Swimming with the Get Speedo Fit App


Speedo Accessory PackSpeedo sent me an amazing gift pack with fins, paddles, pull buoys, goggles and rather thoughtfully a great big ruck sac to stash it all in.

As much as all the gear excited me, it came with the requirement to go forth and swim. I really like to swim but I cannot abide all the faff associated with swimming – changing, drying and of course the discarded plasters and hair accumulating in the communal showers.

Streatham re-opened their new swimming pool last month, after the original was sacrificed for a mammoth Tesco store. Being less than a month old I thought it would be lovely clean place to reintroduce myself to public swimming.

I was wrong. The changing rooms were smelly and hairballs skittered across the tiles like tumbleweed. I wished my speedo accessory pack included sandals but alas, I had to hop from one clean-ish spot to another until I reached the relative tranquility of the pool.

The pool at least was a joy, light bright and delightfully empty, which meant I was free to play with my embarrassing arsenal of swim gear without feeling like too much of a wally.

Speedo Fitness FinsI took the fins, which are mini flippers that strap over the toes and a set of paddles which are plastic plates that sit in your hands and enable you to apply greater resistance as you cut through the water. The fins were amazing and I would nominate fused toes for our next evolutionary development, although they may not help with running.

I timed a few laps with and without the gadgets and despite being a bit useless with the tumbleturn as the flippers slid down the tiled walls I was significantly faster with the fins and paddles than without.

The speedo website looks to have been improved recently. As well as showcasing some fab products it now includes a whole section on technique, with videos and tips to help you improve your strokes. I used it to fathom out how to use the finger paddles.

Get Speedo Fit

Speedo have also released a great swimming app, called Get Speedo Fit. I’ve been really impressed with the app. I’ve tried swimming gadgets before, moving through the swimsense watch to the Garmin 910XT, both of which count laps in a “relatively” accurate fashion but don’t offer much else in terms of swim specific interest. The Get Speedo Fit app adds an additional level of graphical feedback and motivation by setting map based challenges. The app is able to identify your local swimming pool and determine the pool length, although you do have to count your own laps.

I appreciated the visual challenge and would be interested in a running app that would plot my journey across a suitably inspiring expanse but for now I’ll settle for swimming along the Thames.

I selected the Thames River challenge as its a manageable distance, requiring me to swim 3,945m from Westminster to Tower Bridge, but I could have been more ambitious and opted for the Suez Canal or English Channel challenge. I managed about half a kilometre before braving the changing rooms again. I’ve got another 3.5k to go so I’m either going to have buy a pair of flip flops or find another pool to complete my challenge in.

Pool Running for the Injured

pool running

The enforced running respite has resulted in a very slight improvement to my plantar fasciitis pain so I’m motivated to keep up with the recommendations from my podiatrist.

I’ve stuck to the stretches, swapped the running with cycling and been wearing the temporary insoles in my trainers. The only remedial action left to tick off is pool running or aqua jogging.

I hunted around for aqua jogging classes in the local pools but couldn’t find anything at all. I imagined groups of frustrated (ex)runners bounding up and down the lanes.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself next to an empty exercise pool while on a weekend treat at the Sanctuary. The opportunity was too good to lose so I dropped in, grabbed one of the buoyancy tubes as substitute running belt, and attempted the run motion.

I now know why there was a distinct absence of organised pool running groups – this is definitely a solitary experience. You bob around mostly on the spot and may as well tuck yourself away in the corner of the deep end and try not to raise too much concern as you flap away in a frustrated doggy paddle.

I attempted a few different styles with the body either upright or sloped and felt as though I was either cycling or swimming but not running. I discarded the flotation aid to see the affect of adding some realistic arm action. I bobbed around, just millimeters under my nostrils and managed 20 mins without drowning.

It was by no means as exhausting as running, I was exerting myself but I could hold a conversation whereas I can barely gasp out a greeting when I run on land.  You do move a little bit so its not entirely on the spot running. I was circling a pillar in the middle of a pool and it probably took me 4 mins a lap. The scenery didn’t get any better but I suppose treadmill runners are used to that sort of drudgery, a waterproof mp3 player would have helped.

