Seven reasons why sports watches can make you a better swimmer

An ocean swimmer wearing a sports watch while swimming in the ocean

Wearable technology has been identified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as the number one fitness trend since 2016, with the exception of 2018 when it dropped to number three.

Trends are different from fads, in that they mark a general change in the way people are doing things.

Sports watches are one type of wearable technology that swimmers are choosing and there is good reason for the explosion in popularity over recent years. Whilst features will vary between brands and models, there are some key reasons why you might consider purchasing one to improve your swimming.

Swimming-related benefits of using a sports watch


Sports watches with a GPS function can accurately measure the distance you have covered, which may be otherwise difficult to figure out in the open water (however, this feature may vary between watches and brands)


You can objectively measure improvements in performance. A good sports watch will measure variables such as distance, pace and heart rate and put the information into a user-friendly app. That way you can easily compare your performance between different swim sessions and view improvements over time.


If you choose a quality sports watch and look after it, it will ideally be a one-off investment. Ok, so maybe not one-off (especially if you want to upgrade to newer models in the future), but it’s probably something you’ll purchase infrequently.


Many sports watches use gamification to add an element of fun and provide an interactive experience. This can help some people to better adhere to their swimming training plan.

Similarly, your sports watch may offer social sharing features. For some people this offers added motivation and perhaps even accountability.

General activity

It’s important to recognise that if you want to become a better swimmer, you also need to pay attention to what’s going on outside your swim session. Sleep, general activity levels, and nutrition are a few additional important factors, which your sports watch may also be able to track.


You can set up useful reminders on your sports watch, or it may even automatically set these up for you. Examples include reminders about your upcoming swim sessions or prompts to drink water after your session.


Sports watches negate the need to record things on paper and if you choose to wear one, you can check in with your progress and plan any time you choose.

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Potential downsides to consider

  • Sports watches aren’t an essential piece of the puzzle if you want to be a better swimmer. They can certainly be very useful and will suit some personalities more than others. Technology like this is great for tracking progress and working towards goals but of course, it’s not the only way to do it.
  • Be sure to put boundaries in place for using or wearing your sports watch so that you’re not constantly ‘switched on’ (which is easily done in today’s digital world). Make sure that your sports watch is adding value and enjoyment to your training regime, rather than adding to your list of frustrations.
  • Watches that claim to measure distance in open water may not always capture the course and distance as the GPS signal often drops out while your arm (and watch) is under the water. The best way to combat this is to put the watch under your swim cap or in a trailing tow float (but be careful it doesn’t fall out!).
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