is now affixed to my wrist and at some point this evening, I will take it for a “run” otherwise know as a “rulk” where I go out “running” but am so run unfit, I walk most of the run. This will be the way things are for a while.

I didn’t get much sleep on Friday night which, I think, is why I went and bought both a sports watch and a toaster. The Vivoactive is my second sports watch – there is a Vivosmart somewhere in storage which was used for step counting. I hated it because like a lot of sports watches it was dog ugly and in particular, it whinged at me if I didn’t move enough which was basically Monday to Friday. I spent a lot of time running up and down stairs in my then job once an hour so that I stopped feeling guilty about the vibration alerts. I don’t want to be wearing this all the time because it isn’t really about counting my steps – my phone does that anyway – but I need some serious help on the swim data front. Mostly I estimate how long I have been in a pool, and I count the lengths and hope I don’t lose count somewhere along the way. Mostly I do but the figures are “ball park” right, I have no idea exactly how long a length is taking me, and frankly, the measure that matters most to me – the one which has always mattered most to me –  how long I rest between lengths is never anything more than a vague feeling of progress.

I wanted certain functionality – namely blue tooth synching to my phone – and it would be nice if it handled running as well. You can spend hundreds on a watch to do this. You can also spend a lot less. But you get less for your money. I wanted – at least – a SWOLF measure so that I could at least chart changes in how the swimming was going and from what I remember, the cheapest you could do this was with a Garmin Swim which didn’t sync to a phone. So next step up. If I were wealthy, the one I wanted was a Polar V800 – the vivoactive came second to it on several occasions, and the times the Garmin 1, the Polar had not been included in the group test. Price wise, however, the Polar was way out of my league. You could not call me a serious sports person at all. I just don’t have the time.

If I am truly honest, looking around the pool this morning, I wondered if I wasn’t a bit pathetic as well. Historically I swam 1600m back stroke, it sounded good, and it took around an hour. But it failed to meet a bunch of random goals I had over years in terms of feeling safer in the water. The Irish life guards require candidates to be able to swim 400m front crawl in 8 minutes. I knew when I last had a go at that goal that I was nowhere near it. I looked at swim watches then too; ten years ago, but they were rather less able to do much other than act as a stop watch than today’s lot are. I’m going to be honest and say I think swim watches still have a way to go – I feel running and cycling are much better served by wearable tech. But we are where we are .

The watch

So, the watch has a rectangular face which is about 3cm by 2cm. This marks it out a bit from a lot of other sports watches which have relatively round faces. The one which I bought has a black strap although I think you can get a white strap as well.

In my opinion, the watch is ugly to look at. Sure, it’s sleek, and it has a nice reasonably sized touch screen. But I’m female and I wear a Tissot women’s watch every day. For looks, this, and to be fair, almost no sports watch, competes – the prettiest is probably the Withings or Nokia as they will soon been known. The Withings do cover swimming but do not pick up SWOLF iirc and the ones which were available here didn’t pop up on group tests either. In answer to the question “Would I wear this every day?”, it’s a straight no. The watch is big and clunky. I’m not the slightest of females by any manner or means but I don’t find it sleek, stylish or elegant.

By default out of the box it has a digital display and to be frank, its brightness level was sufficiently low to make it practically unreadable. You can change the watch display to analogue which I did (eventually) but that doesn’t really change my opinion of how it compares on looks to a normal analogue automatic watch which I wear every day.

There are two buttons on the watch under the watch face. One is basically a back button, and the other, amongst other things, accesses activities for you to start tracking. The screen is a touch screen and you can scroll down through it to see things like the weather today, the number of steps you’ve stepped, your last sports workout, a summary of your daily activity and your heartrate. The watch has a heartrate monitor installed which does not work when swimming.

In terms of charging, the watch comes with a charging band which you can plug into a USB port on your computer. Personal view on that is it compares badly to the one on the Vivosmart – I struggle to get the watch out of it every time I plug it in.

Storing the data

The watch syncs its data to a Garmin Connect account. I already had one of these from when I bought the Vivosmart.

It does not currently, as far as I know, talk to Google Fit (Android girl, sorry), and to get it to talk to Runkeeper, you need to route it via Tapiriiki, which seems to be one of the standards.

According to swim.com, you can automatically sync data from your Garmin Connect account to swim.com. I have attempted to set it up and frankly, my faith is somewhat lessened when swim.com tells you you need to install a plugin which neither Chrome nor Edge will install. Although apparently it should install in Internet Explorer, it doesn’t for me, not on Windows 10. Looking at a comment about compatibility on the Garmin page for the plugin, I guess it’s years old. I am hoping it is not still necessary.

