Swimming - Best way to count lengths

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After testing more than a dozen waterproof fitness trackers, we recommend the Garmin Swim watch as the best overall wearable device for swimmers. If you're looking for a GPS watch that can track swimming both in the pool and in open water, we recommend the Suunto Ambit3 Sport GPS watch. But if you need a wearable device that tracks workouts in the water and on land, we recommend the Moov smart fitness coach and tracker.

For our roundup of the best wearable devices for swimmers, we tested 16 fitness trackers, GPS watches and smartwatches in the pool. We wore them while swimming laps, treading water, jogging underwater in the pool's shallow end and doing resistance exercises with a kickboard. Then, we evaluated each tracker based on its comfort, design, accuracy, user-friendliness and the value of information it provided. Here are our top picks:

Best Swim Tracker Overall: Garmin Swim

Price: $149.99

Compatibility: Garmin Connect mobile app...

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For many of us, the biggest challenge of our daily swim is keeping track of how many laps we have done. Here, you’ll find six tricks to help you count laps.

At most swim meets there are lap counters for the distance events. Typically this means someone (a fellow swimmer) will stand at the far end of your lane with a stack of numbered, plastic cards. Every time you turn at that wall, your lap counter will hold the cards underwater to show you how many laps are left in the race. Believe it or not, no matter how well-meaning your best-friend/lap-counter is, they sometimes mess up. They flip two cards, instead of one. They are talking to the person they have a crush on and forget to flip the card. They are counting for two lanes and get confused. If they mess up, no matter why they messed up, you are the one responsible for finishing the race.

Amazingly True Story

At one California high school meet where there were no lap counters, nearly an entire...

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I never really was comfortable with the front crawl, so decided to get into a program and learn it once and for all.

I was about to buy a Garmin swim watch, or one of the other swim watches, and then I figured out that a Pebble did more, and cost less, and was also a smart-watch. So I got one. I am loving it so far.

I tried it today, and it worked, but I did have one small snag. The app counted my 300 yards swim as 325 yards because it counted one length as 50 yards.

Data is on their website as user 315568

In the last few yards of the length, I hesitated because I got some water in my mouth. I treaded water for a few seconds. I looked at the watch, and it said 175 yards. I then finished the length and saw it change to 200 yards. Note that I was already very close to the end of the pool, and it would be easy to make the app detect that I did not swim another 25 yards. The time would be too short. The stroke-count would be too few.

I am thinking...

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Have you ever experienced that frustrating problem of how to count laps while you swim? Whether you’re preparing for a triathlon, training for swim team, or just swimming laps for fitness, it can be confusing when you’re halfway through a swim set and you lose track of how many laps you’ve completed.

Let’s face it – not everybody has a swim lap counter standing at the edge of the pool telling you how many lengths you’ve finished. Not only does not being able to count laps throw off your calculation of how fast you’re swimming, but it also affects your ability to focus and to gauge swim pace and intensity.

So here’s a good way to count laps while you’re swimming: a new company called “Swimovate” has developed a special kind of wrist-watch style computer called a “The Pool-Mate”. This watch is a completely automatic lap and stroke counter for swimmers that works in any size of pool, allowing the swimmer to concentrate on just…swimming!

I’m guessing that...

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For many people looking for a fitness tracker for swimming, the waterproof rating is the most important factor.

We waited a long time for Fitbit's first waterproof tracker and even the Apple Watch Series 2 is prepped for swim tracking. There's now a better collection of trackers that you can wear in the water and not have to worry about it still counting your steps when you've got out of the pool.

Essential reading: Waterproof vs water resistance explained

We've picked the best of the bunch of 1 ATM and IP68 rated bands that can survive a dip in the pool, which should be on the shopping list for any swimming enthusiast.

Got any questions about the waterproof trackers we've included in the list? Let us know in the comments section below. You can also check out our big swim tracker test as we put six wearables through their paces in the pool.

Garmin Vivoactive HR

The Garmin Vivoactive was the winner of our group test,...

