One Swimming Lap Defined

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What is One Lap in Swimming?

One lap in swimming is defined as the distance from one end of the pool to the other end of the pool. This is also known as a length. Despite popular belief, a lap is not down and back.

We hope this article helps swimmers get on the same page. And give some much needed relief from all those counting double while trying to match up with their buddy!

One Lap in Swimming

Here is one lap broken down by the most popular pool courses:

  • Short Course Yards (25 Yard Pool): One Lap = 25 Yards 👍
  • Short Course Meters (25 Meter Pool): One Lap = 25 Meters 👌
  • Long Course Meters (50 Meter Pool): One Lap = 50 Meters 🤯

What is a lap in swimming is a question I am asked frequently having been around pools for my entire life.

I have encountered this question less as a high level swimmer and more when working with casual lap swimmers in my current professional career as an Aquatics Director.

This is often hotly debated on the pool deck. It may be the most controversial concept about swimming laps.

Why Is There Confusion on What Is a Lap?

Counting swimming laps is different compared to other racing sports like running, race car driving, and horse racing.

In those sports, when you complete a lap you complete a circle.

You start and complete a lap in the same spot.

One Lap on The Track

In competitive swimming, you swim straight up and down a lane. That is the fastest way to complete your swim.

You do not need to circle, right? … 🤔

That is unless you are recreationally lap swimming. In that case, you swim in a circle to allow for multiple people to share a lane.

Typically swimmers are sharing lanes and swimming in a circle. Some swimmers circle swim so much that they even do it when they are not sharing out of habit.

This may be the cause of confusion on the What Is One Lap Debate.

Further Evidence in Lap Counters

When swimmers race 500 yards/meters or more, they are allowed to have teammate use a lap counter. These are used so swimmers can have assistance when counting laps.

Lap counters are marked as described in this article: with each lap as a length.

Every swim meet from age group children to Olympic use these lap counters and define laps this way.

Tricks to Count your Laps

Keeping track of your laps when swimming can be a helpful way to measure your progress and stay motivated.

Some people prefer to count their laps mentally, but if you find this difficult, you can use a few different techniques.

  • Pace Clock: Use the pace clock to do the counting for you. For example, swim 20 x 50s (2 laps) on one minute. After twenty minutes you would have completed 40 laps.
  • Smart Watch: Apple Watch and Garmin are the two most popular. Let the watch do the work for you.
  • Coins: Put 5 coins in a pile. Each time you complete two laps, move a coin to a second pile. After you move all 5 coins, then you know you completed 10 laps. Adjust amount of coins as needed.
  • Smart Goggles: Finis Smart Goggles use cutting edge technology to display your lap total in the corner of your lens.

Whether you create your own swim workout or are following along an already written workout, setting and achieving lap goals can be a great way to stay motivated and see results.

You are well on your way now that you know how to count “a lap”.

Conclusion on How to Define One Swimming Lap

Now that you know how to count your laps, it is time to hit the pool and start swimming!

At the end of the day, we are okay if you still disagree. As long as you are swimming, you are alright by our team.

*Equip yourself for success with our Athlete Approved Guide to Lap Swimming Equipment!*

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