Differences Between Long Course & Short Course Times in Swimming

Three swimmers racing in pool, elevated view

Swimmers will compete and train in different pools throughout the year. No two pools are the same, and all of them fall under two categories: short course and long course pools. Every pool serves as a place for athletes to swim, but timed swims will vary based on what type of pool you are swimming in. You can use each pool differently to maximize your fitness and training.

Long Course Pools

Long course pools are also known as Olympic distance pools. These pools are 50 meters in length and can be found indoors and outdoors. In the United States, these pools are difficult to find due to their size and limited functionality. Long course pools require fewer turns to swim an identical distance than in a short course pool. This lack of turns will cause your times to be slower in long course pools. The 50 meter distance can help improve your stroke as you can focus on your technique longer without having to worry about doing a turn.

Short Course Pools

Short course pools are the counterpart to long course pools. These pools are more common and can be either 25 yards or 25 meters. A 25-yard pool will be referred to as short course yards while the 25-meter pool is referred to as short course meters. Internationally, a meter measured pool is the standard, while in the United States you will find that most pools are 25-yard pools. Therefore, when you swim 100 yards in a 25-yard pool, you are swimming a shorter distance than a 100-meter swim and thus your time will be faster.


You can often convert your time from one type of pool to another. There are sophisticated formulas to do this, but the Internet provides a number of free conversion tools. These conversions are never guaranteed, but a few aspects of your times are. Short course swimming will always provide faster times than swimming in a long course pool since there are more turns. Short course yards swimming will always yield your fastest times since it is the shortest distance.


If you are training to swim a race in one type of pool but only have access to the other, you can alter your workouts accordingly. For example, if you are training for a 200-meter long course race, you can swim sets of 250 short course yard swims to adjust for the distance. In short course pools there is an emphasis on turns, and thus you may want to include core body exercises to assist with the added turns.


Both short and long course pools can play a positive role in the development of your swimming skills. If you have access to both pools, a long course pool will provide an opportunity to work on endurance, technique and pace. While short course pools will help you develop your sprinting and turn skills. You can still be a successful swimmer no matter what type of pool you have access to. Always follow pool regulations and slowly implement new training practices to limit injuries.