It was moderately satisfying and helped delay the stir crazy impulses but by golly its boring.

Garmin Forerunner 310XT – The Review

Screen shot 2011-10-24 at 23.04.28

Having abandoned treadmill running in favour of the great outdoors it wasn’t long before I began to bemoan the loss of my preferred running watch the Garmin Forerunner 305. I long for pretty maps to illustrate my outdoor running routes and spur me on to explore my surroundings and for that you need GPS.

Fortunately for me I am spoilt, and my good lady wife didn’t listen to my moans for long before coming home with a beautiful orange gift – the Garmin Forerunner 310XT.

The Forerunner 310XT has been the long awaited upgrade to the Forerunner 305. The Forerunner 405 (reviewed here) let us down with it’s silly bevel features that went haywire at the first hint of moisture, so the Forerunner 310XT marks a back to basics approach, stick with the tried, tested and much loved functionality of the 305 but add the long called for water resistance that should mark this as the triathletes choice.

Not of course that I can call myself a triathlete having done only one sprint event about 3 whole years ago. I am occasionally known to dabble in open water swimming though, or at least I have done twice, but I don’t think one should limit oneself, who knows when I may decide to pull on the wetsuit and explore the local waterways.

So the biggest change between the Forerunner 305 and the Forerunner 310XT is that Garmin have made the 310XT waterproof and therefore suitable for the swim. Having looked into the watches swim capabilities though I think I understand why Garmin took their time to introduce the feature and make a truly triathlon oriented GPS watch.

If you wear the watch on your wrist, as most people do, the watch will be plunged under water with each stroke reducing and possibly even removing its connection with the satellites and the stroke action will have the wrist unit moving forwards and back and effectively mapping out a greater distance than the rest of your body. The result is a very messy GPS trail and a wildly overestimated swim distance. A firmware release has added open-swim functionality to the Forerunner 310XT which averages out the missed points and gives a smoother GPS and distance closer to the truth but still not what you could call accurate.

DC Rainmaker has written an excellent review of the Forerunner 310XT as it performs in open water and compared the results with that of the Forerunner 305 worn underneath the swim cap.
I recommend you check out his analysis if you intend to use the watch for swimming or triathlon. The point I’ve taken away is that the 310XT really needs to be worn under your swim cap if you want to be able to trust the data and get a pretty map. It doesn’t show any improvements over the Forerunner 305 which you can shove in a sandwich bag and also pop under your swim cap but I suppose it does offer some peace of mind in case you drop it and it gets waterlogged.

Another major change is related to battery life. You can now run or swim or bike for around 20 hours vs the 10 hrs quoted for the 305. This is great news for endurance athletes or indeed anyone who can’t be bothered to charge the unit after each use. I have noticed a reduction in the data recording options though and wonder if this has gone someway to improving the battery life. With the 305 you could select the data recording option to every second or every 4 seconds with the “Smart Recording” option. With the 310XT the option has gone and now you only have smart recording. This isn’t really a problem for me although I do notice the charted data is a little less granular than it was in the 305 and it’s always nice to have the choice.

As with the Forerunner 405, the 310Xt is ANT enabled which means you get the automatic upload of workout data using the ANT stick and it means that the watch is compatible with assorted ANT devices such as cycle power meters. I don’t have one of these but I’m sure if you did, you’d be very happy with the enhancement. If you want to use the watch as your main cycle computer it is worth investing in the optional quick release kit, which is relatively cheap.

I’ve paired my unit with the ANT footpod that came with my Garmin FR60 but you could also pair it with the Adidas footpod that comes with the miCoach if you happen to have one. You can set the 310XT to use the footpod for distance measurements if you are running inside or on a treadmill or leave it set on GPS in which case the footpod will be used to measure cadence only.

