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Form adds open water swimming to its heads-up display goggles

Form's open-water software update allows for some great open-water swim training

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

When I reviewed the Form Goggles earlier this year, I was impressed with the comfortable fit and all the information these innovative “smart” goggles provide while swimming in a pool. Having spent well over 30 years looking at a pace clock for my swims, though, what I felt would be an even better use for these goggles would be if they could be connected to a GPS watch so you could get time and distance information without having to stop and look at your watch.

At the time I predicted that it wouldn’t be long before the engineers at Form would take care of that issue, and I was right – at the end of July the company released an update that allows you to connect the goggles to select Garmin watches and the Apple Watch that provides real-time GPS metrics and heart rate.

We reviewed the Form goggles using both the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Garmin Forerunner 945. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

The software update allows you to connect Garmin’s Forerunner 945, Fenix 6 Pro and Fenix 5 Plus to the Form goggles by installing the Form Connect IQ data field on your Garmin. You then use the Form app on your phone to select the metrics you want to see in the heads up display of the goggles, then use the Open Water swim or Triathlon mode on the watch to start your workout.

The process is similar with the Apple Watch – you install the Form Swim App for Apple Watch, use the app to select the metrics you want, then start an open water swim on the Apple Watch.

I had a few challenges getting everything connected, but once I managed to upload the latest software updates on all the different components I was off and swimming.

The experience of using the Form goggles for open water workouts is, for the most part, a game changer. You see a timer along with a rotating display of heart rate, distance and current pace. The new software isn’t compatible with the excellent Polar OH1+ unit that attaches to the strap on your goggles, so heart rate is tracked through your smart watch, which is a bit more hit and miss in terms of accuracy, so that variable wasn’t as important to me as the distance and pace information.

Even without super-accurate HR data, though, you’ll enjoy a huge boost to the options available for your open water swim workouts. Sure, you can hammer through a distance swim and keep an eye on your pace, but having to stop and look at your watch every now and again isn’t such a big deal for that kind of workout. Being able to utilize the goggles to help with specific swim efforts in open water was incredible. Gone are the days when I need to count out strokes to estimate open-water 50 or 100 m efforts. In a year when pools have, for many of us, remained closed, open water swims have become our only option – the Form goggles allow you to do a set of 50s, 100s or 200s (or name the distance) with ease.

Related: 6 Best sport watches for triathletes

You might have noticed the “for the most part” I included in my description a few paragraphs up. For those using the Form goggles with the Apple Watch, bilateral breathing isn’t supported, which means that the goggles can lose connection every now and again when you breath to the opposite side. That doesn’t mean you’ve lost any data from the effort, but it does mean you won’t get any pace or distance info until the goggles reconnect again.

Use with a Garmin 945 was better for me – I didn’t run into the same issues of losing connection during my swims.

You can, of course, simply use the Form goggles by themselves or with the Polar OH1+ sensor for open water swims. You’ll be able to keep track of time, heart rate and stroke rate, which can also provide some useful information for workouts – instead of distance intervals, for example, you could simply do your sets based on time, once again without having to stop and check your watch, or hope that you hear (or feel) a timer you might have set.

The heads up display can be a bit distracting, but once you’ve got used to it, you’ll likely come to appreciate being able to see time and distance data during your swims without having to stop and look at your wrist. You’ll also find your field of vision is a bit limited by the components on the one side of the goggles – not that the Form goggles are designed for fish viewing. These goggles have serious training written all over them.

Here in Canada we likely only have about a month left of open water swimming, but for those who, like me, can’t access a pool, the Form goggles with the new open-water capabilities provide an excellent opportunity to get some serious training done.