Looking for Smart Swimming Goggles?
There was a time, before smart watches, when I got carried away with swimming for a short time. I learned to read the pool pace clock at my local Y, and I counted the beats in my head to see if I was using a good and effective technique. I brought my workouts to the pool on index cards inside zippered bags.
So I felt like I was flying into the future when FORM sent me a pair of their tech goggles to test. They sell for around $ 200 and have been around for a few years now, but thanks to a new update, they can now guide you through your workouts, and not just keep track of what you are already doing.
Features of FORM smart swimming goggles
The main feature of the glasses is that a screen is built into the lens on one eye. This screen can show your time on each lap, how far you’ve swam or other metrics such as heart rate if you have a compatible tracker.
The side with the screen has a large piece of tech dangling from the side, but it’s lightweight and I didn’t even notice it when it was turned on. You can wear glasses with the screen on the right or left of your choice. When I set up the FORM app to connect to my Apple Watch (which is not required for lap swimming, only for GPS tracking when swimming in open water), it recommended wearing the screen and watch on the same side I turn my head from so that breathe. … I breathe on both sides, every third stroke, but I wear my watch on the left. So I decided to wear glasses with a screen on the left.
I was confused at first and then impressed by the glasses knee tracking. I was used to 25-yard pools, but hadn’t seen them for a while, so when I arrived at my new pool, I didn’t realize that it was actually twice as big as I was used to. (The circles seemed very long , but I thought I must be just getting tired because I had no practice.) The points correctly gave me 50 meters every time I swam part of the pool.
Later I noticed that it also tracks my hits accurately. He knew how many strokes I needed to get from one end of the pool to the other, and he knew how long each length took. My jaw dropped when I realized that he realized that I had done some breaststroke circles, not freestyle, and even determined when I was tired and switched to backstroke in the middle of the circle. The goggles collect a ton of data, including your speed on each lap, and can even export everything to a spreadsheet for you or your coach to analyze later.
The screen in my eye was light enough to look at when I wanted to and light enough to ignore otherwise. I swam in the outdoor pools on sunny days, so the visibility was low. I checked the screen as I rested at the end of the pool, often placing my hand on the lens to improve contrast. I couldn’t easily see this while sailing, but maybe it was simply due to the lighting.
The glasses fit well, which is another surprise for me as I usually have a hard time finding glasses that are small enough that often come with kid-sized glasses. My husband, who has a normal sized face, tried them on and also thought they fit. The glasses also come with a bunch of different sizes and shapes of the bridge of the nose.
Using FORM-led workouts
Okay, tracking is great, but what about these new workouts? (You need a $ 20 / month subscription to use them, but no subscription is required for the tracking features.)
You select pre-swim workouts in the app and send them to your goggles. This way you can save up to five workouts and choose which one you want to do when in the pool.
You can search for workouts by duration, and there is a small overview of each with a description of their intensity, distance and duration. Some include board length exercises or technical exercises, and you can watch an in-app video of any exercises you are not familiar with.
I chose the “Splish Splash” short workout, which consisted of 100 meters of whatever stroke I wanted, followed by 4×50 meters of light freestyle with a 45 second rest. If I were a serious swimmer, this would be a warm-up. I don’t, so it was a good, albeit short, workout in and of itself.
The screen did its job just fine, telling me what to do in shorthand (“50 FR” means 50 meters freestyle, as the app explains). He also inspired me with upbeat messages such as “The Last Circle!” which by then I really appreciated.
How useful are they?
I have inquired and browsed the swimming forums to see what people have to say about FORM goggles. There seemed to be a consensus among the competing swimmers that they were not changing the rules of the game in any way; One suggested that if you wanted to spend $ 200 to improve your swim, it’s better to keep tracking laps the old fashioned way and spend the money on other equipment, such as a better swimsuit or a set of paddles and fins. (They will also not be allowed during the competition, as most organizations have a rule against timekeeping technology that already applies to smartwatches.)
There have been several complaints about the goggles themselves from competing swimmers, who said the extra volume on one side of the goggles sometimes caused them to roll over when they did somersaults and bounced off the wall. I’ve also heard some concerns about how long the anti-fog coating will last. (FORM has care tips to extend the life of the finish and suggests applying a coat of soap if you need to freshen it up.)
They’re cool, though, and many swimmers love the ease of use of their performance while wearing glasses. Guided training hasn’t been done for a very long time, but I’ve only heard good things from the swimmers who have tried them.
So are the glasses worth it? If you swim frequently and want to do guided workouts or extensive data to analyze after the swim, then yes. If not, consider if you can get what you need from a watch or low-tech technology.
This post was updated on 9/8/2021 to correct the company name (this is FORM, not FORM Swim) and to note that the goggles do not need to be connected to the watch while lap swimming.