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Triathletes - Stroke your way to faster times

Kevin Koskella explains how to develop your swimming stroke length

You may have had coaches that make you count strokes throughout the workout, either by mixing it into drill sets, the main set, or at the end of workout. Some coaches recommend making a habit of always keeping track of your stroke count. As a coach of distance swimmers and triathletes, I believe stroke counting is a necessary part of most swimming workouts.

Stroke length

If you stick with it and do it on a consistent basis, stroke counting in swimming is an excellent way to increase your DPS (Distance per Stroke). The world's best swimmers are faster than you because they travel further with each stroke, not because they are moving their arms faster. Keeping track of the number of strokes you take per length will allow you to begin to lengthen out your stroke, as well as add more speed and distance...

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The two numbers that swimmers habitually track are how many metres or yards they tally in a workout – or some calendar period – and the time it takes to complete some portion of that tally. “I swam 3000 metres today and did 1:39 on my fastest 100.”

It’s far less common to monitor stroke count. Yet, for several reasons, stroke count is arguably the most important measure:

1. Regular Feedback

Feedback – a way to connect efforts to outcomes – is the key to improvement and personal best performance. Feedback is most effective when it comes moment-by-moment. You learn your time for a repeat only after you finish swimming. In contrast, you can monitor stroke count every lap, alerting you to loss of efficiency or variation in Stroke Length.

2. Numbers that Matter

Stroke Length – the distance you travel on each stroke – has been shown repeatedly to correlate more closely with performance than any other aspect of swimming. In contrast, there is a...

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Swimming isn’t exactly a natural activity for humans so finding the most efficient and technical way to fight the water element leads to faster swimming. There are many bad habits swimmers develop that usually stem from poor adaptation to the water. Some of these habits surface even in the most seasoned of swimmers. One thing I can guarantee is, swimming requires a lot of practice, a lot of hours in the water, and countless repetition of aspects of the stroke in order to perfect the skill of swimming. Here are four common mistakes and what you can practice to fix them.

The front crawl, commonly the stroke used in freestyle, is for most people the fastest, most effective stroke, and the one I will be concentrating on here. This is the stroke you should be focusing on if you intend to compete at any level.

Mistake #1: Head Position

This one isn’t really a secret to anyone anymore as I have been pretty vocal about it. You could say this is a pet peeve of mine,...

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by WLR Staff, Adam Vaughan

Swimming helps lose weight, burn calories and puts little stress on your body. Swimming works all the major muscles, and will tone you up and slim you down!

You can train to swim at a competitive level or you can enjoy a few healthy lengths at your local pool; you decide how much you want to achieve in swimming and set your own pace.

Whatever level you choose, swimming is good for you and it's never too late to learn or improve your swimming skills. A relaxing form of exercise means weight lost by swimming is fun too!

Many public pools now offer swimming combined with aerobics , (aqua-aerobics), to help lose weight. This is high impact aerobics without the high impact. Aqua-aerobics (or swim-nastics) will help to shed those pounds, and tone you!

What are the benefits of swimming to aid weight loss?

Swimming burns calories, so helps you lose weight and swimming for weight loss has been regularly praised for...

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Is it possible to get good at swimming late in life? Yes. (Photo: Shutterhack)

Swimming has always scared the hell out of me.

Despite national titles in other sports, I’ve always fought to keep afloat. This inability to swim well has always been one of my greatest insecurities and embarrassments.

I’ve tried to learn to swim almost a dozen times, and each time, my heart jumps to 180+ beats-per-minute after one or two pool lengths. It’s indescribably exhausting and unpleasant.

No more.

In the span of less than 10 days, I’ve gone from a 2-length (2 x 20 yards/18.39 meters) maximum to swimming more than 40 lengths per workout in sets of 2 and 4. Here’s how I did it after everything else failed, and how you can do the same…

At the end of January, a kiwi friend issued a New Year’s resolution challenge: he would go all of 2008 without coffee or stimulants if I trained and finished an open-water 1-kilometer race in 2008. I agreed.