There is a comment on the Reddit swim page that it can take a few days for the connect to work which it may or may not because I eventually attempted to connect it without the plug in at all. I will update accordingly. And I will annoy Reddit Swim with questions about how to make it work because swim.com support doesn’t look like they have much feedback on that front.

What does work, however, and it works very nicely in my view, is SportTracks.mobi. SportTracks is a €€ site but there is at least 45 day free trial and currently, the annual charge is $59. I’m not sure how I came across this one but unlike the others, it has an effective automatic sync.

At the pool

I’ve currently set up the watch to be worn on my left wrist – this will probably change if I start wearing it running – because I think that information is required for the heartrate monitor. Which doesn’t matter if you are swimming as it doesn’t work while swimming.

Couple of things to note – it will track walking if you pool walk for light resistance training. But for some reason, the screen responds to water running across it when walking so you often wind up on some random screen from the front lot of apps. More than once it whinged at me that it couldn’t control any music player because the mobile device it was paired with was nowhere to hand.

That’s because it was in the dressing room in a locker. I found that vaguely annoying; on the other hand it gave me credit for 800m of water walking which I find hard to believe but I’ll take. I don’t do it often enough.

Setting up a swim is easy enough: you press the right hand button and select “Pool Swim”. This locks the screen on the pool display which is handy.

This display includes time, interval distance, total time and total distance.

To start it, you press the right hand button again. After that, if you want to pause it, you press the left hand button. I do this between intervals and it works handy enough. This gives you time per interval and elapsed time on an ongoing basis which is handy if you are under time pressure in the pool and have an idea of what you are targeting.

To restart after a rest break between intervals, you press the left hand button again.

Getting the hang of the buttons is not that hard – although if you accidentally stop an interval with the right button instead of the left button, you might as well save the session and start the next one. It might cost you a length in terms of total distance covered (at least it did for me). Going back and saying “no I want to continue this session” does not seem to be an option – it was either save or discard. 100m being worth not losing, I saved and started a new.

Statistically, I do not know how accurate the Garmin is in general although it did credit me with 50m for one length and I am not entirely sure why. It was the only error in a 24 length total, however.

Unexpectedly though, it failed to identify intervals where I was backstroking rather than freestyling. This surprised me and may be a reflection my backstroke style. As a result, my jury is out on the stroke recognition side of things. It got freestyle right but frankly, it’d get that right in 75% of cases if it just assumed everyone was freestyling.

After the swim

The sync took a little longer after the swim than I expected but I think this may have been because internet connectivity in the pool building was negligible and the connection back to Garminconnect just wasn’t that fast.

You get a reasonable summary on your mobile device. I probably would order the data differently in the summary – the key items I’d like to see up top are Total time and Moving Time. You can customise a few things in the Garmin interface so at some point, I might be able to feed that through.

You can look at the swim interval by interval as well – and it is here that I noticed that one length had been measured as 50m for some reason. Which did a lot for my average and my SWOLF at that point in time.

Linking it with other applications

I’ve had a Runkeeper account for years but I can’t see an easy way to link the Garmin swim data to it other than using a third party service which I find annoying. In theory, it is possible to set up an import for a GPS map but this isn’t very much good for pool swimming. Additionally in theory it is possible to set it up via the Runkeeper mobile device but that’s not happening for me either yet, mainly because I had to change my password to enable it on my desktop and now my mobile won’t log in even with the new password. 

So I haven’t set that up. Discussions online suggest links into Google Fit are also a no-no. However, it does automatically sync with SportTracker and allegedly swim.com. I can’t comment on the latter as it isn’t working for me [yet]. However, the former works nicely both on desktop and on web and the key metrics are easier to read on SportTracker than on GarminConnect in my view.

However you can export a .fit file from Garmin Connect via your desktop to swim.com manually if you want and to be fair to them, the display is fairly user friendly. Swim.com is useful for other reasons beyond the swimming tracker so even if you couldn’t get the automatic sync working, it might be worth considering doing a manual data dump every once in a while.

Data can be dumped out to a CSV from GarminConnect as well

In general

The watch pretty much does what I need it to do at a reasonable price point (ca €200 in Europe). It isn’t particularly pretty and in my view, is probably designed for men by default. The jury is currently out on stroke recognition but data upload is okay; the Garmin Connect application contains the data for a quick consult and review. It certainly is a useful tool in terms of identifying data that I only managed to collect approximately in the past and it provides data that I really never managed to collect manually before. From that point of view, for someone like me, an occasional, unfit, and overweight swimmer with a few goals to be sorted out, it’s a decent enough piece of kit. Jury is currently out on the interconnectivity with 3rd party sites as well but at least one works properly, there is a useful fudge for a second and the third, well check back later on that.

From the point of view of adjusting goals, I can track the rest time (and specifically the reduction of same), and length time splits (want to shorten that). In terms of number of strokes per length. I’m not terribly upset about that.

