In contrast to politics, religion, and proper front-crawl technique, some issues are black and white. Part “debates” space not actually debates, yet rather, instances in i m sorry a solitary correct price exists, yet some people haven’t found Jesus yet.

You are watching: How long is a swimming lap

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

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

In common usage, a “lap” means a completion of the course. In a pool, the “course” is the swimming pool itself, indigenous one end to the other. Therefore, a lap is one length.

Some people think a “lap” is two lengths the the pool. They space 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 always see eye-to-eye through the late, an excellent Terry Laughlin, however here we agree: the concept that a lap is two lengths of the pool might derive indigenous a false analogy come looped monitor such together those in running, equine racing, and also car racing.

Terry writes:

In running, you complete a lap through circling a monitor — which brings you ago to whereby you started. That appears to have influenced many people who are new to swim to think you require to return to whereby you started in order to complete a lap.Swimming is different. You swim a straight, not looped course. However in swimming, as well as running, perfect a LAP means completing the COURSE.

Some illustrations:





Steven Munatones write (note, this was published two work after the existing article):

I flourished up in southern California where competitive swimmers refer to one lap together one size of a pool. That is most often seen during competitive swimming competitions in the street freestyle race wherein swimmers are reminded that the variety of lengths that the swimming pool they have swum with lap counters. Competitive swimmers and coaches count 20 laps because that a 500-yard swim in a 25-yard pool and also 30 laps for a 1500-meter freestyle in a 50m pool. That is how I to be taught back in the 1960s and 1970s. 

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

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

Again, this is not a actual debate amongst experienced swimmers. But don’t take my word, or Terry’s word, or Steven’s word, or Mark’s word for it. The NPR podcast exactly how To Do everything does an entertaining investigation of the issue.

A father of an 11-year old compete swimmer phone call in, hoping to resolve a disagreement through his son about how plenty of lengths room in a lap. The father thinks a lap is 2 lengths. Listen:

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(If the audio controls don’t work in her browser, go to this link. The segments starts at around 4 min, 37 sec into the podcast.)

Then the master interview the child (Henry), who has actually been taught properly by his coaches the a lap is the very 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 quite clear:

A lap describes swimming from one end of the swimming pool to the next. There is no a doubt, it’s one end of the pool to the other. That not back and forth.

If girlfriend polled Natalie’s partner on the U.S. National Team (or any other national team), 100% that them would say the same thing. Incidentally, Natalie additionally makes the important point that knowledgeable swimmers don’t talk in terms of “laps” or “lengths” - they refer to distances. 4 laps/lengths that a long-course swimming pool is simply: “a 200.”

Now, at your neighborhood lap pool among casual swimmers or triathletes, you may hear different ideas, producing the appearance of a “debate.” that is no a debate. Sorry!

Sadly, also the Oxford English thesaurus confuses the issue:

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

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


Here is a machine used in pool-based distance events such as the mile. That is dubbed a lap counter. Why? because it counts laps (which room the very same as lengths).

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

Why walk the lap counter go up to 69? because there space 66 laps/lengths (of 25 yards) in the 1650-yard freestyle. Not 33.

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

In general, us can define a “lap” together the completion of a basic, indivisible course. In a pool, just the one-way length is indivisible; two lengths can be subdivided right into two similar one-way lengths.

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

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Australian Chloe McCardel’s record Bondi coast swim in 2011 was described by both Chloe and also the journalists spanning her as “60 laps” that the coast - v a solitary lap defined as one end of the coast to the other (approx. 800 meters).