He...

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Keen swimmer? Fitness junkie, or just want to get healthier with regular visits to your local pool? Then you need an activity tracker that is both waterproof and tracks your swimming strokes and distances. See all activity tracker reviews.

Also see: Best Fitness Tracker Deals

Here we gather the best swimming trackers to see what each boasts in terms of functions, with a particular interest in swimming modes. For regular activity trackers read our Best Fitness Activity Tracker round up.

Best swimming trackers: get in the water

Activity trackers tend to stick to dry land for most of their functions: step counts, floors climbed, GPS-based runs, and so on. Some, like the Fitbit Blaze, have worked in multi-sports functions to track workouts that bring in fitness activities such as cycling, circuit training, yoga, martial arts, golf, tennis and weights for example. See Which Fitbit is Best?

But few allow for swimming activity, which is a...

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In a few weeks, I’ll mark the 50th anniversary of when I first got serious about swimming—i.e. training with an explicit goal of swimming fast. In November of 1965, I joined the newly-launched swim team at my high school, St. Mary’s in Manhasset NY.

For the next five or six years, I got faster each year simply because growing taller and stronger as I matured mattered more than the inefficiency of my stroke or generic nature of my training. But at age 20 I plateaued. Though I was still maturing, I was already stroking as fast and working as hard as I could. In the 45 years since, speed has never again simply ‘happened.’

However, while I’ll celebrate my 65th birthday in just a few months, I’m still highly motivated to swim as fast as my physical capabilities, and limited training time, allow. Thus it’s thrilling to have mastered a form of training that offers a mathematically precise—you could even say guaranteed—way of improving my speed. The accompanying video...

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CirenJules wrote:

Whilst I'm new to TT, the Forum has been consistently highlighting under/over issue with watch length counting for nearly 12 months. If this count isn't accurate then many of the other swim stats are irrelevant.

If the multi-sport watch excludes being fit-for-purpose for swimming, please don't market it as including it.

Can someone at TT please feedback to their customers, via this Forum, what is actually being done to improve the swimming features? My watch has the very latest Firmware and the 25m pool length count is still lousy (breaststroke only; no kick-turns; firm push-off).

If there's a 'best practice' to get the most accurate count, please share that too.

This watch has massive potential - waterproof, great for running, treadmill, cycling - just tell your customers a bit more about what you're doing to fix swimming issues - TT have been silent for way too long tbh.

You need to remember that user forums only attract users...

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If the PoolMate had been around when I was breaking world records it would have been an essential part of my training”

Nick Gillingham, world record holder and Olympic medalist

This product is a stroke of genius! This is a key tool for all swimmers wanting to improve their times.
Ten-Point, UK

I’m not impressed only by the product but also by the story of the business, very inspirational.
Mary, Greece

I love, love, love it!! What an amazing innovation! Instead of worrying about counting (and losing count) of my laps, I can concentrate on swimming, stroke improvement, getting faster and even planning what I’m going to cook for dinner:)
Paula, Canada

I think the watch is an excellent tool for swim efficiency analysis which is key, saves having to stroke count and great for post session analysis of weaknesses.
Claire Cunningham, Paralympic gold medalist

Superb piece of invaluable kit. Is really helping me get to grips...

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Photo by gabyuSwimming laps at the pool is a great workout, but how do you track how far you have gone? Especially when swimming laps continuously without breaks, it can become very easy to forget which lap that you are on and to get your count messed up. A lap in a pool is there and back and is usually 50 yards or 50 meters. A length is the distance from one end of the pool to the other, and will be half of a lap. Here are a few simple (and a few not so simple) methods for counting laps or estimating your swimming distance in the pool.

