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Fitness

Can Swim-Tracking Goggles Help Me Get Back Into Exercise? I Tried It

The FORM goggles show your workout data to you as you swim, and feature a library of in-goggle workouts of varying distances and intensity.
A swimmer in a lane in a pool, shown from underwater, wearing the FORM smart swim goggles with an illustrated image of what she sees (time, swim stats) as she swims (Image: FORM)

There were many reasons not to go to the pool on a bitter Friday morning at the end of January: I’d been out late the night before; the roads were covered in fresh snow; I had a good book I could finish if I stayed in bed. But I was excited to try out my new FORM swim goggles, which measure metrics such as speed, stroke count and calories burned, feeding the data into a little window in the goggle lens for the swimmer to see as they swim (with even more data available via the accompanying app). I was curious to see how getting this information in real time would affect my workout. I’d been struggling to get back into a routine with my swimming after three on-again-off-again years and I was hoping a new gadget might help.

Before the pandemic, I swam two or three times a week, and was part of a masters club—which offers coached workouts for swimmers over age 18—for several years. Many in the group were former varsity athletes and continued to compete, but I was there strictly for fun and fitness, happy to stay in the “slow lane,” where I made friends and was still challenged, physically.

It’s a truism of fitness that the longer you go between workouts, the harder the next one will be. When the pool closed indefinitely on March 14, 2020, I honestly wondered if I would ever swim again. There were socially distanced alternatives for almost everything else in my life, but there was no way to swim remotely.

The FORM swim goggles in black, showing how swim stats are projected inside the goggle, on a white background (Photo: FORM)

How do the FORM goggles work?

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By late 2020, I was able to swim indoors—at least, between variants. I rejoined the masters club in January 2022 and got COVID three months later. There were many other such stops and starts, and often, I found excuses not to go: I had too much work; I hadn’t charged my bike lights so I couldn’t get to the pool safely; I didn’t feel like it. I think I was experiencing some malaise, certain that I’d lost the fitness level I was at before the pandemic. After so much interruption, how could I not have slid backwards?

The goggles, which the company sent to me for review purposes, were a chance to find out exactly where I was at with my swimming. I set up a profile on the FORM app, keying in my age, sex, weight and height. Once I was on deck and about to get in the water, I selected “Pool Swim” from a menu that includes “Open Water” and “Workouts.” (The goggles come with a one-year FORM membership, which offers more than 1,000 guided workouts you can load right into the goggles—up to five at a time—via the app; you can also add your own customized workout.) Then I chose the pool length—50 metres. I set these options using two buttons built into the right side of the goggles; one is for toggling, the other for selecting. I had some trouble sorting out which was which and got stuck in a loop a few times. Finally, I came to a screen that said: “00:00.00 Swim!” This was a recreational swim, not a masters practice, and it was up to me to set the workout. I decided to try something I hadn’t done since before COVID: swim 1,000 metres continuously. I’d never timed myself on this distance, but figured that it took me 22 or 23 minutes. Now I would know for sure, and I braced myself for hard evidence of my pandemic sloth. While swimming, I could see my cumulative distance as I went; the goggles’ sensors can detect a turn at the wall and thus know when the swimmer has completed a length. Gradually, the metres piled up: 50, 100, 150, and so on. Even though I can easily keep track of this in my head, I found it encouraging to actually see how much distance I’d put away. I was also pleased with the final time I clocked: it took me a total of 21:32.37 to swim one kilometre. The goggles were giving me hope—maybe I hadn’t slid backwards as much as I’d feared. The goggles have a timing function that keeps track of how long you are in the water from the moment you start swimming. They also keep track of how much of that time you spend not swimming. I brought the goggles with me to my masters practices for a couple of weeks and discovered how idle I can be: in one hour-long practice, my “move time” was 41:06 and my rest time was 19:46, nearly 33 per cent of the swim! This was partly down to chatting with fellow swimmers and coaches between sets, which is my favourite part of the workout. Still, I was less than pleased to learn that I was hanging off the wall for up to a third of my time in the pool. In one practice, we swam four 100 IMs (or “individual medley,” a combination of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle), three of which the goggles called a “mix”—they didn’t register my flailing first 25 metres as the butterfly. The goggles have a high accuracy for stroke-type detection, FORM founder and CEO Dan Eisenhardt told me, but they “can’t compensate” for recreational swimmers like me who never learned how to do the butterfly properly, which they tend to categorize as breaststroke or a drill. Frankly, the fact that even one 100 IM appeared in my workout results—that the goggles saw fit to call anything I did an approximation of the fly—felt like a huge achievement. Also gratifying were the results of an in-goggles FORM workout I tried at another recreational swim. It was described as moderate in intensity and was meant to take 30 to 35 minutes—I did it in 34:02. (28:10 was move time, and 5:52 rest—just 18 percent!) The workout was an assortment of 150s, 100s and 50s, with some variation in effort from “easy” to “strong”; there were two 50-metre sprints at the end, which I swam on an average pace of 53:42, much faster than the 58:48 average I clocked for the “moderate” four 50s earlier in the set. The retail cost of the goggles, $339, is almost as much as my annual masters membership. If I had to choose between them, I’d probably lean toward the club—the value of the social aspect of swimming is high for me. (I felt a twinge of sadness when a masters pal suggested we swim together at a recreational swim and I declined so as to do the goggles workout.) But I love looking up my stats after a swim and I credit the goggles for boosting my confidence and getting me back into a routine—since I started using them, I’ve stuck to my three-swims-a-week schedule, no excuses. And I have the data to prove it.

While the product in this piece has been independently chosen by our editors, this article contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

Above: The FORM Goggles come with their own app.

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