In contrast to politics, religion, and proper front-crawl technique, some issues are black and also white. Some “debates” space not actually debates, but rather, situations in i beg your pardon a solitary correct prize exists, but some people haven’t discovered Jesus yet.

You are watching: How many meters is one lap

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

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

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

Some world 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 an American short-course 25-yard pool, a lap is 25 yards.

I didn’t constantly see eye-to-eye v the late, great Terry Laughlin, yet here us agree: the id that a lap is two lengths the the pool might derive from a false analogy to looped monitor such together those in running, equine racing, and also car racing.

Terry writes:

In running, you finish a lap through circling a track — which brings you earlier to whereby you started. That seems to have influenced many human being who are new to swimming to think you require to return to wherein you started in bespeak to finish a lap.Swimming is different. Friend swim a straight, no looped course. Yet in swimming, as well as running, completing a LAP way completing the COURSE.

Some illustrations:





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

I flourished up in southern California wherein competitive swimmers describe one lap as one length of a pool. The is most regularly seen during competitive swim competitions in the street freestyle race whereby swimmers are reminded of the variety of lengths the the pool they have swum with lap counters. Competitive swimmers and also coaches counting 20 laps for a 500-yard swim in a 25-yard pool and also 30 laps for a 1500-meter freestyle in a 50m pool. The is how I to be taught back in the 1960s and 1970s. 

2008 Olympian, FINA 25km human being Champion, and also current Santa Barbara Swim club head coach note Warkentin to write (via an individual communication):

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

Again, this is no a actual debate among experienced swimmers. Yet don’t take it my word, or Terry’s word, or Steven’s word, or Mark’s word for it. The NPR podcast exactly how To Do whatever does an entertaining investigation of the issue.

A father of one 11-year old vain swimmer calls in, hope to solve a disagreement v his son around how countless 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-related in her browser, go to this link. The segments starts at about 4 min, 37 sec right into the podcast.)

Then the hosts interview the kid (Henry), who has been taught properly by his coaches that a lap is the 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 quite clear:

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

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

Now, at your local lap pool among casual swimmers or triathletes, you may hear various ideas, creating the figure of a “debate.” it is not a debate. Sorry!

Sadly, even the Oxford English thesaurus confuses the issue:

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

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


Here is a machine used in pool-based distance occasions such as the mile. The is called a lap counter. Why? since it counts laps (which space the exact same as lengths).

Why is the lap counter only capable of displaying strange numbers? since the lap counter is always shown come the swimmer at the opposite end from the starting block - once the swimmer is finishing odd laps/lengths that the race.

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

What would you speak to 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 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 it is in clear, that not simply Californians, or Americans, or even 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 spanning her as “60 laps” that the beach - v a solitary lap defined as one finish of the beach to the various other (approx. 800 meters).