I’ve recently been sent some swim kit from simplyswim.com to test and review. First up was the PoolMate – a swimming watch designed to help with training, counting lengths, timing and working out how efficiently you swim.
The PoolMate looks like a standard digital watch. The one I got was bright blue, but it also comes in black, grey and pink. It’s nice and neat and not too big and bulky to wear on your wrist. In fact, one day I tried it, I forgot to take my regular watch, so ended up wearing it all day at work.
It has four metal buttons that you use to set up the various modes and scroll through the information on the screen. The first thing I had to do was to set it up for the length of the pool, tell it how much I weighed so it could calculate the calories I burned and on which hand I would be wearing it. It was very easy to do and with a few button pushes, I was ready to hit the pool.
This watch is waterproof, but only suitable for use in a pool. It’s won’t track your distance or swim stats in open water. But it does allow you to set different pool lengths from 18m upwards, and you can even measure in yards.
In the pool, the screen was clear and easy to read. I just pressed the start button before I set off and began my swim.
I’ve got pretty used to counting my lengths now. But when I first started swimming, I was often concentrating so much on getting my breathing right, that I’d lose track. You can set the PoolMate to show either distance or number of lengths as you’re swimming, and as I gave it a glance at the end of a length or two of front crawl it kept perfectly on track.
At the end of my warm up, I pressed the start button again and it went into pause mode before I started my main set. That was really useful as I could also time the rest in between swim sets. I went on to swim 3x400m front crawl, using the PoolMate to keep a check on the number of lengths and pausing it after each set. Each time you pause, you can see the time taken for the last set on the screen for a few seconds, before it starts counting up your rest time.
The instructions that come with the watch warn you, that you should only press the buttons out of the water. That seems pretty sensible as you’re unlikely to be able to look at the watch as you swim, but you can glance at the end of a length or when you finish a set.
At the end of my last set, I paused the timer and scrolled through the options to see how long I’d been swimming, how many lengths I’d done in total, and also what the real time was. That’s a really useful feature if you’re busy trying to fit in training and want to make sure you can still get to work on time!
The total number of lengths was out by 1, but I put that down to the fact that I’d had to stop part way through one of my warm up drills to adjust the swim paddles I was also testing (more on those soon). Otherwise, the count was perfect.
Having seen my total lengths, I couldn’t resist rounding it off to a round number, knowing that would take my overall swim distance to 1.6K or 1 mile with my cool down. So far, I’d only tested the PoolMate with front crawl and related swim drills, but on my cool down I also tried a few lengths of breast stroke and back stroke. Again, it kept note of the number of lengths perfectly.
Now, it’s well known that us triathletes like our kit, especially gadgets. And since I started running I’ve got used to tracking my training with some sort of app or watch and downloading it to pore over the stats when I got home.
So I felt a bit strange when there was nothing to download and no watch to recharge with the PoolMate. There is upgraded version, the Pool Mate Pro that does allow you to download your swim stats to your PC. But with the basic watch you can still review a lot of information about your session, including time, calories burned, swim efficiency and number of strokes.
Because I’d paused between each of my 400m sets, I was able to see that I’d swum them all at a similar pace. And I was very happy to see that they were all faster than my competition time from last year.
It does take a bit of button pressing to go through the different screens to get all the stats and at one point I managed to get the erase option by mistake. Handily, you have to confirm you want to erase a swim, so I didn’t lose my data. I guess once you’re used to the sequence of screens, it becomes easier to scroll through to get the information you want.
And, as for recharging, the PoolMate takes a standard watch battery and the manufacturers reckon it should last 12 months, depending on how often you swim. But they do warn you to take it to a professional watch repair or send it back to them to make sure it remains water tight.
So, overall, what did I think of the PoolMate?
I think it’s a great swimming watch at a reasonable price. It’s simple to use and a good way of keeping track of your swim sessions. I liked that you could also check on the real time when you were in the pool and that it’s small and neat and comfortable enough to wear as a regular watch.
My only criticism is that although it can provide a lot of data, it’s not so easy to view it after your swim. And if you wanted to compare performance over a period of time you’d have to find some way of recording your stats, maybe using a spreadsheet, or upgrade to the more expensive PoolMate Pro.
I reckon the PoolMate would make a great gift for a regular pool swimmer or help encourage someone who is looking to improve their swimming and getting frustrated with counting their lengths or taking times from the pool clock.
I was sent the PoolMate by simplyswim.com, who only asked that I write a blog post about it. The views are entirely my own.