Added after the fact

Swim.com synchronisation has started although the phone app is claiming there were issues with the data upload. Looks okay in the desktop web app so far.

The 400m obstacle

Back in the day when my routine was nice and simple and I didn’t spend most of my life in Dublin stuck in and adding to the traffic chaos, I used to go swimming three times a week, sometimes four. But generally, on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I used to leave work and drive to the pool at DCU – still my favourite pool to swim in – and swim. When I got there first I was recovering from a recurrent back problem which was caused by something stupid stupid playing badminton around 17 years ago. It hurt. A lot. My physio and I agreed that my back muscles would have to be toughened up and I started swimming *again*.

I don’t think I really had a target other than not to be completely rubbish at swimming. I was completely rubbish at swimming at that stage. Anyway, on account of the back problems, and linked with breathing issues, after about two days, I decided to backstroke instead of freestyle/frontcrawl/your term of choice, and that blossomed for me over the space of around 5 months. By the time I sort of lost the habit by disappearing off to Australia (where I swam daily) for 2 weeks, I was backstroking 1600m in around 55 minutes.

One of the things I remember rather clearly about that time was how, every time I went swimming, getting fro 0 to 400m was hard. It was really, really hard and it never got easy. Once I got to 400m, it seemed to become plain sailing and the other 1200m were generally a lot easier.

I don’t like to talk about the wall – I know the marathon runners talk about hitting the wall – and I’m reluctant to call it a mountain to climb; after all I am swimming. But it’s there, this…barrier, somewhere around 400m…which is hard, and then the rest is easier.

I have been back in the pool twice in the last 7 days (let’s just say this does great things for my average) and I’m now freestyling. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • I feel inadequate that I take the easy way out and backstroke despite the fact that most people tell me they find backstroking hard and therefore I must be a good swimmer
  • I know there is a speed target of 400m in 8 minutes for lifeguarding. I cannot do it, not on my back, and definitely not going forward.
  • I know that with a bit of work I can do this and it’s a question of putting in the time and especially, identifying and eliminating the inefficiencies that make this hard for me.

To target this, in the past I have taken private swimming lessons and this is why I own a pullbuoy, amongst other things. I know I have lots of faults. I know, for example that my body could be longer in the water. I know that my catch is a bit awry. I know that my head up to breathe might destabilise my body in the water. I’m overweight.

But.

And there is always a but.

Today I swam 625m.

625m is more than I have previous managed on a second swim session back stroking. The previous swimming session, 6 days ago, was 250m, and at least 50 of that was backstroke, possibly 75. I can’t remember.

Generally my target from swim to swim is “do at least as well as the last time, and try and beat it” which means today’s target was 275m. In swimming contexts this is pretty much nothing but in my context, it’s a start, and it demonstrated that I could a) still swim and b) still at least complete individual lengths. But 250m had been hard last week, very hard, and it was significantly shy of the point which I know is an obstacle for me when I am swimming. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it today. The pool was busy and to be honest, I went out rather against myself. I wasn’t in good form.

Most people reading that would suggest they were excuses. I operate on the basis of “well even if I don’t make 250m, at least I went out and lapped the version of me that stayed at home feeling guilty about not going”. It’s a bit convoluted as motivation goes.

I had two collisions, neither of which were really my fault. Both times a swimmer started swimming straight at me after I was 2/3s of the way along the pool. One of them disrupted me enough that I wound up dropping the length midway and got myself back to the end. It’s why I wound up with an uneven number of lengths. But the pool kind of cleared out after that and the collision risks dropped away to nothing. The rest times between lengths stopped. And I had some wonderful lengths. I reached 200, and then 250 and 275. There were moments where I hit an extraordinary rhythm and position in in the water, and just felt wonderful. And I hit 375m and so 400 became a single length away.

And after that, another 225 lengths followed easily. I stopped because I had budgeted one hour in the pool and that had arrived. But I could have gone on. I might have gone on for another two or three hundred metres.  It seems this 400m obstacle exists in freestyle as well – the first 400m are hard, the follow ups seem very easy.

I have a couple of goals – loose goals – in place. I expect them to take 3 to 4 months to reach but…

  • 1000m forward, 1000m backwards
  • Learn to do a flip turn.

625m is awfully close to that first goal. Of course, there are things like rest times which need to be cut, and the chaining needs to be a lot better. But neither of those things come if you cannot do 1000m in the first place.

It is very hard for me to explain just how easy some of today’s lengths were. I suspect most swimmers have days/moments where it feels better, perfect, more aligned than others. I struggle to describe the feeling but it’s as though the world is balanced.

I’ve tried to reach 1000m freestyle before. This is the closest I have ever got and for the first time, I actually can reach out and touch it happening.

Resources I use are:

Effortless swimming

Reddit Swimming