I’ve been using mine mostly on the run and have noticed a few other improvements:

Physically the wrist unit is smaller and sleeker and is of course orange. It picks up GPS signals very quickly and seems to hold onto them, so despite running in wooded areas I haven’t noticed any spurious results on my map output. The unit is easier to use with less delving into menu systems required. For example if I want to switch from bike to run I just press and hold the mode button for about 3 seconds and it pops up the option to select the sport.

The multisport function has been improved as well. You can set up in advance the different stages of your race eg. Swim, T1, Bike 1, T2, Run and then when you press the lap button it automatically moves you into the next sport mode.

As with the 405 you can change the pace of your Virtual Partner on the fly. Press the up or down for a second and then you can slow the little stick man down long enough for you to be able to overtake him. Perfect, but perhaps shouldn’t be used too often.

A number of features are common to both the 305 and 310XT but I’ve noticed improvements to the “Back to Start” and the alert features.

If you want alerts you can choose to have sound or vibration or both. The vibration is particularly strong and sends ripples up your arm to ensure you don’t miss your lap times or interval notifications.

The Back to Start feature is very useful if you run on unfamiliar routes. It effectively lays out a bread crumb trail for you to retrace your steps with. When I used it the other weekend, I was trying to get back to my car which was who knows where. I’d gone a little bit around the houses and didn’t want to literally retrace my steps so I ignored the first turn off and headed back to an earlier point in the route. I was impressed to note that the watch forgave me and soon started picking up its directional instructions, buzzing at me when it was time to left or right. I don’t remember this being a feature of the 305.

So here’s my assessment.

Pro’s and Con’s

1. Small, pretty and new
2. Waterproof
3. Longer battery life – 20 hrs vs 10 hrs
4. Better GPS reception
5. ANT enabled which allows for wireless syncing, footpod pairing and power sensor compatibility
6. Back to start routing available – Included with 305 but not 405

1. Not really a swim watch – it still needs to sit in the swim cap
2. A lot more expensive than the 305 which currently retails at amazon for less than £140: Garmin Forerunner 305 with Heart Rate Monitor

I’ve got a lot of pro’s there but then I like shiny new things and I didn’t have to pay for it. I have to say though that I am a bit disappointed about the swim functionality, I can see that it’s a tricky concept to engineer but I’m paying a lot for it over and above the price of the 305.

If you are a cyclist and want to use the power meter features then I think you would be happy with the 310XT, if you are a regular swimmer you may settle for the safety aspect of having a waterproof item even if you do have to wear it in your swim cap.

If you are a runner and don’t have need to record workouts in excess of 10 hours, I think you may want to take advantage of the reduction in price of the Forerunner 305 and spend the money you save on a swanky pair of Vibram Five Fingers or some such.

The Garmin Forerunner 310XT with Heart Rate Monitor currently retails at Amazon for just under £265.

Swimovate Watch


Entries for next years Great Swim series are open already. Christmas is not a great time to start contemplating squeezing into an overly snug wetsuit, the annual quality street box is already half empty and the strawberry creams are not improving my silhouette.

Christmas is a time for trying out new gadgets though so it’s time I reviewed my latest toy.


I was sent a swimming watch from Swimovate to try out for a week. It promised to count all my laps for me, freeing my mind to concentrate on higher level issues such as “what should I cook for tea?” and “did I remember to put any Stella in the fridge?”

It does more than that of course, storing my lap history and providing historical data such as distance, stroke rate, calories and efficiency.

It was the counting bit that appealed most to me though. I am always surprised at how inept I am at counting lengths. I start well enough, reciting 1, 1, 1 in my head til I reach the end and turn. Of course I then move on to 2, 2, 2 cos I’m bright and can count but I’m also easily bored so I start adding variety like 2, 2 and the next lap will be 3, next is 3, next is 3. If course when I get to 3 I think blimey that number is familiar I’ve already counted it. Then I have to go through the odd even calculation and match it to the direction of my travel. Basically I never get as far as 10 laps before I’ve stressed myself out and felt the need to re-enrole in kindergarten.

