How Many Laps In A Pool Is A Mile?
Whether you’re running, walking, biking, or even rollerskating, sorting out how long you need to go to reach the one-mile mark is a straightforward task: Just head 5,280 feet and you’ve done it. But for swimmers trying to sort out how many laps in a pool makes a mile, finding the answer is decidedly more complicated.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “MILE?”
Outside the water, the distance denoted by the term “mile” doesn’t change. Everywhere you go on dry land, a mile is a mile: 5,280 feet, 1,760 yards, or 1,609 meters. In the pool, though—especially if you’re racing—things aren’t quite as cut and dry as they are on dry land.
Racers who complete the “mile” race in the pool are actually only swimming 1,500 meters, or 1,650 yards. This length, also known as the “metric mile,” has long been a standard of competitive swimming, first being included in the Olympics in 1908. However, in the United States, one of the few countries that still uses the imperial measurement system, a mile still refers to the longer distance of 1,609 meters. This means that, if you’re in the US and taking part in an event like a triathlon, this is the mile-length you’ll need to train for.
HOW MANY LAPS MAKES A MILE?
Note: We define a lap as swimming one length of the pool, which is standard for competitive swimming. If you define a lap as swimming out and back, or two lengths of the pool, divide the lap counts below by 2.
Once you know which iteration of the mile it is that you’re looking to swim, you’ll need to consider the length of the pool you’re swimming in. Here, again, it can get a little bit tricky. Many pools in the US, whether they’re at a high school, college, or the local gym, are 25 yards long. But if your go-to pool is an Olympic-size pool, it is 50 meters long, and if it’s what’s known as a “short-course” pool, each length that you swim will net you 25 meters. So, how many laps in those pools are in the two types of miles noted above? Let’s start with the metric mile (1,500 meters) that’s used for most indoor competitive swims:
- If you’re swimming in an Olympic pool (50 meters long), a metric mile is equal to 30 laps.
- If you’re swimming in a short-course pool (25 meters long) a metric mile is equal to 60 laps.
- If you’re swimming in a 25-yard pool, a metric mile is 66 laps.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to swim a “true” mile (5,280 feet or 1609 meters), the number of laps it takes are as follows:
- If you’re swimming in an Olympic pool (50 meters long), a true mile is equal to 32.2 laps.
- If you’re swimming in a short-course pool (25 meters long) a metric mile is equal to 64.4 laps.
- If you’re swimming in a 25-yard pool, a metric mile is 70.4 laps.
As you can see, the true mile swim doesn’t divide neatly into exact laps or lengths of the pool. Nevertheless, these numbers should give you all you need to go into the pool informed and ready to hit your goals.