The Length of a Lap Pool

Residential pools come in all shapes and sizes, but lap pools and competition pools usually conform to certain standard dimensions. Pools that have the correct dimensions can host national or international competitions. When you know how long a pool is, you can keep track of the distance you swim as well as how fast you swim.

Lap pool (Image: Martin Barraud/OJO Images/Getty Images)

Long Course Meters

Long course competition pools are the gold standard for swimming facilities. They measure 50 by 25 m. Pools must have 10 equally divided swimming lanes, each 2.5 m wide. This setup is designed for competition, and the pool's lane setup is different for lap swim use. The outer two lanes are buffers only and not used for swimming. Officials refer to these two lanes as lane zero and lane nine. Typically, the fastest qualifying swimmers occupy the center lanes and the slower qualifiers occupy the outer lanes. Minimum acceptable depth is 2 m, 3 m being preferable. Championship pools must have flush vertical walls.

Short Course Meters

Short course competition provides an alternative form of racing for swimmers that feature multiple flip or open turns and push-offs against the wall. Short course competitions and long course competitions have their own seasons. A short-course meters pool measures 25 m in length. The pool's width should measure at least 60 feet or 18.29 m wide. Colleges and public lap pools might build their pools to the short course specification if they do not have the room or the budget for a long course pool. The depth of the pool should measure at least 7 feet in depth.

Short Course Yards

Usually used for high school and some college competitions, short-course yard pools rarely exist in Europe, where the metric system dominates. Short-course yard pools are 75 feet or 25 yards in length and at least 60 feet in width. As in the other two types of lap and competition pools, preferred minimum depth is 7 feet.

Lap Swimming

You might be lucky enough to have both a long course and a short-course pool from which to chose. Because long-course pools are expensive to heat and maintain, they are relatively rare. Even when you find a public long-course pool open for lap swimming, pool managers often switch between longitudinally and horizontally aligned lane lines. When lane lines run across the shorter width of the pool rather than the longer length, you essentially swim short course in a long-course pool. Converting the exact number of meters you swim to yards and back can be confusing, so watching the clock is a good alternative method when you swim in a yards pool.

Other Sizes

It's possible you'll find a lap pool that doesn't meet the above sizes. Many facilities have smaller lap pools, including distances of 20 m. This setup is common in some athletic centers and small gyms. Even if the distance isn't as great as other facilities, shorter lap pools can still provide a quality workout.

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