Runners have GPS heart rate monitor watches, bikers have bike computers, but until recently, there haven’t been many good products that swimmers can use to monitor their workout. That has changed recently with the release of new swim watches over the past year. One of the leaders in the field of swim equipment is Finis. Finis designed the Swimsense, their first swim watch, to help the swimmers monitor all aspects of their swim. They first announced the Swimsense in August 2010, and started shipping to the general public in 2011. So what exactly is the Swimsense, and how does it work? The Swimsense is a rechargeable swim training watch that uses accelerometers and magnetometers to measure pace times, distance, stroke count, stroke rate, distance-per-stroke, lap count and calories burned across all major strokes. It collects this data during your workout, and afterwards the data can be uploaded to a web based log called the Swimsense Training Log. It can store up to 14 workouts at a time, and will work in any pool from 25 to 50 yards or meters in length. The Swimsense has been out for a while, but since we are a newer website, this is a product that we feel is revolutionary, and we use it on a daily basis, we had to write a review to post on out site.
By now, many of you have read the FitnessElectronicsBlog disclaimer, but here it is in case this is your first time reading one of our reviews. For the record, we do not work for Finis, and are in no way connected with them or any of the companies whose gear we review. We do this because we love playing with the latest technology, and we can’t keep our hands off this stuff if we tried. We purchased the Swimsense, and we have been using it for almost a year. No give-us-gear for a favorable review, or anything like that. We call ‘em as we see ‘em. It keeps us honest. Also, we have a group of 4 people who do the evaluations of all of the gear. One person is the lead on a piece of gear, but everyone gets a chance to evaluate the stuff. We have 2 guys and 2 ladies, so it’s a good mix of people. It gives us better insight, and we get a better review overall. Everyone has an input to the review. If you want to know who these people are, check out our About Us page. We have 4 seasoned triathletes, and 3 Pilates instructors. All swim, bike, run, do Pilates and Yoga, and use all of the gear on a daily basis. So, enough with the babble, and let’s get to the review.
What’s in the box?
So let’s dive right in and check out what’s in the box:
Inside the box is the watch, USB charging dock, USB cable, and quick instruction guide. A detailed instruction manual can be found on the web here.
Here is a close up look at the watch:
Here is the watch on my wrist:
Here is a side view:
The fit is pretty good, and with the rounded corners and rubberized feel, I don’t really notice it much when I’m in the pool.
So what are the features?
- Total stroke time
- Total distance
- Average distance per stroke
- Average stroke count
- Total stroke count
- Stroke rate
- Total interval time
- Interval rest time
- Average pace per 100
- Interval distance
- Total number of laps
- Interval number of laps
- Measure pace times
- Distinguishes between backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle
- Measuresa and displays all data by stroke type
- Rechargeable Lithium ion battery provides 12 hours of use
- Calculate and Report SWOLF efficiency
- Calories burned
- With software update, the battery life is 12 hours while swimming, 150 hours of non swimming
- Download, review and analyze data in Swimsense Training Log
- Upload workouts directly to TrainingPeaks, RunKeeper, SportsTrack and 2PEAK websites
To start to use the Swimsense, I plugged the dock into my computer using the supplied USB cord, and let the watch charge. While charging, the watch displayed “Connected to USB”. While waiting for the Swimsense to charge, I registered the device at swimsense.com, and then I downloaded the Swimsense Bridge software. This software is used to connect your watch to the web, allowing you to upload your workouts to the Swimsense Training Log, and it will notify you if there is new firmware available for the watch. Finis is constantly improving the watch software, so keeping up with the latest software is definitely worth while.
Once you have the software installed, updated your watch with any updates, and charged the watch, you are ready to start using the Swimsense.
