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Oct 14, 2014

Xmetrics: A New Swimming Wearable Which Will Make You Swim Faster

"All you have to do is swim." That is a promising bold claim made by a technology company with a new swimming wearable gadget soon to be released to the swimming and triathlon communities. This new swimming computer goes under the name of Xmetrics and with its sleek design and a long list of features looks like a very ambitious and useful addition to the swim tech world.

Slick design meats real-time audio feedback
Why should you care? Do we really need another swimming tracker wearable and an app to go along with it. Isn't there enough? Actually, there are really not that many good options for improving your swimming when you are after getting some real feedback from the computer and not just counting your laps with your Pebble watch or you don't want to wear ankle and hand bracelets. The refreshing part about Xmetrics is that it is not a watch and is able to provide real-time audio feedback while you swim (not even your coach can do that). Like the recently hyped Instabeat it attaches on your goggles, but it hopes to give you much more feedback in terms of your swimming. And if you ask me, in a much better form via headphones rather than your eye.  Even though, bone conduction would be even better. The world seems to be crazy about wearable bracelets and computer watches to measure all aspects of every day lives and exercises, but for swimming this is just not the right way to go, so I believe Xmetrics is onto something.

Small enough to fit under the swim cap
Here are a few reasons why watches are mere translation rather than localization when it comes to going from land to water:
  • Imagine how many strokes you take in a month or a year. If you swim frequently, it will be in 100s of thousands. Now, add a watch to your hand and only keep it on one of them without switching sides. Is swimming still a sport which works both sides of your body the same? The shoulder might suddenly not feel so good, especially if you have a flawed stroke to begin with. If you are a runner or a cyclist, would you weigh one shoe or paddle more than the other? Doubtful.
  • Checking your watch for real-time data is just stupid as you cannot look at it while you swim and by the time you get to the wall, the moment to make a correction is over ;)
  • You end up spending more time messing with the settings on your watch than actually swimming
  • The metrics the standard swimming watches provide make swimmers focus on the wrong data at the wrong time when it comes to efficiency improvements. When you come home to review the historical data, you will hardly remember what has happened during the swim workout and even if you have a good memory, you are less likely to fix the problem as you will not know if you are doing it correctly the next time around.
  • Watch just adds drag to your streamline
  • Finally, who still wears a watch in this century. In my opinion, the wearable wristbands are just a quick over-marketed transition before something that will be a more permanent part of you.
Upload your data and analyze at later time on Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices
Since I outlined why a watch might not be the best design to use in the pool, how about elaborating a bit more about which of the basic swimming data is actually interesting to look at in terms of improving your swimming fitness:
  • how many laps I have swam - this is a totally useless metric - focus on quality and not the quantity of what you do, so when you find yourself bragging I swam 30K this month, stop and think what that actually means. It tells everyone, you have no clue what you are doing and are competing with the wrong data.
  • how many strokes I took per lap - this one is a bit more useful, but still does not tell you the whole story unless you are able to interpolate it with the time it took you to swim the lap, so don't let this be your only focus (check out SWOLF score - luckily most top watches have this)
  • how many calories I burned - hmm, useless, no comment
  • how fast I swim and what is my pace - sure this one is a classic and you can't do it without it, so start learning to read the pace clock around your swimming wall or get yourself your very own simple PaceWatch.
  • what is my heart rate - this metric has its place, but many swimmers do not use it the right way (for example: it should also be used during recovery purposes to get your heart rate down back to normal level before starting a new set, especially if you are not such a good swimmer). Many triathletes try to monitor their heart rates in the same way they do in running or cycling (just keep it in the greenzone). The problem here is that more than likely you get enough of this type of exercise on the road while you bike or cycle and should focus on your technique instead of where you heart rate is. Of course, the more experienced swimmer you are, the more heart rate monitoring can help you judge how you are doing.
  • drill logging - how is this helpful, except maybe making sure you at least do some drills in your workouts and can eliminate drill from your workout pace times? I think they just came up with this one to have some more stats to track. If the metric would be how efficient your drills are, then you have a golden ticket. I'd really like to know what a swimmer does with this information.
  • breathing pattern measure - that's an interesting one, but only if it slaps you on the head when you breathe only to one side and breathe in and out of the walls.
Now to the features of Xmetrics. The Italian creators claim that it is able to give you real-time audio feedback not only on biomechanical data such as the usual stroke count, number of laps, efficiency, metronome stroke frequency etc. but also biological data like heart rate or blood oxygen saturation. It is also able to tell you your turn speed or your acceleration power in real-time, so imagine how huge of a motivator that could be for trying to focus on improving that turn speed or your catch. There is really no excuse not to improve with Xmetrics. The device should be also individually programmable, so you can adjust what you want to hear from your virtual swim coach.

Looks like something from the future. Wait.. IT IS :).
So, bottom line is, if you are into sport wearable gadgets and would like to improve parts of your swimming, Xmetrics might just be the swim computer for you to keep an eye out for and to consider donating to their Indiegogo campaign. Just with the real-time feedback itself, my guess is you will spend a lot less time chasing that historical data during your sleepless nights and maybe spend a bit more time with your kids. I guess, we'll have to wait and see if the guys at Xmetrics can deliver on their promise. I hope they do as I will be lining up to get one for a review as soon as I can. We are still waiting for Instabeat Robocop goggle attachment to hit the market :(.

How Xmetrics is positioned among its competitors

Lastly, some food for thought, what would be very cool is to create sort of a hive of Xmetrics devices inside the pool and have them share the metrics with each other in real-time, so you can for example have a competition with your fellow lap swimmers on who can make the fastest turn or lap etc. How much fun would that be? Welcome to a truly digitized social swimming world.

Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.