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How to pick the right fitness device for swimmers

There's a fit tech device for everyone--even swimmers can find high-tech help.

Swimming a fantastic, low-impact form of exercise; and these days, fitness technology has plunged into the pool (or pond, or ocean, or lake). Like most other forms of exercise, swimming has undergone a high-tech upgrade. Now you can find tech tools to help you track your progress in the pool. Though the category isn't as expansive as running or cycling--mainly because relatively few devices can withstand repeated submersion in water--swimmers are by no means left out in the cold (or heated) and wet.

The best options

After equipping yourself with goggles and a bathing suit, consider buying a swimming watch to track your workouts. Any basic waterproof watch can time your laps, but if you upgrade to one that also has an accelerometer, it can count your strokes. Yes, the same core technology used in foot pods and fitness trackers can track your swimming strokes. These tools can also calculate your speed and distance by sensing your change in motion when you turn between pool lengths (though you do have to identify the length of the pool). Such watches are incredibly useful for novice swimmers who are still working on stroke dynamics. A swim tracker can even automatically figure out what kind of stroke you use, based on your arm motion (though few of them include a dog paddle profile).

Choose a model like the Finis Swimsense or Garmin Swim that can upload to your computer and to training sites like Swimsense.com, Garmin Connect, and TrainingPeaks. The Poolmate Pro is less expensive, but uploads only to your own computer. If you swim outdoors in a place where stroke tracking won't work, or if you want a do-it-all device, consider the Garmin Forerunner 910XT, which includes swim tracking with its GPS watch/bike computer functions.

A waterproof audio player can help reduce the monotony of swimming lap after lap. The Sony Walkman Sports MP3 player's waterproof earbuds embed the MP3 player in the earphones, and the Finis SwiMP3 uses bone conduction technology to transmit sound.

Good additions

If you don't want stroke tracking, look for a swim-friendly waterproof watch like the Timex Ironman series. It has big, easy-to-find buttons and is designed for use in triathlons.

The Garmin 910XT may be the only open-water swim watch on the market right now, but nothing prevents you from sticking any GPS watch or device under your swim cap.

Thing to avoid

Corded waterproof headphones attached to an MP3 player on your belt or arm may get the job done, but they easily tangle into a mess, impeding your natatorial activities.

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