After undocking, the watch will revert to the home screen. Before running off to the pool, it probably makes sense to play with the Swimsense, and get familiar with the screens and modes. To start a workout, press the up/down buttons on the right side of the watch. This scrolls through the main menus. I could try to describe scrolling through the main menu options, but the manual does a good job:
The first time using the watch, I scrolled to the Config screen, and pressed the left hand SEL button to set my personal info:
These screens are pretty self explanatory, but it makes a difference which hand you wear the watch on, and this setting is in the Config Watch Pos. screen. Also, in the setting for Pool Size, I could change the pool length, and set whether the pool distance was in meters or yards. I then set my personal information, and that’s it. I hit the EXIT button, and I am back in the main menu mode on the Config screen. Now I can scroll to the Swim screen, and I’m ready to swim. Here is the SWIM page, taken from the manual:
At the swim screen, press the left side SEL button to start swimming. The next image shows the Swim screen, and what functions the buttons perform. Once SEL has been pressed, you will see this screen:
Press SWIM, and you are swimming. Once you do this a few times, it becomes very intuitive and easy. Try it a few times in the pool to get comfortable with starting and stopping a workout. When you are done with your workout, press the STOP button. In the past, if you wanted to take a break, you needed to hit the PAUSE button. Finis recently released a software update, which included Interval Inference Mode (iiM), that automatically senses when you stop swimming swimming. This means you no longer need to hit the PAUSE button if you want to take a break. You do want to hit the PAUSE button if you want to mark and record an interval. When you are done, you still need to save the workout in your watch. To record (save) your workout, press and hold the RESET button for 3 seconds. You workout has been saved, and you are now ready to start logging a new workout.
As I said before, all of this information is in available in the manual, and actually taken right from the manual. I have included some of the info in the review so that you can get an idea what using the Swimsense is like, and how easy it is to navigate.
Here are the different screens that are available during your swim:
Here are some screenshots of what type of information is available on the Swimsense after your workout is complete:
A breakdown of the different strokes:
Here are the intervals summary screens:
Just about any kind of data is available for viewing on the watch during and after your swim workout. Of course, the fun is just beginning. Where all of the data becomes really useful is when you get home and upload your data to the Swimsense Training Log.
Swimsense Training Log and the Cloud
First of all, the Swimsense software is compatible with both PC and Mac machines. I have tested the software on both platforms, and there were no issues at all. Once the software is installed, you can upload your workouts to the Training Log, and review your workout. Here are the details of a recent workout. It should be noted that the two screens below are all displayed on one page. I cut it up to make it fit in my post. The displayed data is for only one section of the swim. The total swim was a 5800 yard swim. Clicking on my 800 yard recovery (the highlighted gray bar) only displays the details for that segment. If I would have selected the blue bar, it would have given me the details for the total workout. In this way, you can see the details of each interval, and the details of your overall workout.
In past swims, I have seen some variation in the Swimsense trying to decode what stroke I was swimming. You can see this by noticing that bar color sometimes is a different color on different laps. For this 800 yard section, I wanted to see what would happen if I put the Swimsense on my other wrist. The watch recorded my freestyle stroke as the backstroke. If I have it on my correct wrist, the bars show up correctly in blue, indicating freestyle swim. Regardless of what stroke I’m swimming, I usually can’t get all of the bars to indicate the correct stroke. First of all, let me say that swimming is not my forte. The better I swim, the less issues I see on the Swimsense when it attempts to decode what stroke I am swimming. Even on my best day, the Swimsense doesn’t always get it right. I understand that this is probably one of the hardest things for the watch to do, and I am sort of a hack in the water. The bottom line – this is not a big issue for me, since I only swim freestyle. If you swim other strokes, you are probably a better swimmer that me, and probably have a smoother stroke. Therefore, you will have fewer errors.
There is also a Stroke Analysis graph that shows distance-per-stroke and seconds-per-stroke. This is very useful in determining speed and efficiency.
Shown below is a way to plan workouts, and add them to your schedule. This is a good way to plan your workouts. These can be displayed on the workout calendar.
Thoughts, Opinions and Summary
- Intuitive menu options, easy to navigate
- The features work well, and the watch lap and stroke logging seems to be very consistent and accurate.
- Lap counter works well.
- The new Interval Inference Mode (iiM) mode seems to work well, allowing me to take a break without pressing a button on the Swimsense.
- Watch is updateable, and there have been worthwhile software improvements via update
- 12 house swim battery life is great
- Display is hard to read when swimming and googles on. This would be true for any watch, so
- The stroke analyzer is not always accurate for, me, but it may work well for better swimmers
Overall, we love this watch. We have yet to find anything out there we like better. Lap counting and overall timing is very accurate, and the only issue that we have at all with the Swimsense is the occasional inaccuracies of the stroke recognition. With the Interval Inference Mode software update, taking a break in the pool is even easier between set. Many of us use the Swimsense on a daily basis, and highly recommend it to anyone. The MSRP is $199.99.
I’ll leave you with a few videos.
Here is a video of the Swimsense in action:
And here is an in-depth video which shows how to use the watch:
- Finis Released a New Update to the Swimsense Training Log (fitnesselectronicsblog.com)