Calculating Swim Lap Distance

Calculating Swim Lap Distance

Lap swimming is one of the best full-body workouts, offering cardiovascular exercise while strengthening a variety of muscle groups. Swim lap distance is a useful metric to track your progress over time, or to compare to your fellow swimmers in a friendly competition. Therefore, we’ve come up with this handy guide to help you calculate your swim lap distance for all of Elite’s swimming pools in the Milwaukee area.

Swimming Length vs. Lap

Before we get into calculating swim lap distance, we first need to define what a lap is. Traditionally in sports, a lap refers to the completion of a course. In a swimming pool, the “course” is a bit more ambiguous. There seems to be some debate or confusion in the swimming community as to what a lap actually means. It could refer to the length of the pool, or “there and back,” equalling two lengths as you return to your starting point.

The Olympics defines a lap as one length of the pool. It’s worth noting, however, that Olympic pools are 50 meters in length, while most recreational lap pools are 25 yards or 25 meters. So, one could argue that a lap is actually just referring to 50 units of distance.

To further complicate matters, USA Swimming defines a lap as “One length of the course. Sometimes may also mean down and back (2 lengths) of the course.” It seems the debate will go on, and the term lap will remain open for interpretation.

At Elite, we have signs posted to help you calculate the amount of distance you swim. We define a lap as two lengths of the pool. You can also easily calculate how many miles. We list Elite Sports Club pool distances later in this blog.

Elite Sports Club River Glen swimming distances

Why Does it Matter?

So why all this talk on laps vs. lengths? In essence, it only matters for consistency’s sake. To calculate swim lap distance, you take the number of lengths times the distance of the pool. The important factor is that you know the distance of whatever unit of measurement you choose. Hence, just know what YOU are referring to when you count as a lap. If you want to simplify matters, ignore the term “lap” altogether and just multiply how many lengths you swim times the length of the pool.

Another reason why we discuss laps vs. lengths is related to fitness wearables. As technology evolves, there are more and more fitness wearables becoming available that are water-resistant and able to track your swimming distance. More and more swimmers are using wearables to track their swim distances rather than having to remember how many lengths they’ve swam in a workout.

The most commonly used device we’ve seen is the Apple Watch. When you select a swim workout, the first screen asks you to input the length of the pool. It will also allow you to change the unit of distance – yards or meters. Depending on which Elite location you’re at, you need to choose the correct unit of measurement. Here are the distances at our Splash Clubs:

  • Elite Sports Club-Brookfield – 25 yards
  • Elite Sports Club-Mequon – 25 yards
  • Elite Sports Club-River Glen – 25 meters

Once you begin your workout, the Apple Watch counts “laps” as lengths of the pool, no matter what size it is. It will also show you the total distance.

We occasionally hold competitive swimming lap challenges at the clubs. It is here where we need everyone to be on the same page, all recording “laps” in the same manner.

After all that, we’d love to hear what YOU call a lap! What’s your preferred method of calculating swim lap distance? Leave a comment below!


1 Comment

  • daniel abendroth says:

    A lap is a round trip from your starting point, back to your starting point.
    I swim for 40 minutes. Don’t calculate distance.

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