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Swimming is a sport where the length of the pool can significantly impact race strategy and performance. The differences between short course (25 yards or meters) and long course (50 meters) swimming go beyond just the physical length of a pool.

Let’s dive into the nuances of racing in these different pool sizes and how you can optimize your performance in each.

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Short Course vs. Long Course Pools

When swimming in a 25-yard pool, your race will naturally be faster than in an Olympic-sized 50-meter pool. The primary reason is the frequency of turns. Every time you push off the wall, you gain a burst of speed, cutting through the water more efficiently than when swimming on the surface.

Momentum and Speed

In swimming, the fastest moments are right after you push off the block or the wall due to the momentum you gain. This is crucial because water is 800 times denser than air, making it harder to maintain high speeds over long distances. For simplicity, let’s consider the following speeds:

  • Underwater phase: 3 meters per second
  • Overwater phase: 1 meter per second

These numbers might be exaggerated but serve to illustrate the point effectively.

Short Course vs Long Course: Breaking Down the Time

Long Course (50 meters)

  • First 15 meters underwater: 3 meters/second → 5 seconds
  • Remaining 35 meters over water: 1 meter/second → 35 seconds
  • Total time: 40 seconds

Short Course (25 meters)

  • First 15 meters underwater: 3 meters/second → 5 seconds
  • Last 10 meters over water: 1 meter/second → 10 seconds
  • One length time: 15 seconds
  • Total time for 50 meters (2 lengths): 30 seconds

Short Course (25 yards)

  • First 15 meters underwater: 3 meters/second → 5 seconds
  • Remaining distance (7.7 meters) over water: 1 meter/second → 7.7 seconds
  • One length time: 12.7 seconds
  • Total time for 50 meters: 25.4 seconds

Related: Swim Race Strategy, How To Swim FAST >

Key Differences and Strategies

Turns and Walls

In short course swimming, the frequency of turns significantly influences overall time. Each turn provides an opportunity to push off the wall, gaining a burst of speed. This is why swimmers tend to have faster times in short course pools.

Strokes Per Length

In events like breaststroke and butterfly, the number of strokes per length can vary dramatically between short course and long course. For example, in a 50-meter long course race, a swimmer might take 25 strokes, while in a 25-yard pool, the same swimmer might take only 14 strokes due to the additional turns.

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Race Strategy

  • Long Course: Focus on maintaining a steady pace and conserving energy. The absence of frequent turns means you need to rely more on your endurance and stroke efficiency.
  • Short Course: Capitalize on turns and underwater phases. Perfecting your push-offs and pull-outs can significantly reduce your overall time.


Breathing patterns also change with the pool length. In a 50-meter race, you might need to breathe more frequently compared to a 25-yard race because the effort to maintain speed without a turn is greater.

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By incorporating Gainful into your training regimen, you can ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs to perform at its best, whether you’re racing in a 25-yard pool, a 25-meter pool, or a 50-meter pool.

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Real-World Examples

Analyzing performances across different pool sizes can highlight these differences. For instance, top swimmers consistently set faster times in 25-meter pools compared to 50-meter pools due to the increased number of turns and underwater phases.

Practical Tips for Training

  1. Work on Your Turns: Practice explosive push-offs and streamline positions to maximize speed off the walls.
  2. Optimize Underwater Phases: Focus on your dolphin kicks and pull-outs. The more distance you cover underwater, the less you need to swim on the surface.
  3. Adjust Breathing Patterns: Tailor your breathing to the length of the pool. In long course, find a balance between oxygen intake and maintaining speed.
  4. Pace Yourself: Especially in long course races, avoid going out too fast. Build your speed gradually to avoid burnout.

Understanding the differences between short course and long course swimming can help you tailor your training and race strategy for optimal performance. Whether you’re racing in a 25-yard, 25-meter, or 50-meter pool, focusing on the unique aspects of each can give you a competitive edge.

So, hit the pool, practice those turns, and refine your technique to swim your fastest, no matter the distance.

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