Swim with FORM (Goggles Review)

Swim with FORM (Goggles Review)

My interest in the FORM Swim goggles was from an early stage of their pre-release. I had been following one of their managers, William, since his previous position working on the development of the Recon Jet sunglasses several years ago (a cycling HUD sunglasses, similar in concept to the FORM goggles). It was on LinkedIn I saw his post about the pre-release, and gravitated immediately towards this new product, and the potential value to training I could see as both a coach and athlete.

However, I didn’t acquire a pair until January, 2020 (in part due to the initially intimidating the $200 price tag, but I’ll talk more on this later), and after a short and relatively painless learning curve, have adopted it in to my regular training tools.

The FORM Swim goggles are on their own a powerful tool, however, I find that their most valuable application is in tandem with the Polar OH1+ Heart Rate Monitor. In the past, pairing your HRM to your watch or smartphone has not been able to provide live feedback during the swim portion of training. This is due to the low range of Bluetooth and ANT+ under water (the signal gets distorted too quickly), FORM goggles has provided a solution with their goggles, the Polar OH1+ mounted to a goggle clip provides a short enough range to transmit data directly to the receiver in the goggles! A really amazing tool if you’re an exercise scientist, physiologist, or just a plain old data geek!

Before I get carried away though, let’s talk about the goggles themselves. Personally, I’m not a fan of socket-style goggles in general, and this was another minor deterrent for me. Raccoon eyes aren’t my favorite look, and I generally find the goggle style worn by “true swimmers” to be uncomfortable… I’ve been coddled with my Aquasphere mask-style goggles for racing and training these past years… Despite this, the goggles are fairly comfortable once you select the correct nose-bridge piece.

The seal around the eyes is solid initially, but can become finicky once you add the OH1+, albeit nothing one can’t solve with some proper fitting and adjustment.

The goggle straps are serious business. They have a very intuitive and lock-tight mechanism that prevents them from changing length during or between workouts! Lock them in once you’ve determined your fit, and you won’t have to worry about them again!

The depth of the goggles themselves (on the non-HUD side) can be a little dizzying to start. The goggle itself has a fairly deep profile that leaves some significant space with a semi-reflective surface. The first few laps I was very hesitant approaching the walls, I adapted very quickly to the visual range though and after the first week, no longer hesitate.

The lens quality is very good! It feels like a very durable lens, with a light mirrored finish, and the anti-fog treatment has so far proved itself! I’ve probably only put a few kilometers on these goggles (15-20km so far) but still, no fog issues.

The HUD unit looks bulky, but it’s out of visual range and there’s no noticeable change in balance or otherwise modified positioning. The display itself is very clear, with brightness controls to adjust according to the lighting of your pool and preference. This is a very simple adjustment, and the visual depth of the numerals are at an ‘infinite range’ meaning no matter the depth of pool or your visual depth limitations you should be able to see the display clearly.

Technologically, the system and app are both very intuitive and simple in their design. The 2-button interface n the goggles provides simple ‘start/stop/select’ and ‘option/change’ functions are all you need. Further customization and data analysis is done through the app. The app allows you to choose what data is displayed during your sets (with 2 workout type modes each with separate data displays) which gives you more than adequate data to geek out on during your swim!

The battery has been pretty decent so far too, with me charging it after 3 swims totalling about 4hrs of pool time, and still had sufficient battery life (I’m always extra cautious and have to charge my batteries before they get below 20%…).

Price, this is still the toughest for me, and it wasn’t until I framed it like this: you’re not just paying for the goggles. You’re paying for the R&D and the team behind this new style of training. It wasn’t so long ago Tesla was a seemingly overpriced and undeserving specialty product, however early adopters make new tech happen. Being on the side that supports new tech means there’s more money for R&D and for newer and even more effective tools! If we want new toys and gadgets like this to happen, we need to support the people making them! Apart from that, if you look at what we spend our money on, a $200 pair of goggles that help you train better are probably much more valuable than the bulk of items we purchase. (be sure to read to the end though for a little surprise on pricing)

Specs out of the way, let’s talk about using the goggles!

So far, my experience has been great! Apart from the initial curve with adapting to the goggle visual space (the slight distortion to peripheral ranges) it has been a seamless addition to my tool belt! I have been using the OH1+ since day 1 as well, and pairing this was very simple. The walk-through in the app is very simple and provides an intuitive approach to pairing and choosing your displays. I spent a few minutes determining my display screens as well, and decided on the following (*note* Lap and Length are the 2 categories to save under):

Lap

Swim Screen

  • Top Metric: Timer [locked, cannot be changed]
  • Bottom Metric: Heart Rate & Zone

Turn Screen

  • Split Time

Rest Screen

  • Top Metric: Rest Timer
  • Bottom Metric [2/3 selected]: Stroke Count, Calories]

Intervals

Swim Screen

  • Top Metric: Timer (for current interval) [locked, cannot be changed]
  • Bottom Metric: Heart Rate & Zone

Turn Screen

  • Top Metric: Timer (for current interval) [locked, cannot be changed]
  • Bottom Metric: Split Time

Rest Screen

  • Top Metric: Rest Timer
  • Bottom Metric [3/3 selected]: Interval Pace per 100, Interval Finish Time, Total Distance

The reason for these settings: currently I use the Intervals setting for my regular pool workouts, so I want to see live splits for each length and total duration for the interval, as well as my pace following each interval/work-set. I use the Lap setting for my tether swims, and I intend to use it for Open Water Swimming. I do HR zone training with the tether right now, so a cumulative timer, set to an ‘Unknown’ distance allows me to manually complete durations and not worry about distance. The is the feature I am most excited about, and think has the most significant impact on how we train in the water. I can measure my strokes per set (ie. How many strokes in a 10 minute Z2 effort set, without wall push-offs?), heart rate, and once I’m training outdoors again, if I know the distance I can easily calculate my speed/pace for the training segment! This will allow me to observe efficiency at different stroke rates and the payoff in speed compared to relative exertion. Currently, on the swim tether, I can work on my ‘aerobic training’ in the water without taking the pauses and “free speed” from push-offs, observing HR the whole time and specifically targeting different intensities for duration specifically (my most recent workout as of writing this was 4’ SZ2, 3’ SZ3, 2’SZ4, and 1’ SZ5, followed by 2’ of recovery).

I anticipate this will translate to a more rigorous aerobic training protocol for swim training as the goggles and the technology become adopted widely. In the meantime, I enjoy the ability to look at physiological data that provides valuable glimpses into the efficiency of swim stroke and the relative cost of speed/pace and the interaction between effort/exertion and the payoff of speed, do you actually go faster, or are you just working harder? Is the ‘speed work’ really working on improved speed or is it just blind neurological fatigue? How hard are you really working? These questions have valuable answers I think the FORM goggles can help us to answer with both elite and non-elite athletes!

My verdict? Whether you’re a coach looking for another training tool, athlete looking to get that extra edge, or physiology nerd looking for some extra insights into your body and its functions, FORM goggles have an application in your training. This isn’t to say the value of analog training with a pace clock and list of pace times is out the window, taking the time to feel your swim more than observe it has its value too, but as a tool, the FORM goggles will help you to change your game and hopefully take some net steps in your swim performance!

And now, a little glimpse of the data dump you get…

Now what you’ve all been waiting for… I have been fortunate enough to get a discount code from FORM to distribute to athletes and if you use our Tri Nerd code you’ll receive $30 off the purchase of your goggles from their website! Send us a message to receive your $30 off code!