So it’s a lap counter, but a pretty good one. Beyond the first button press you don’t have to bother again until it’s time to get out of the pool. The motion sensors apparently pick up on the drift portion of the stroke at the change round. It will pick up tumble turns and your more sedate stop and turn technique. Provided you don’t change strokes within a length it will supposedly maintain accuracy.

I did my best to fool it but it was 100% accurate up to 16 lengths, beyond that I’m sure the watch maintained its accuracy but I didn’t and decided to just free my mind of the counting. Swimming with a blank mind is really rather freeing, it feels so much more like running.

It’s given me an efficiency rating of 73 which equates to below average which I suppose will be about right. They measure efficiency in terms of distance covered per stroke and I’ve always felt that I swim on the spot anyway.


It would be quite useful to monitor efficiency gains if you were trying to work on your stroke but I didn’t get to play with it long enough to see how responsive it was to minor improvements.

The battery is supposed to last for 1 year after which you have to send it back to the company to be replaced. I suppose that shouldn’t be a big problem provided they have a quick turnaround.

You can’t currently use it as a distance monitor for outdoor swims because it multiplies pool length by laps but I have picked up on some internet murmurings that suggest that might be about to change.

It could do with an overhaul of the user interface, moving through the history screens required me to pull out the instruction leaflet twice but all in all it’s a pretty good adition to the sporting gadgetry world and costs around £69 from Swimovate.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

Great North Swim 2009

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So the big day arrived, not quite the day that every girl dreams of, but as days go it was big enough to require the same sort of dietary preparations. 6 weeks of off and on Stella abstinence brought me to a point where I was prepared to at least attempt a public shoe-horning of my wobbly bits into the rubber encasement.

Sunday was a hot day and the combined sweat of 2402 lady swimmers had condensed on the marquee roof and was starting to drip onto the dressers below. Other peoples sweat, wet skin and rubber only combine to create more stress and more sweat. I successfully directed my right foot into the wetsuit but then started hopping around and cursing my full English breakfast as I tried to squeeze my left leg through my left arm hole.

There was no time for this sort of faffing, we were late and were already supposed to be sitting in the lake “warming” up. Despite expecting the seams to burst at any moment leaving me pink and vulnerable like a lizard shedding its skin, I did actually manage to yank up the zipper. After patching all my grasping finger nail holes with a puncture repair kit I waddled out in full glory looking like a fat, black, naked lady with a severe nicotine withdrawal problem.

Not exactly my best look but here we go – that’s me next to the tall skinny guy, who I will not be swimming with next year. I’m going to find myself some fat friends.

GNS Yellow Wave

As per last year I secreted myself towards the back of the pack in a vain attempt to avoid mid-lake battles. This year though I wasn’t swimming in the last wave and had to cope with the chasing hoards of sub 30 minute swimmers.

I had a few new strategies for this year’s attempt at the Great North Swim. Firstly I was going to remember my nose clip and then stick my head in the water, I wasn’t going to bother much with my legs as they’d proved useless in unscientific pool timing tests, I was going to wear shoes (?) and finally I wasn’t going to get asthma.

The nose clip really helped as you’d expect and I’m still sure that legs are overrated in swimming; I tried to observe every swimmer that passed me and a good deal of the sub 30 minute swimmers did not appear to be kicking with their legs. Of course they may have been kicking like crazy up til that point but its good enough evidence for me.

Probably the most significant decision in my overall performance was to give the asthma a wide berth. No idea how I did that, I took on heavy quantities of caffeine in the run up to the event, stuck my head in cold water a few times but there also seemed to be less motor fuel hanging around on the surface of lake this year and that may have had something to do with it.

Camp Finishing Run

So all in all, I had another pootle round a stunning lake, positively enjoyed myself for a few hundred metres and came home with a new pb, knocking 10 minutes off last years time and dragging myself out of the bottom 1% and well into the top 96% of all competitors. Result!
The only disappointment was that I managed to look decidedly camp in my sprint finish photo, not that I need to share that with anybody.

