If you’re trying to become a better swimmer, learning how to track your swimming progress is essential. After all, swimming is an intricate sport that requires you to focus on multiple different things simultaneously, from body position to stroke form and breathing technique.
Without establishing benchmarks and tracking against them, it’s virtually impossible to know whether you’re getting better and, most importantly, to identify your specific opportunities for improvement.
If you’re new to swimming or you’re only just starting to focus on your metrics, you might feel like you’re in over your head.
But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We’ve got you covered with this simple guide on how to track your swimming progress.
Common Challenges with Tracking Swimming Progress
Tracking your swimming progress has historically been tied just to best efforts because it’s notably difficult to access and track accurate real-time metrics, heart rate data, and other key information while you’re in the water.
As a result, swimmers often focus mostly on measuring time, distance, pace, and stroke metrics which only tell a portion of the story.
However, thanks to innovative new technologies like waterproof heart rate monitors, smart swim goggles, and tracking apps, swimmers have more access than ever to insightful data. These days, swimmers can combine several methods that allow them to track their progress more accurately and in more meaningful detail.
But having access to more data means needing to analyze and assess more information in order to get a full picture of your progress.
Decoding Common Ways to Measure Your Swimming
When you begin tracking your swimming progress, there are three important categories of metrics that you’ll need to take into consideration to get a 360-degree view.
1. Swimming Metrics
On a fundamental level, there are a few key quantifiable metrics that allow you to track your swimming progress and improvement over time:
- Pace: How fast you can swim (calculated in minutes and seconds per 100 meters)
- Distance: How far you can swim
- Heart Rate: How hard you’re working while you swim
- Stroke Index: This determines how efficient you are in a given stroke.
But with access to more detailed data, you can analyze these metrics in greater depth, allowing you to dig deeper into your performance, truly understand whether you’re progressing, and find opportunities to improve that you might’ve otherwise missed.
Here are a few telling things to look out for:
- Decrease in stroke count at equal or faster pace: If you notice that your strokes are decreasing at the same pace (or a faster one), this is a sign that you’re becoming more efficient in the water.
- Increased distance per stroke (DPS): Much like the previous point, if you’re moving farther through the water with each stroke, this is indicative that your form, strength, and efficiency are improving.
- Decreased heart rate at an equal or faster pace: When you start tracking your metrics, you’ll begin to notice your average heart rate at various levels of exertion (whether you’re warming up or pushing hard). Seeing a decrease in your heart rate shows that you’re becoming fitter and more efficient, in turn exerting less energy as you swim.
- Increased distance per stroke at the same or higher stroke rate: This refers to being able to maintain or "hold" your DPS at increased stroke rates. Typically, DPS goes down as your stroke rate goes up. Being able to hold onto your DPS at increased stroke rates is a golden way to increase your speed.
- Last Length Finish Time: This is a great measure of your ability to pace yourself. The more consistent you can be with your time for each length (how many seconds it takes to complete each length), the better your pacing is.
With all of that said, it’s also important to realize that while a reverse change to these metrics could mean your form or fitness is decreasing, it’s not necessarily the case—and this is especially true when you’re making significant changes to your training.
Sometimes you’ll simply see a short-term reverse change while you adapt to your new approach.
2. Subjective Measurements
While all of the metrics in the last section are easily measured and quantified, that’s not the only way to track your swimming progress.
Here’s where things get interesting.
Subjective metrics—like the way your body feels before and after your swims—can also be incredibly telling.
In order to extrapolate real value from subjective metrics, the key is to keep a log of how you feel before and after each session and then analyze it over time.
In doing so, you might be able to find trends in things that aren’t directly related to swimming, such as how you slept the night prior to a session or how you fueled your body before training.
3. Training Load
It’s important to understand how you’re performing within the context of your training load—the total distance and time you plan to train in any given period.
For example, if you’re planning to train three times per week and swim 2,000 meters in each session, this would be your training load for the week.
Looking at how closely you abided by your plan can give you big picture insights into your progress, such as:
- Whether you might be hitting each workout perfectly
- How you’re coping with increasing duration or intensity
- Whether you’re seeing inconsistencies with your training and missing your goals
If you’re finding you’re not fulfilling your training load, it may be indicative that you’re trying to do too much too soon or that you could benefit from adding a little extra effort in your workouts.
How Swim Training Plans Unlock Your Potential
If you want to get serious about tracking your swimming progress and making real improvements over time, following a structured swim training plan is vital.
These plans will provide you with:
- Structure and Routine: By following pre-set structured swim training workouts, you’ll know what you need to do in each session, week over week. This helps you plan your training schedule and manage your training load.
- Confidence: Swim training plans take the guesswork out of making progress and provide you with the peace of mind that you’ll reach your ultimate goals in time.
- Variety: Changing up what you do encourages your body to adapt to different kinds of training and activate different muscle groups, in turn making it all the more interesting, motivating, and enjoyable to keep coming back.
- Quantifiable Progress Tracking: Swim training plans and apps will track and make sense of all of your swim data, allowing you to better understand your progress.
- Reduced Risk of Injury: It’s important to avoid overtraining which can lead to injuries, and structured swim training plans account for this.
- Accountability and Motivation: Following a structured program is like having an accountability buddy you didn’t know you needed.
How to Track Your Training Progress
In theory, you could track your swimming progress by simply watching the poolside clock and counting your laps and strokes.
But there are a few problems with that.
For one, it’s incredibly hard to keep track of that information during the course of your swim. It gets easy to forget where you’re at, especially as the numbers climb.
Most importantly, though, this method limits you to high-level metrics relating to your overall time, distance, and pace—leaving out the most in-depth and insightful data.
You’re better off using gadgets, like smart goggles, swim watches, waterproof heart rate monitors, and tracking apps to record these metrics.
That’s why FORM offers smart goggles as well as comprehensive swim training plans that allow you to supercharge your swimming progress and achieve a variety of goals. Our goggles display your metrics and training drills in real time, directly in front of your eyes while you swim. Then, after your session, FORM goggles sync up with our app to make sense of your metrics and present them to you in an easily-understandable format.
Simplify the Process of Tracking Your Swimming Progress with FORM
With so many important variables to understand, tracking your swimming progress can feel overwhelming. But with the right structure and tools, you can understand your metrics and performance more deeply and make great improvements over time—and that’s where FORM comes in.
With FORM, you'll swim with real-time metrics right there in your goggles. Plus, get a free 1-year membership and boost improvement in the pool with 1,000+ workouts, 30+ training plans, and a custom workout builder.
Backed by a 2-year warranty and 30-day return guarantee, FORM goggles are built to last.
Already have FORM goggles, but don’t have access to our full range of features? Head to the FORM app to start a 30-day free membership trial*.
*30-day free membership trial is only valid for one-time use for new members who have previously purchased FORM goggles.