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by Scott Bay

June 2, 2022

Here are some quick tips for going from a short course yards pool to a long course meters one

If you’re one of those lucky swimmers who swims in a 25-yard by 50-meter pool, chances are you’re going to show up one day soon to find it flipped to long course. This typically happens in the spring as both USA Swimming and USMS start the long-course season in the run up to Nationals. If you share a pool with a USA Swimming team, you will be swimming long course. You might need to make some adjustments to ensure the transition from short to long is smooth and that you get the most out of your long-course experience.   

What We Can Learn

Many swimmers remember this transition as a dreaded part of their swimming history and feeling miserable for several weeks after the pool is flipped. Even if you came to the sport as an adult, you might hold this view. There are a few ways that you can adjust your habits and thinking and look at this transition as something not to be dreaded but to be embraced. Here’s a short list of the many things we learn about ourselves from swimming long course.

  • Efficiency—Seasoned swimmers have a solid idea of the number of strokes they need to get from wall to wall in short course. There tends to be a bit more variability on long course. Why is this? Several reasons, including that when you’re short a stroke in short course, you glide into the wall or push off harder at the next turn. But with half as many walls in long course, this assistance all but vanishes. This helps you learn about how efficient you are with your stroke and gives you some indication that you may want to make some changes.
  • Streamlines and transitions— If you find yourself losing speed off the walls, leaving you near death at the end of 50 meters, you may want to think about your underwaters and transitions. Work on conserving momentum off the walls so you can conserve more energy in the first half of the 50.
  • Breathing—A new breathing pattern is also something to consider. Related to your underwaters and efficiency, how much oxygen your body demands to swim at peak velocity is also going to be different given all of the other changes. More or less? What does it mean if I need more breaths?

Finding a Solution

Once you learn some things about yourself by paying attention to the above, it’s easier (not easy) to come up with some changes to make your transition from short to long course less unpleasant.

  • Efficiency—If short course masked some of your flaws because you could make up time with great walls, now if your time to get better and in the process, get ready to dominate the next short-course season as well. If you have a chance to go to a camp or clinic, that’s a great way to go. If you have a coach, ask for some tips. If you don’t have access to either, there are a couple things you can still do. Have a friend take video of you, preferably above and below the water. Compare this with video content on the USMS website or ask a USA Swimming coach in your area to share a few tips based on what they see. You’ll get expert feedback and it may spark an interest in the coach to work with Masters swimmers. Finally, one of the greatest pieces of equipment for working on stroke technique—especially in a long-course pool—is the snorkel. It’s amazing what you notice about your stroke when you can leave your face in the water for a while and not have to turn or raise it to breathe.
  • Streamlines and transitions—It’s been said that swimming is becoming more and more reliant on the underwater game. Because there aren’t as many turns in long course, now is a good time to work on maximizing your skills, as you have the room to try new technique at each wall. Experiment with how quick and how big your kick is.
  • Breathing—Your body does a great job of telling you how much oxygen you need. For races longer than a 50, the more efficient you are both under and on top of the water, the less oxygen you’ll need. New techniques need time to marinate so that you’re not recruiting muscles that do not make you faster. This is all about energy systems. Figure out what pushes you into the red zone and beyond and adjust your breathing accordingly. The more efficient your stroke, the less breathing you’ll need to do. Experiment with different techniques and stroke rates.

Why Is This Pool So Long?!

After months of swimming short course, you may find your mind wandering in the middle of the pool because you’re quite certain that the pool got way longer than you remember from last season. Instead of thinking about the destination, think about what a gift it is to be able to concentrate for an extended period on just the movements that get you from wall to wall. If you focus on the process during your long-course transition, the destination and the goals take care of themselves.


  • Technique and Training


  • Long Course