Actual stats:

Time – 1:01:57
Overall – 4392/4579
Age/gender – 366/385

As Dan can’t be arsed to keep a record of his times, I will jot them down here for prosperity:

Time – 0:44:14
Overall – 3148/4579

Oh and I got a new t-shirt.

Bald Penguin Preservation Society


The Great North Swim is now only a matter of weeks away. I’ve been swimming regularly but to be honest, the distance is the least of my worries.

I pulled the wetsuit out of the cupboard last month, dusted out the moth balls and then attempted the big squeeze……
Not good.
I forced the zip up but couldn’t straighten my arms and panic ensued within 30 secs. With no body glide I was falling all over the bedroom trying to trap the rubber under something solid so I could fight my way free.

I immediately pulled out my spreadsheet and started the calorie controlled route to a not so snug wetsuit but four weeks later I’m scouring the spreadsheet for dodgy formulas. Something must have gone wrong somewhere because I’m only about 2 ounces down.

I’m running almost daily and have now stepped into the serious measures zone. Stella has been eradicated (apart from Blog writing evenings) but if the scales don’t start playing fair I’ll have to join the bald penguin preservation society.

If I slice off both arms (rubber ones obviously), I’ll be able to move my shoulders and I’ll provide a new skin for at least two bald penguins, maybe even four, if they’re short.

As that seems an increasingly likely option at this late stage I thought I better get used to some cold weather swimming. So today I finally managed a trip to Tooting Bec Lido.

At 93 metres a length its practically open water swimming and the temperature was shocking enough to remind me that freezing mountain lakes will be unbearable without full body rubber protection.

I better make sure I don’t write too many blogs between now and September 13th.

Lane Rage


I’ve been promising myself since March that I will start swimming again very soon.
The Great North Swim was approaching at a fair ole rate and given that it threatened to kill me last year with previously unknown asthma issues I didn’t think I should take my training commitment too lightly.

Good intentions were fine back in March, but its July now so I suppose I couldn’t have taken a lighter approach to training if I’d actually tried.

I have now swum though, so it’s all back on track.

Public swimming is a funny old do. Can’t say I actually like it that much. I like the swimming bit but other wet people can be so annoying.
It’s an absolute war of wills. Two swimmers fighting over a single strip of pool, locked on a course for a head on collision, determined not to give an inch til one smacks the other in the chin. A slow motion, watery, game of chicken.

Why do they always insist on swimming in my lane? I make a careful assessment when I get into the pool to determine a clear line that I might be able to squeeze up and down in but when I look up after 3 laps all the newcomers seem to have chosen my lane to try and muscle in on.

Great North Swim

How cold?!

I eased myself gently into the lake until I slipped on a hunk of plankton and ended up bobbing some where near my ears with a foul expression on my face. The lake was freezing and I had the pleasure of sitting in it for the bizarrely named “warm up”. There’s only one way this could be termed a warm up and the thought of 220 swimmers peeing in unison didn’t improve my look of disgust.

Actual temp was 15.1’C or 59 ‘F for those that understand these things.

I started shivering so got out pretty sharpish but then wished myself back in the water as I now had to hang around in front of the film camera feeling naked or at least a black rubberised version of naked which isn’t much better.

Yellow Wave - Race Begins

I was in the final wave so with no swimmers following up the rear ready to lap me, I faced the decided risk of coming in dead last. Or just dead, which I suppose would be marginally worse.

Not being a terribly confident drowner, I thought it would be best to steer clear of the main body of swimmers, so swam wide and started at the back. Speedracer keeps terrifying me with tales of swimming right over the top of slower obstructions and I couldn’t trust myself not to start fighting in the middle of the lake if anyone tried that technique on me.

As it was I quickly found myself alone, paddling serenely in the middle of this massive lake enjoying the backdrop of mountains and the occasional break through of sun. It was really quite pleasant and if it wasn’t for the inconvenience of being in some kind of race I would have liked to have taken my time.

Not that my swimming was fast in any way. My overly buoyant wetsuit wasn’t playing on this outing and refused point blank to lift my legs to the surface.  Thankfully I hadn’t cut the buttocks out to fashion a pair of chaps or I would have had to swim round in the walking position.

