Product Review: Swimming freely with Garmin Vivoactive

If you have read my previous article "Running happily with Garmin Vivoactive (Part 1)" and "Running happily with Garmin Vivoactive (Part II)" with Garmin Vivoactive as perfect GPS watch for runners, then you might want to read this article on its special feature for swimming in swimming pool.

Garmin Vivoactive for swimming

It is truly an eye opening experience for me to swim with Garmin Vivoactive for the very first time and subsequently 2 more times with a total or 4.5 km lap swimming (2 km + 1.5 km + 1 km).

Of course I can't say jaw dropping experience because I wouldn't want swimming pool water to go into my mouth. haha! But literally, it was a jaw dropping experience! lol!
Before this I have never swam with a GPS watch before.  So I'm not sure how a typical full-fledged GPS watch with swimming function should be. But I can tell you this... if you are like me who is interested in knowing your swimming distance, time, strokes, etc and have budget constraint, you will definitely be happy to have a Garmin Vivoactive

Select "Swim" icon

As you activate Garmin Vivoactive, you can see a touch-screen main selection for RUN, BIKE, SWIM, GOLF, WALK on main screen as well as Indoor running and cycling features on second screen.

Just touch on "Swim" and it shall bring you to

Swim Settings

Data screen

It comes with 1 data screen with 2 data fields. (Please note that for running, it comes with 3 data screens) By default, the 2 data fields are Interval Time and Interval Distance.

You can opt to change the 2 data fields to any of the followings:

  • Timer fields, 
  • Distance fields, 
  • Pace fields, 
  • Stroke fields, 
  • Lengths fields, 
  • SWOLF "Swim Golf" fields, 
  • Temperature fields, 
  • Other fields (Calories, Time of Day).

For me I choose the default 2 data fields: Interval Time and Interval Distance. I believe that's all I need when swimming in the swimming pool so that I don't need to mentally count my laps. Peace of mind!

Pool size

Depending on your swimming pool length, for the swimming pool that I swim at, it's 25 meters in length.


You can also set to send you alert via vibration on your wrist either by Time or by Distance. For example, If you are swimming 2 km distance, you can actually send alert after completing 1 km. I don't use this feature as I can easily see the screen on my Garmin Vivoactive watch while swimming. :) So I use my eyes instead of the alerts. haha! I believe the alerts work the same as how the alerts are for running.

Background Color

Originally, it's set to White (black wording). But I find it very hard to read on a white background. Therefore, I have set it permanently to Black background (white wording). It's much easier to read for my eyes with contact lenses.

To start swimming

After touching the "swim' button on the screen, it will bring you to the data screen. For my case, my data screen is have 2 data fields: Inerval Time and Interval Distance in a very readable font size.

The GPS will start to track your location automatically. It takes only a few seconds (may be 15-30 seconds) for GPS to detect your location. By then, you will see a pop up screen on the top right corner saying "Press Start".

Jump into the pool, and when you put on your googles, etc and ready to swim, just press on a small button on the top right of the Garmin Vivoactive watch where "Press Start" arrow is.

And you are ready to swim freely like a dolphin now..... :)

Oh did I mention Garmin Vivoactive is water resistant? :) So go ahead and jump into the pool with the watch!!

Swim freely like a dolphin (No more lap counting!)

Before having Garmin Vivoactive watch with the Swim feature, I would need to count my laps:

1 lap (25 m)
2 laps (50 m)
3 laps (75 m)
so forth....

In order to swim 2 km on swimming pool with the length of 25 m, I needed to count 80 times if I were to count each direction as 1 lap.

Can you imagine? While swimming, I still needed to keep my mind alert in counting the laps!!

But now with Garmin Vivoactive, I don't need to count my laps any more. What a great piece of news! I can now focus on my swim. And as and when I what to know my distance and time, I can just quickly glance at the watch on my wrist while swimming. It's so easy and convenient!

So now, my mind is set free from counting laps and I can truly swim freely like a dolphin now....

After Swim & what's captured on Garmin Vivoactive watch

As how you would do after completing a run, you just need to press the button on the top right corner of the watch to stop it. After which, just touch on the "save" button on the screen to save your swim for the day!

When you choose the "History" data, you will be able to see your history as below:

On the Garmin Vivoactive watch, you can see the followings for each of your swimming sessions:

  • Distance,
  • Time, 
  • Pace, 
  • Calories, 
  • # of Strokes / Length, 
  • Stroke Rate, 

The font size is rather small (the only true setback of Garmin Vivoactive) so it's better for you to view it under proper lighting condition.

Garmin Connect

Of course, the best is to have your Garmin Vivoactive synchronized with your SmartPhone via Bluetooth so that you can view more details in a nicer user interface.

Please ensure you have installed your Garmin Connect mobile apps on your mobile phone and completed the pairing beforehand.



I have nothing to complain about the SWIM feature on Garmin Vivoactive. In fact, I'm very very happy with the swim features which comes at a fraction ( about 1- 1.5 k Malaysian Ringgit cheaper) of the cost if compared to the high-end Garmin Fenix with full swimming functionalities and much more.

Now that I have covered Garmin Vivoactive's running and swimming functionalities, I will write about cycling / bike features next my next product review for Garmin Vivoactive - the watch I'm currently using for all sports activities. :)

Written by Vincent Khor on February 2, 2017


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