How Do Swimmers Keep Track Of Their Laps?

​​How Do Swimmers Keep Track Of Their Laps

Swimming laps is an important aspect of a swimmer’s training to build endurance. Distance swimmers especially have to swim long distances and manage to maintain a certain speed. During a long-distance race or set at practice, swimmers have to keep track of their laps. Even then, it’s easy to swim an extra lap or miscount. Read on to learn how swimmers keep track of their laps.

Counting Laps at Practice

The most common way that swimmers keep track of their laps and total distance swam is by writing out sets that add up to equal the total distance they want to swim. Swimmers can easily break up their workouts into easier-to-count distances such as 50s, 100s, and 200s. This method allows the swimmer to reach their desired meters (or yardage,  depending on the pool) while easily keeping track of how much they’ve swam. However, while this may work for sprinters, it may not always work for distance or middle-distance swimmers. 

Distance swimmers tend to have to build their endurance by swimming long stretches at a time and even while breaking down their total distance. In this case, most swimmers keep track of their laps by counting every time they complete a turn, counting the distance either upwards or downwards based on preference. Additionally, swimmers will repeat the number over and over in their heads to remember where they’re at. While sometimes this can still lead to a swimmer forgetting where they’re at, this is still the most common method for competitive swimmers.

Lastly, in the case of both sprinters and distance swimmers, they can use a smartwatch in order to keep track of their laps. Not only will these watches keep track of your distance swam, but they can also help record a swimmer’s pace and allow a swimmer to input their workout using specific apps. Smartwatches aren’t always completely accurate, especially when using flip turns during practice, but they still are a helpful practice aid.

Counting Laps at Meets

For any race shorter than 500m, the swimmer will usually have to keep track of the number of laps they’ve swam on their own. For races that are 500m and longer, there will typically be a lap counter to help the swimmer keep track of their distance.

The lap counter will be at the turn end of the pool with numbered plastic cards that keep track of what lap the swimmer is on. The cards count by odd lap number. Every time a swimmer approaches the turn wall, the lap counter will hold the cards underwater to show how many laps the swimmer has completed. 

While lap counters are extremely helpful, they’re not completely foolproof. Lap counters can make mistakes too by accidentally turning two cards or forgetting to turn a card. Sometimes, a lap counter is even counting for two lanes at a time, which can be confusing. Despite being vital in helping distance swimmers, the lap counter is not actually responsible for the swimmer swimming the correct distance. It is up to the swimmer to ensure they have completed the required distance and not more or less.