In comparison to politics, religion, and proper front-crawl technique, some issues are black and white. Some “debates” are not actually debates, but rather, instances in which a single correct prize exists, but some folks haven’t found Jesus yet.

You are watching: How long is a swimming pool in yards

The occasional man over Lap vs. Length is among those cases.

In a swimming pool, “lap” is synonymous with “length.”

In usual usage, a “lap” method a completion of the course. In a pool, the “course” is the swimming pool itself, indigenous one finish to the other. Therefore, a lap is one length.

Some world think a “lap” is two lengths the the pool. They are wrong. In an Olympic-size 50-meter pool, one lap is 50 meters. In one American short-course 25-yard pool, a lap is 25 yards.

I didn’t constantly see eye-to-eye through the late, great Terry Laughlin, however here we agree: the concept that a lap is two lengths that the pool might derive indigenous a false analogy to looped monitor such as those in running, horse racing, and also car racing.

Terry writes:

In running, you complete a lap through circling a track — which bring you back to whereby you started. That seems to have influenced many human being who are brand-new to swimming to think you need to return to whereby you started in bespeak to complete a lap.Swimming is different. Girlfriend swim a straight, not looped course. However in swimming, as well as running, completing a LAP method completing the COURSE.

Some illustrations:





Steven Munatones writes (note, this was published two days after the current article):

I flourished up in southerly California wherein competitive swimmers refer to one lap as one length of a pool. It is most often seen throughout competitive swim competitions in the street freestyle race whereby swimmers space reminded that the variety of lengths of the swimming pool they have swum with lap counters. Competitive swimmers and coaches counting 20 laps for a 500-yard swim in a 25-yard pool and 30 laps because that a 1500-meter freestyle in a 50m pool. That is exactly how I to be taught back in the 1960s and 1970s. 

2008 Olympian, FINA 25km civilization Champion, and also current Santa Barbara Swim society head coach note Warkentin write (via personal communication):

Lap = length in mine opinion.I think the curve the a revolve on the race tracks is a far-reaching difference. In a pool there is no distinction in what happens in between odd lengths and even lengths.

Again, this is no a actual debate amongst experienced swimmers. But don’t take my word, or Terry’s word, or Steven’s word, or Mark’s word because that it. The NPR podcast exactly how To Do whatever does one entertaining examination of the issue.

A father of an 11-year old competitive swimmer call in, hoping to fix a disagreement v his son about how plenty of lengths are in a lap. The father think a lap is 2 lengths. Listen:

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(If the audio controls don’t job-related in her browser, walk to this link. The segments starts at about 4 min, 37 sec right into the podcast.)

Then the hosts interview the boy (Henry), who has been taught properly by his coaches that a lap is the exact same as a length. Listen:

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Finally, the hosts talk to 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin to solve the issue. Listen:

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Natalie is fairly clear:

A lap describes swimming native one end of the pool to the next. There is no a doubt, it’s one finish of the pool to the other. It’s not ago and forth.

If girlfriend polled Natalie’s partner on the U.S. National Team (or any kind of other national team), 100% the them would certainly say the same thing. Incidentally, Natalie also makes the important allude that knowledgeable swimmers don’t speak in regards to “laps” or “lengths” - they describe distances. Four laps/lengths the a long-course pool is simply: “a 200.”

Now, at your regional lap pool amongst casual swimmers or triathletes, you may hear different ideas, producing the figure of a “debate.” that is not a debate. Sorry!

Sadly, also the Oxford English dictionary confuses the issue:

A phase in a swim consisting of 2 lengths (or one length) that a pool.

The OED entry may be citing usual usage, yet unfortunately, one of these usages is incorrect. If a lap is “two lengths or one length” the a pool, then the word is meaningless.


Here is a an equipment used in pool-based distance events such as the mile. It is called a lap counter. Why? because it counts laps (which are the same as lengths).

Why is the lap respond to only qualified of displaying weird numbers? due to the fact that the lap respond to is always shown come the swimmer in ~ the opposite end from the beginning block - as soon as the swimmer is finishing odd laps/lengths that the race.

Why walk the lap counter go up to 69? because there room 66 laps/lengths (of 25 yards) in the 1650-yard freestyle. No 33.

What would certainly you call a 50m acceleration in an Olympic pool? This is one lap. Nobody ever calls this “half a lap.”

In general, us can specify a “lap” as the completion that a basic, indivisible course. In a pool, only the one-way length is indivisible; two lengths can be subdivided right into two identical one-way lengths.

To it is in clear, it’s not just Californians, or Americans, or even pool swimmers who define laps this way.

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Australian Chloe McCardel’s record Bondi beach swim in 2011 was described by both Chloe and the journalists covering her together “60 laps” of the coast - through a single lap characterized as one end of the beach to the various other (approx. 800 meters).