What is Long Course?

Long Course Season is HERE! If this is your first Long Course Season, you might be wondering why we switch from yards to meters. There are a lot of benefits! First, I will provide a quick outline of long course swimming and the difference between short course and long course. I will then provide some benefits of doing long course and how it contributes to the future of your child’s athletic career.

The first thing with Long Course Meets is that they fill up REALLY FAST. Some meets have filled up and closed within a couple of hours! As such, we’ll do our best to stay on top of ome.swimconnection.com to see when meets open up and announce it to the team ASAP. If you get the meet notices before we do, please forward it on to board@egacgators.com and one of us will text or email the team immediately.

File Photo Credit: John Yeong/SSC

What is a Long Course?

There are 2 types of long course pools, 50 Meter pools and 25 meter pools. The different the 25 meter pool has a turn while the 50 meter pool is one straight length without a turn. Now

Picture a swimmer who is swimming 50-metres in a long course pool. He dives into the water and powers himself through to the end of the wall. Now this same swimmer who swims the same length of “50 metres” in a 25m short course pool can make a tumble-turn and “push-off the wall” at the end of 25 metres.

Short Course vs Long Course

The term “25-meter” and “50-meter” refers to the length of the swimming pool. The width depends on the number of lanes. Olympic-sized swimming pools have 10 lanes, each with a width of 2.5 metres making them a total width of 25 metres.

25-meter pools are typically called short courses and 50-meter pools are called long course.

FINA or Fédération Internationale de Natation is the International Federation recognized by the International Olympic Committee for administering international competition in aquatics. The Olympic games, FINA World Aquatics Championships and SEA Games are held in 50-metre pools. However during even years, the FINA World Swimming Championships or “Short Course Worlds” are held in 25-metre pools. In the United States, the term “short course” is more commonly applied to 25 yards (22.86 m) competition. Short course yards is generally abbreviated as “SCY” to differentiate it from short course meters (SCM). The US national federations, USA Swimming[1] and United States Masters Swimming,[2] both maintain SCY USA records, FINA does not currently recognize records set in SCY, but does recognize/keep SCM records. USA college (including NCAA competition) and high school swimming are traditionally swum in SCY. Since we live in the US with short hand to any event in Meters as Long Course (LCM) while any events in Yards as Short Course Yards(SCY).

Why are some swimmers better at short or long course?

Here are some differences between the short and long course:

    • Short courses have an extra turn
    • There is an increased speed after each turn
    • There is a period of inactivity after each turn
    • The period of inactivity lowers the heart rate of the swimmer

Both the 25-metre and 50-metre pools are used for training by professional swimmers all over the world but the same swimmer will always be able to get a faster time in a short course rather than a long course. The main reason for this is because the short course has an extra turn for the same distance in the long course.

An illustrated example
Picture a swimmer who is swimming 50-metres in a long course pool. He dives into the water and powers himself through to the end of the wall. Now this same swimmer who swims the same distance in a 25m short course pool can make a tumble turn and “push-off the wall” at the end of 25 metres. After which he swims another 25 metres to complete the distance.

In this example, it effectively means he swims the same length but has the added bonus of pushing off the wall halfway though the short course pool. This is why the same swimmer will always be able to get a faster time in a short course rather than long course pool.

This extra turn is highly beneficial to swimmers who have good execution of technique. Their technique alone can be the difference between a gold or silver medal.

How the pools affect different types of swimmers
Besides the turn itself, competitive swimmers often have a strong streamlined underwater kick after pushing off the wall to maximise the ratio of effort to distance. A swimmer who has more strength in strokes will lose out to a swimmer with better turns and streamlined underwater kicks if racing in a short course pool.

Another key difference caused by the extra turn is the swimmer having to turn and glide longer in a short course as compared to a long course. The time used in turning and gliding requires less effort compared to stroking. This creates an opportunity for the upper body muscles to enter a short recovery state. This short recovery state increases lactate clearance and decreases lactate production from the muscles, thus helping the swimmer swim faster.

Long Course Meters vs Short Course Yards**

These two words have huge implications for even the most seasoned swimmer. The beginning of long course represents the transition from shorter pools broken up into 25­ yards, to the much longer and sometimes more daunting 50­-meter length.

The first swims in this pool are sometimes akin to swimming in an ocean. Swimmers thrash through the water, wondering when they will ever reach the wall. For the lucky few who are privy to indoor 50-­meter pools, the transition to the long course season can be easier. But for many, six to eight weeks is the longest duration they have to consistently train in a 50­-meter pool.

