In contrast to politics, religion, and proper front-crawl technique, some concerns are black and white. Part “debates” are not in reality debates, but rather, instances in which a solitary correct answer exists, but some persons haven’t found Jesus yet.

You are watching: How long is a pool lap

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

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

In typical usage, a “lap” way a perfect of the course. In a pool, the “course” is the pool itself, from one finish to the other. Therefore, a lap is one length.

Some human being think a “lap” is 2 lengths of the pool. They are wrong. In one 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 v the late, good Terry Laughlin, however here we agree: the id that a lap is two lengths the the pool may derive native a false analogy come looped tracks such as those in running, steed racing, and also car racing.

Terry writes:

In running, you finish a lap by circling a track — which bring you ago to where you started. That appears to have influenced many world who are new to swimming to think you need to return to wherein you started in stimulate to finish a lap.Swimming is different. Girlfriend swim a straight, not looped course. However in swimming, and also running, perfect a LAP means completing the COURSE.

Some illustrations:





Steven Munatones to write (note, this was published two job after the current article):

I prospered up in southern California where competitive swimmers describe one lap as one size of a pool. The is most frequently seen during competitive swim competitions in the street freestyle race where swimmers space reminded that the variety of lengths of the pool they have actually swum with lap counters. Competitive swimmers and also coaches counting 20 laps because that a 500-yard swimming in a 25-yard pool and 30 laps for a 1500-meter freestyle in a 50m pool. The is how I to be taught earlier in the 1960s and 1970s. 

2008 Olympian, FINA 25km civilization Champion, and also current Santa Barbara Swim society head coach mark Warkentin writes (via an individual communication):

Lap = size in mine opinion.I think the curve of a revolve on the race tracks is a significant difference. In a pool there is no difference in what happens in between odd lengths and even lengths.

Again, this is no a real debate among experienced swimmers. However don’t take my word, or Terry’s word, or Steven’s word, or Mark’s word because that it. The NPR podcast just how To Do whatever does one entertaining investigation of the issue.

A father of an 11-year old compete swimmer call in, hope to resolve a disagreement with his son about how numerous 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 your browser, go to this link. The segments starts at around 4 min, 37 sec into the podcast.)

Then the hosts interview the child (Henry), who has actually been taught appropriately by his coaches the a lap is the same as a length. Listen:

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

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Natalie is rather clear:

A lap describes swimming native one end of the swimming pool to the next. There is no a doubt, the one finish of the swimming pool to the other. The not back and forth.

If you polled Natalie’s peers on the U.S. National Team (or any kind of other nationwide team), 100% the them would certainly say the very same thing. Incidentally, Natalie also makes the important allude that experienced swimmers don’t speak in terms of “laps” or “lengths” - they refer to distances. 4 laps/lengths of a long-course swimming pool is simply: “a 200.”

Now, at your regional lap pool amongst casual swimmers or triathletes, you may hear different ideas, developing the illustration of a “debate.” that is no a debate. Sorry!

Sadly, even the Oxford English thesaurus confuses the issue:

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

The OED entry might be citing typical usage, but unfortunately, one of these usages is incorrect. If a lap is “two lengths or one length” that a pool, then words is meaningless.


Here is a device used in pool-based distance occasions such as the mile. That is called a lap counter. Why? due to the fact that it counts laps (which are the same as lengths).

Why is the lap counter only capable of displaying weird numbers? since the lap respond to is constantly shown come the swimmer at the opposite finish from the beginning block - when the swimmer is finishing odd laps/lengths of the race.

Why go the lap counter go as much as 69? because there room 66 laps/lengths (of 25 yards) in the 1650-yard freestyle. Not 33.

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

In general, we can define a “lap” as the completion of a basic, indivisible course. In a pool, just the one-way size is indivisible; two lengths have the right to be subdivided right into two the same one-way lengths.

To it is in clear, the not just Californians, or Americans, or also pool swimmers who define laps this way.

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