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Counting Swimming Laps

When I started to practice Total Immersion Swimming, I was able to swim non-stop, upto 3 hours, even then I didn’t feel tired. I only stopped cause I was hungry. The other problem that I faced was losing count of my strokes and laps. One cannot improve something if it cannot be measured. In order to improve my endurance, I need to know how far I swam. In order to improve my efficiency, I need to count my strokes. And in order to improve on my speed, I need to measure my time along with my distance. In this post, I would like to share how it can be done.

There are 2 main methods of counting laps. The first one is to count manually. The other is to use gadgets. Note that laps is one length of the pool, which is different from running tracks where one lap is when you return to your starting point.

The problem with counting manually is that it relies on the person’s mental capacity, and it can easily fail, especially when it gets to double digits. So personally, I started of with counting individual laps, but i usually lose count after 20 or 30 laps. At some point, I started to count pairs of laps. So going two laps then I count as one set. This helped me count upto 40 laps (20 sets) before I lost count. And then when I started to do drills, as in focusing on different parts of the body when swimming or technique, then I started to count 5 sets, as a drill set. so I could do handle more than 50 upto a 100 laps (10-20 drill sets). Keep in mind though, with counting my strokes every lap, I do still miscount my laps. Then I just reset to the smaller number that I remembered.

At some point, I got tired and dizzy of trying to count my laps and strokes, and I just wanted to experience the silence of the swim, one of the reasons I like the water is the sense deprivation, counting in my head actually disrupts the silence. The silence sometimes gives me ideas and insights that I enjoy. I still have insights, but I find that they are more clearer when I don’t think about anything. I guess it is my way of meditation. In fact, one of my insights was “There has gotta be a way to do this automatically”, so I searched online and found a variety of options. And the options are increasing every year.

There are cheap options and expensive options. generally the cheapest is enough for certain people. But for others they want something more, and in that case, will have to and should be willing to pay for the higher price. Lets take a quick look at the options.

  • Cheap option – lap counters. Usually counts laps only, they are worn on the forefinger like a ring, there are manual ones where you have to press after every lap. and there are slightly more expensive ones where it does it automatically. look for for some of this.

  • Moderately Expensive option – Swimmovate Poolmate, Finis Swimsense, and garmin swim. These are swimming pool specific. Generally after a minimal set up they count laps and strokes, and calculate and measure your distance, time, speed and SWOLF (your swimming golf score, or swimming efficiency index). Upcoming is a kickstarter project called swimmo. check

  • Really expensive option – suunto ambit; garmin vivo, 920 xt and the fenix series. These are actually multisports watches. So if you do more than just swimming, or plan to do a triathlon, then these are the watches to buy. They can even track an open water swim, as they have GPS that can track distance. If you want to get an in depth review of these watches (I seriously mean in depth), go to, he is a triathlete and a gadget geek, and he reviews a lot of sports gadgets.

Personally, I chose swimmovate poolmater as it was the cheaper option, It was all i needed, it automatically tracked my laps, distance, speed and SWOLF. But I had to manually copy those info onto my endomondo. The other qualm I had about it, is the straps were broken, and I can only send back to the manufacturer to fix, and it cost almost the same price of buying a new one. The more expensive ones had options to sync with mobile or computer. But if money wasn’t a challenge, I would buy the Garmin 920xt, as it has everything an Ironman Triathlete would need. The garmin swim apparently has the same chipset, but only for swimming laps, and no GPS.

Hope you can make your own research and your owned informed decision after reading this post. Good luck and Keep on Swimming.

Are you looking to learn how to swim? Click here for more information.

Bobby The Effortless Swim Team


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