In contrast to politics, religion, and proper front-crawl technique, some worries are black and white. Some “debates” room not actually debates, but rather, situations in i m sorry a solitary correct answer exists, yet some persons haven’t discovered Jesus yet.

You are watching: How many yards in a lap pool

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

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

In usual usage, a “lap” way a completion of the course. In a pool, the “course” is the swimming pool itself, from one end 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 an 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 we agree: the id that a lap is two lengths that the pool might derive indigenous a false analogy come looped tracks such as those in running, steed racing, and also car racing.

Terry writes:

In running, you complete a lap by circling a track — which brings you ago to whereby you started. That seems to have influenced many civilization who are brand-new to swim to think you require to return to whereby you started in stimulate to finish 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 to write (note, this was published two job after the current article):

I thrived up in southerly California whereby competitive swimmers describe one lap together one size of a pool. It is most regularly seen throughout competitive swim competitions in the distance freestyle race where swimmers space reminded that the variety of lengths that the swimming pool they have swum with lap counters. Competitive swimmers and coaches counting 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. That is just how I to be taught back in the 1960s and also 1970s. 

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

Lap = size in my opinion.I think the curve that a revolve on the race tracks is a far-ranging difference. In a swimming pool there is no difference in what happens between odd lengths and 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 one entertaining investigation of the issue.

A father of one 11-year old compete swimmer phone call in, hope to solve a disagreement v his son around how many lengths are in a lap. The father thinks a lap is two lengths. Listen:

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

Then the hosts interview the kid (Henry), who has actually been taught correctly by his coaches the 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 settle the issue. Listen:

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Natalie is fairly clear:

A lap refers to swimming from one finish of the pool to the next. Without a doubt, that one end of the pool to the other. The not ago and forth.

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

Now, in ~ your local lap pool among casual swimmers or triathletes, you may hear various ideas, creating the appearance of a “debate.” the is no a debate. Sorry!

Sadly, also the Oxford English thesaurus confuses the issue:

A stage in a swimming consisting of two lengths (or one length) that a pool.

The OED entry may be citing usual usage, however 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 maker used in pool-based distance events such as the mile. That is called a lap counter. Why? because it counts laps (which space the same as lengths).

Why is the lap counter only qualified of displaying weird numbers? because the lap counter is always shown come the swimmer in ~ the opposite end from the beginning block - when the swimmer is finishing odd laps/lengths the the race.

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

What would you call a 50m sprint 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 into two the same one-way lengths.

To be clear, it’s not simply 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 also the journalists covering her as “60 laps” the the beach - through a solitary lap identified as one finish of the beach to the other (approx. 800 meters).