Great North Swim

By the end of the first half I started to notice a few problems, my chest was tightening up and I developed a cough. My lungs seemed to be filling with fluid and I was struggling to catch my breath, then the wheezing started and I was convinced I’d developed asthma. There were 3 of us together at this point and the swimmer nearest me had developed a productive cough at about the same time. The safety canoeists swooped in like desert vultures and guided us home, with motivational snippets like, “only 35 more lengths of a pool to go”. 35 lengths was probably the max I’d swam in a long time so I wasn’t that convinced I’d achieve it while threatening to have my first ever asthma attack.

Action Finish

I rolled on to my back a few times to float and to try and relax my breathing but in the end it seemed like the best thing was to get the race over and done with so I could panic on dry ground. I thought I was proper last at this point so when I finally reached the end I thought I better put on a bit of a sprint finish. This photo has to be one of the best action shots ever taken of me – thanks Tanya.

The satellite image shows Lake Windermere in all its glory, the next day as Dan and I drove down past its banks we flushed with pride at the thought of having swum across it. I have actually drawn our mile route on the image in it seems far from traversing the lake, we managed only a delicate nibble off a small corner. One of the rescue canoeists was telling me he had swum the full length of the lake – a mere 10 miles and another woman at the Great North Swim had swum it in both directions.

It still feels good though and now my breathing has recovered I can start making plans for next year, it wouldn’t take much training to ensure myself a whopping pb.

Stats for the event:

Time: 1:12:34
Position: 1779/1796 which puts me in the top 99% or if you prefer the bottom 1%. It is almost thrilling to discover that I am quite possibly a better runner than I am a swimmer.

The faster swimmer came home in 0:17:03 which is a bit galling.

Here I Am

I’ve been quiet for a while but I’m still out here, running and swimming a bit.

Swimming is still my biggest concern, I made it to the pool on Sunday thinking I’d sneak in a mile but I got bored and bruised after 1 km and called it quits. I was trapped in an anticlockwise convoy and every time I made a move to overtake the breaststroker in the group she would wait til I approached her shoulder and then dislocate her hip in order to give me a good sharp kick in the tits. I suppose I should prepare myself for much worse in the open water melee.

No more time for prep though, I’m just packing my bag for the long trek up North to the start of the Great North Swim. I’m a little apprehensive but that’s no surprise, I’m always in a state of dread before the big day.

The event report will follow but in the meantime I’m going to share the latest “Here I am” video from NikeWomen. They are publishing a series of animated films highlighting the mental and physical journey of a series of high profile athletes. The one below is of the triple jumper Simona La Mantia, it’s pretty good – moving, strong and it quite makes me wish I could jump above the clouds.

I’m looking forward to the one from sprinter Nicola Sanders which will be released shortly.

North Sea Swimming Lessons


Black Dot Drowning

Lesson No 1: Scrap any plans for cross channel swimming attempts.

Swimming in the sea is tough. It started well, the wetsuit protected me from the staggering chill but the moment I put my face in the water I ingested enough salt to raise my blood pressure to alarming levels. I quickly raised my head and adopted the side to side waggle that gets me nowhere very fast.

(I do appear in this photo – search for the black dot)

Lesson No 2: I do not require any additional buoyancy in my backside.

What with the head wiggle and the 3mm rubber padding I felt like I was trying to swim in the yoga bow position. I couldn’t seem to keep my legs in the water and am seriously considering cutting the buttocks out of my wetsuit and turning it in to a fancy set of chaps.

Lesson No 3: Waves are for surfer dudes.

I bobbed up and down fairly happily until I started seeing the incoming waves breaking on their way towards me.

Then the panic started.

I went out twice over the weekend, trying out different areas of the beach in search of calm deep water but only managed a cumulative distance of 1.5km.

I need to get myself in the pool next week and start training, I also need to get over my reluctance to put my head in open water but I’m not sure how to practice that without sticking my face in puddles.