While the transition can often be painful in the first few weeks, as swimmers’ bodies adjust to the longer pool and lack of walls, the long course season can offer huge opportunities for any swimmer.

If your motivation is wavering, check out this list to find some inspiration to hit the 50­-meter pool.

1. Making it Short and Sweet

Apr 16, 2015; Mesa, AZ, USA; Michael Phelps reacts after winning his heat in the Men's 100 meter butterfly prelims during the 2015 Arena Pro Swim Series at the Skyline Aquatic Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic via USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Republic-USA TODAY Sports

After the long, often dark, short course season that takes up the winter months, the long course season offers a shorter, faster training period. The long course season is typically much shorter than short course, often times due to many 50-­meter pools being seasonal rather than year­-round indoor facilities. This shorter season can create a more fun, fast atmosphere than is sometimes seen in the long winter months. Hopefully, this change of pace will leave swimmers feeling excited and refreshed as they finish up the summer months and transition back to the short­ course season.

2. Soaking up the Sun

Photo Courtesy: Calvina Ng

Along with being a shorter season, long course is set in the spring and summer months, which typically means more sun. No more short winter days when you rise before the sun for the first practice of the day, and watch it set on your way to the second session. Summer days are long and create the feeling of extra hours that just aren’t available in the winter. If you’re lucky, you might be swimming outside in an area that doesn’t allow that freedom in the winter. Along with an increase in vitamin D, schedules are often more relaxed during summer months. This leaves time to do other things between practice sessions, or at least time to squeeze in a nap before heading back to the pool.

3. Shaking it Up

Lt. Shannon Scaff, an instructor at the Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in Charleston, S.C., takes the first lap of a long distance swim he dedicated to a fallen Coast Guard aircrew, Feb. 27, 2015. Scaff undertook the challenge of swimming in a local Charleston pool for 24 hours to bring awareness and support to the families of fallen military members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann)
Photo Courtesy: Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann

Change is good. Every swimmer has reached a point in their careers where they get a little stuck, and switching up the training routine is a great way to get out of a rut. Long course training is inherently different. It offers swimmers a chance to approach practices and races with a different mindset, which can help erase feelings of burnout and foster re-commitment to the training process.

4. Creating Endurance

Photo Courtesy: Pia Ellegaard Mortensen
Photo Courtesy: Pia Ellegaard Mortensen

There is no denying that the long course season calls for a different set of training than the short­ course season. While short course often centers itself around turns, long­ course is known more for the consistent building of speed through each lap. Swimmers must learn to hold their stroke for more than twice the length of a 25­-yard pool before hitting a wall. This type of training and racing builds a different type of endurance that is beneficial even if you aren’t planning on any major long course meets. If you spend a good amount of time training meters, the transition back to a 25-­yard pool will leave you feeling like the pool is suddenly significantly shorter than you remembered.

5. Building Toughness

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

While every swimmer develops their mental and physical toughness no matter the length of the pool they are training in, there is something special about racing certain events in a long course pool. The 400 ­IM and 200 ­fly take on totally different meanings when the amount of walls per race is cut in half. Getting through a 400­ IM in the early period of the long course season can spur a confidence boost that transcends seasons.

6. Working The Details

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia
Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Long course means fewer walls, which can actually be a good thing. If you’re a swimmer who struggles with their walls, having less to work with can actually help you get better. When you only have so many chances to hit your turn, the importance of walls takes on a totally different meaning. Committing to your turns and other details in long course will help your season, and hopefully translate into your short course training as well.

7. The Olympic Dream

Jul 29, 2012; London, United Kingdom; Paul Biedermann (GER) reacts after winning his heat in the men's 200m freestyle semifinal during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY

The long course season offers a unique chance to come together. Swimming and training in 50­ meters gives everyone a little taste of the Olympic spirit. The Olympics offer a rare chance for swimming to take the spotlight, whether it is in the form of an Olympian singing their national anthem with the whole world watching, or a tiny age ­grouper pointing to the television and saying “I can swim that too!”

This are just a few reasons on why Long course season is such a valuable experience, SO GET READY! To help you get ready, I have provide a (Tentative) meet schedule. Though most meets won’t change I might add one or 2 more later in the summer for great experience. The shortness of the season does add a little bit of rush for people to sign up for meets so please stay attentive to team email. The best way to know if a meet has open is to make it a habit in the mornings to check your childs ome.swimconnection.com account.

Meets that have opened will show up at the bottom of the first login window. Short course meets are few and far in between so be attentive.

Long Course Meets fill up fast so the sooner you register the more Gators we can get into the meet.