Technology touches almost every part of our lives today in some way or another; even the cars we drive are often controlled internally by onboard computers. It should come as no surprise, then, that technology follows us into the world of exercise, too. Many are already familiar with fitness trackers, pedometers, FitBits. However, the one domain where these devices rarely went was the pool. Swimmers were often left to their own devices, focusing strictly on the lane ahead and making it to the wall. Now, with the advent of a wearable with as much of a health focus as the Apple Watch, that's all changing. In fact, the Apple Watch contains functionality designed specifically with swimmers in mind. From tracking the total amount of calories you burn in a workout session to counting your laps and split times automatically, it can do quite a lot. What are the potential advantages to this technology, then? How could you use one to improve your swimming performance, if at all? While buying any item of technology won't make you a better swimmer automatically, knowing how to use it properly can open the door to enhanced performance. We can consider a few of the ways one might accomplish that.


What the Apple Watch is capable of in the water

Before you run out to purchase an Apple Watch, what makes it so special for swimmers in the first place? Back in 2016, Apple released the second edition of the watch, this time with added water resistance. While the first version of this smartwatch did not have any capabilities specifically intended for swimmers, the Series 2 and beyond offer some pretty neat built-in technology that specifically tracks your workout in the water.With modes for tracking your efforts both in the pool and in open water, it's easy to set up no matter your personal preference. You can even manually enter the length of the pool so the device can track your laps.

Speaking of, that's a big part of the watch's appeal ? by using its built-in motion sensors, the watch not only tracks your arm movement to count strokes, but it can reliably sense when you make your turn at the end of the pool. The addition of a built-in heart rate sensor allows for even more data collection. As a result, it's very good for tracking your workout, analysing your progress, and using it for all kinds of personal challenges in the pool. That functionality alone can make it useful for a swimmer who wishes to understand his or her performance better. However, you can also take it one step further.


Extending functionality by downloading apps

While the Apple Watch does a good job of keeping track of some of your stats on its own, you might want to squeeze more functionality out of it to make it a bigger part of the routine. For swimmers, there are a few excellent apps out there that can help push you towards the next level in your progress.

One of those is, while another, called MySwimPro, also offers a wide variety of extra features. Instead of just tracking stats, you can use these apps to create workout patterns, set them up and run them, and analyse your performance after the fact. These are apps that put a real focus on satisfying the needs of hardcore swimmers, but the customisation options also allow more casual users to find ways to improve.

Some of these apps offer the ability to connect to social media or interface with other swimmers. When you need a reliable way to challenge yourself and to stay motivated, apps can provide you with the extra tools you need. All this data is worth something to your health, too. Not only can you gauge whether you're hitting your target heart rate during exercise sessions, but you can track your performance and make adjustments with ease.

How should you approach using these functions?

So, it's clear that there are functions in there that make the Apple Watch attractive to swimmers, but how would one go about using all that data? It can be overwhelming to look at first, and with so many different stats and charts, it might look like its mainly just for one's own ego.

Tracking your heart rate is one thing, but what about everything else? The first thing to keep in mind: you won't have all the information you need right away. A swimmer would need to spend several sessions in the water tracking their workout before they had enough information to use for making conclusions.

For example, is your lap time stagnating? Consistency is good, but it could also indicate that you've reached a plateau and need to push yourself harder. When you make changes in your routine, such as by adding a stroke or tacking on more laps, you can see the effect it has on your ability. You can also use this data to figure out which of your strokes are the weakest, or where you need to focus your training the most. Use the functions of the Apple Watch to enable better, smarter workouts ? but don't make your entire day at the pool revolve around looking at your wrist.

Understanding the limitations of the Apple Watch

Useful as it is, it's to your benefit to understand that this is no "magic bullet" for better swimming. In fact, there can be some drawbacks to using your watch that make a balance between traditional methods and technology more important. For starters, it can split your focus too much at times as we just mentioned. You may spend more time thinking about the watch or fiddling with your apps than swimming.

That translates to less activity, fewer calories burned, and a less effective workout. Technology needs to be a supplement to help you focus your efforts on improvement. The watch also can't track all types of swimming exercises. For example, what if you want to work on flutter kicks or a specific part of a stroke? You'll have to pause data recording to undertake these portions of your routine, or when you take rest breaks. Otherwise, you'll end up with bad data that can mess up accurate tracking. Some users also report that the heart rate tracking doesn't function well in water; Apple claims it isn't intended to, but your experience may vary. If you do use a tracker, ensure it's doing its job properly!

Ideas for building a workout with your Watch

Let's say you do grab an Apple Watch and start using it to track your workout data. What's an effective way to structure an exercise session around using this device? Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind. First, always set up your watch and related apps before you begin. You don't want to have to stop and adjust things in the middle of a set. Ensure everything is ready to go by the time you slip into the water for the first time.

Second, use your watch to set a time or distance goal for yourself. Keep an eye on your time as you go, glancing right after or before you make your turns. Consider setting up time trials, or trying to beat the lap pace that you set at the start of the session. Finally, try the custom workouts used in some of the watch swimming apps. When you're tired of trying to map out the best plan for your routine, use one that's tried and true. Gauge how these workouts affect your performance, then pick and choose the exercises within them that you think help the most. From there, you can customise your approach.

Remember: technology is only a tool

With some interesting and highly useful features, such as tracking total swimming distance and your heart rate, it's clear that there can be a lot of value to using an Apple Watch for your workouts. However, using one on its own isn't a key to improving your performance. You'll still need to eat right, stay motivated, and show up to get in the water if you want to improve. The watch gives you a new way to structure workouts while also delivering data that can help you understand the areas in which you need improvement the most. Strike a balance between using the technology and continuing to focus on your normal routine, and you can continue to succeed.

This article was written for Sports Fitness, an online store where you can shop for swimming gear and accessories.