In comparison to politics, religion, and proper front-crawl technique, some concerns are black and white. Some “debates” room not actually debates, but rather, situations in i m sorry a single correct answer exists, but some folks haven’t uncovered Jesus yet.

You are watching: How many meters in a lap

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

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

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

Some world think a “lap” is two lengths of the pool. They are wrong. In an 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, however here us agree: the id that a lap is two lengths that the pool may derive from a false analogy to looped tracks such together those in running, equine racing, and also car racing.

Terry writes:

In running, you finish a lap by circling a track — which brings you earlier to wherein you started. That seems to have actually influenced many world who are new to swim to think you require to return to wherein you started in order to complete a lap.Swimming is different. Friend swim a straight, not looped course. But in swimming, and running, completing a LAP method completing the COURSE.

Some illustrations:





Steven Munatones to write (note, this was released two days after the existing article):

I flourished up in southerly California where competitive swimmers refer to one lap as one length of a pool. The is most often seen during competitive swim competitions in the distance freestyle race where swimmers space reminded that the number of lengths the the pool they have swum with lap counters. Competitive swimmers and coaches counting 20 laps because that a 500-yard swimming in a 25-yard pool and 30 laps because that a 1500-meter freestyle in a 50m pool. That is exactly how I to be taught ago in the 1960s and also 1970s. 

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

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

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

A dad of one 11-year old vain swimmer call in, hoping to settle a disagreement v his son around how many lengths room in a lap. The father thinks a lap is two lengths. Listen:

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

Then the master interview the kid (Henry), who has been taught effectively by his coaches that a lap is the exact same as a length. Listen:

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Finally, the hosts speak to 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin to settle the issue. Listen:

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Natalie is quite clear:

A lap describes swimming native one finish of the swimming pool to the next. Without a doubt, the one finish of the swimming pool to the other. That not earlier and forth.

If girlfriend polled Natalie’s peers on the U.S. Nationwide Team (or any type of other nationwide team), 100% that them would say the exact same thing. Incidentally, Natalie also makes the important allude that competent swimmers don’t talk in terms of “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 different ideas, developing the appearance of a “debate.” that is not a debate. Sorry!

Sadly, also the Oxford English thesaurus confuses the issue:

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

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


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

Why is the lap respond to only capable of displaying odd numbers? because the lap respond to is constantly shown to the swimmer at the opposite end from the beginning block - once the swimmer is finishing odd laps/lengths of the race.

Why go the lap respond to go approximately 69? due to the fact that there space 66 laps/lengths (of 25 yards) in the 1650-yard freestyle. Not 33.

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

In general, we can define a “lap” as the completion of a basic, indivisible course. In a pool, just the one-way length is indivisible; 2 lengths deserve to be subdivided right into two similar one-way lengths.

To it is in clear, that not simply Californians, or Americans, or even pool swimmers who specify laps this way.

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