In contrast to politics, religion, and also proper front-crawl technique, some problems are black and also white. Part “debates” room not in reality debates, yet rather, instances in i m sorry a solitary correct price exists, however some folks haven’t discovered Jesus yet.

You are watching: How far is one lap in a pool

The occasional confusion over Lap vs. Length is one of those cases.

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

In common usage, a “lap” way a completion 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 people think a “lap” is two 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 always see eye-to-eye through the late, good Terry Laughlin, but here us agree: the notion that a lap is two lengths the the pool might derive from a false analogy come looped tracks such together those in running, equine racing, and also car racing.

Terry writes:

In running, you complete a lap through circling a track — which brings you ago to where you started. That appears to have influenced many human being who are brand-new to swimming to think you need to return to whereby you started in stimulate to finish a lap.Swimming is different. You swim a straight, not looped course. Yet in swimming, and running, perfect a LAP method completing the COURSE.

Some illustrations:





Steven Munatones write (note, this was published two days after the present article):

I prospered up in southern California where competitive swimmers refer to one lap as one size of a pool. The is most often seen throughout competitive swimming competitions in the distance freestyle race where swimmers are reminded the the number of lengths of the 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 30 laps for a 1500-meter freestyle in a 50m pool. The is just how I was taught earlier in the 1960s and also 1970s. 

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

Lap = size in my opinion.I think the curve of a rotate on the gyeongju tracks is a far-reaching difference. In a swimming pool there is no distinction in what happens in between odd lengths and also even lengths.

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

A father of an 11-year old vain swimmer call in, hoping to deal with a disagreement with his son about how countless lengths room in a lap. The father thinks a lap is two lengths. Listen:

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

Then the master interview the boy (Henry), who has been taught correctly 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 fix the issue. Listen:

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Natalie is quite clear:

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

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

Now, at your regional lap pool among casual swimmers or triathletes, you might hear various ideas, developing the illustration of a “debate.” the is not a debate. Sorry!

Sadly, even the Oxford English thesaurus confuses the issue:

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

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


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

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

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

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

In general, we can specify a “lap” as the completion the a basic, indivisible course. In a pool, only the one-way size is indivisible; two lengths can be subdivided into two the same one-way lengths.

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

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