Time: The easiest way to track how far you have gone is to not worry about distance and instead just track how long you are in the pool. Swimming for 30 minutes is much easier to figure out than counting the laps. Count Lengths: Rather than counting laps, you can try counting lengths. It is a little easier to keep track of lengths because you always know that swimming in one direction will be an odd number and swimming in the...
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As you might know I’ve been swimming a little more recently… in the hope that if I swim then I’ll still be working hard, but I won’t be over doing it in running or any other ‘weight bearing activity’. Hopefully it will leave my legs fresh when I want to run, and especially fresh when I want to run longer distances like I did on Saturday.

Another reason for me swimming is to keep Fit Girl company. She started swimming about a month ago, replacing any running, gym, spin or weight bearing activity she did with swimming in the aim to see if it helps her IT band heal. Fingers crossed it works for her.

She started off getting used to swimming in lanes and counting lengths, but struggled a little with the counting. Someone would put her off, or she’s forget how many she’d done. (Been there, done that – it can be so frustrating!) Fit Girl started off doing about 50 lengths in an hour, and now she’s up to between 90-92 in an hour. She’s doing really well. But she’s...

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Keeping count of repetitions in any sporting endeavor is surprisingly challenging, be it push-ups, wind sprints, or golf shots. Trying to keep count with water between your ears leaves many swimmers pruning in the wet stuff longer than necessary. The brand new Pool-Mate watch is the first automatic lap counter, promising to help the swimming world count to ten.

Available in July for $114, the Pool-Mate, from British company Swimovate, utilizes a series of accelerometers to track the number of laps achieved, while swimming the front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke, and butterfly. Just push the start button and start swimming. All previous lap-counters available on the market require swimmers to hit a button or turn a dial between laps.

The device relies on the glide portion of a lap after pushing off the wall, combined with the length of the pool, to detect a given lap, and claims 99.75 percent accuracy in all pools longer than 10 meters. Its ability to detect the...

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If you think back to your days at school, and in particular during your Physics and Maths classes, your grumpy-old professors (mine were anyway!) would have talked to you about POWER, and more importantly the equation for this:

POWER = FORCE x SPEED

FORCE = STROKE LENGTH
If you think of the FORCE element as your swimming STROKE LENGTH, i.e. increasing the amount of force you apply to the water (so long as it is directed in the right direction), will increase your stroke length which is manifested as fewer strokes per length of the pool. Simple. Most swimmers will, at one time or another, count how many strokes they take per length and aim to reduce the number of strokes by focusing on such elements as catch, pull through, and body rotation. This is an excellent way to improve your economy and efficiency through the water. Most people will see improvements in performance with this method if their stroke is rather inefficient to begin with. SPEED = STROKE RATE
...
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the forgotten secret of fast freestyle technique!

Your Stroke Length is how far you travel with every arm stroke. To measure this count the number of strokes you take to cover a length of the pool, counting both arms. The fewer strokes you take the longer your stroke.

Your Stroke Rate is how many strokes you take in a minute, counting both arms. For example, 40 Strokes Per Minute (SPM) is a slow stroke rate, 80 SPM is a high stroke rate.

Compare this to gears on a bike.
Warning: Sound

Jump to related articles: Dealing with a High Stroke Rate and Dealing With a Low Stroke Rate.

What Are rhythm and timing?

When a great swimmer is moving quickly through the water they seem smooth and powerful. But look carefully, there are no lurches, pauses, hitches or dead spots in their stroke technique - they have excellent rhythm and timing, moving seamlessly from one phase of the stroke to the other.

There was a trend at the end of the 20th...

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I count 123 with the stroke on the first length, 2 2 3 on the second, etc. obviously breathing both sides on a 3 count, which you want to do if you don't already.

Don't just do massive long swims with no pauses either - do intervals or other things that will make you faster. Just plodding up the pool for ages doesn't make you get any faster and is a really bad way to train.

Oh and unless you're super good already (you might well be if you bother doing tumble turns), work on technique with something like the drills described on the swimsmooth website, or the total immersion books, technique makes way more difference to swimming speed than fitness and has massive advantages in triathlon as it potentially leaves you less knackered after the...

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