- Time: The easiest way to track how far you have gone is to not worry about distance and instead just track how long you are in the pool. Swimming for 30 minutes is much easier to figure out than counting the laps.
- Count Lengths: Rather than counting laps, you can try counting lengths. It is a little easier to keep track of lengths because you always know that swimming in one direction will be an odd number and swimming in the other direction will be an even number. It is a little easier to figure out if you are length 12 or 14 than if you are on lap 6 or 7.
- Wrist Watch: A very easy way to count laps is to wear a water proof or water resistent wrist watch and to click the lap counter function every lap. You then have an accurate count without having to worry about keeping it straight in your head. I prefer not to wear a watch when I swim, but I keep a watch at the end of the pool where I get in and every 250 meters (5 laps) I click it. I only need to count to 5 each time, and I know basically how long that will take me, so I can click the watch then and have it count my sets out rather than the individual laps.
- Goggles: Even easier than using a wristwatch, you could get a set of goggles that automatically counts your laps for you through the use of a small compass and displays the lap count and duration of your swim on the lens of the goggles. I’m not sure if these are even on the market yet, though.
- Lane Dividers: My main method for counting laps is to use the lane dividers, usually combined with my wristwatch for every 5 laps. What I do is I push the buoys on the lane divider away from the wall when I get in, and then move one towards the wall for each lap that I complete before starting the next one. When I get to 10, I start pushing them back out away from the wall. This is a simple and handy method that is available in most pools.
- Set Workouts: You could write up a set workout that you are going to follow in the pool so that you do not need to track how many laps that you swim. Instead, you would follow the workout as outlined and you would know how far you are going to swim before even getting in the pool. For example, a workout might be written to swim 5 laps as a warm up, 5 sets of 100 meters (2 laps each), and then 5 laps as a cool down. You only have to track where you are in your workout, and not every single lap that you have gone.
- Lap Times: You can track individual lap times or multilap times throughout the swim to get an average of how long it takes, and then just divide the amount of time you swam by your average lap time to get an estimate of how far you swam. (This method provided by Nat in the comments on Wes‘s site.)
- Coach: You could find a friend or a coach that will count your laps for you and let you know how you are doing.
- Letters: Instead of counting laps, use letters and words. Start at “A”, and think of words that begin with “A” on the first lap. On the second lap, think of words that begin with “B”. If you are swimming more than 25 or 26 laps, then just start over and count how many times you get through the alphabet.
Those are the methods that I can think of off of the top of my head. Did I miss any?
I basically use the length of the pool method. It does help to remember if I am on an odd or even lap. Once I get to within 12 or so laps of my finish, I start counting down instead of up. Only 11 more lengths to go. Keeps me motivated 🙂
Cool post, great ideas. I had a similar problem at the track remembering how many laps (or miles, in longer training runs) I had gone. I started playing with the lane numbers: I start out the first lap of each mile in Lane 4, next lap Lane 3, next lap Lane 2, final lap of the mile in Lane 1. At the beginning of the next mile I get back into Lane 4 again.
If I am running more than, say, 3 miles and there are not a lot of people at the track, I still start out in Lane 4, moving in a lane with each lap; back at lane 4 at the start of each mile; but I run counter clockwise the first mile, clockwise the second mile, and alternate.
I hope it’s ok I shared a track lap-counting trick in your swim-lap counting post…I’m just excited to even HAVE a trick as a newbie:-)
Thanks a lot! posts like yours help novices like me! I’ll use the buoys method.
Tips for counting lengths can also be found here:
Thanks for the tips. I use a small block of wood with the numbers 1 through 6 on the sides -- like a die. I start with the block on the number 6. When I complete the first 5 laps (I do laps not lengths), I turn it to the #1. When I finish the next 5, I turn it to 2 -- and so on. That way I only have to count to 5.
I prefer to track time but have considered counting laps in case I decide to do a triathalon. My thought was to take a handful of pennies and move one into a pile every time I complete a lap but the lane divider method may work as well.
the lane divider method works until someone in the next lane accidently leans or moves the dividers, i use a small Bull Dog clip, i clip in in between the plastic discs on the rope,fail safe !
first tim ei had the bull dog clip idea, tried using a BIG Bull dog clip, person in other lane saw it , unclipped it and gave to the pool assistant ! AHHHHHH
Ha ha ha, whoops! Great idea, though.
Great hints. I have been using a knitting counter that you put on the end of knitting needles to keep track of the rows. I’ve put some string through it and attatched it to a small swim bag I keep by the pool.
I use a SportCount timer. It’s waterproof and is adjustable and comfortable, and tapping the button (there’s only one) makes it so I don’t have to think about my number and can relax and enjoy my training.
I use my flip flops. I start out with both shoes right way up, when I do a lap and return to the shoes, I flip one over. Next lap I flip the next one, next lap, flip one back upright one more lap and they are both back upright. Then I set my water bottle to the other side of the shoes and altogether is 10 lengths. Then repeat.
My pool lane floats are very close together so i use a bread bag twist tie and pinch it onto the float. It stays nicely, drops to bottom If it comes loose and is easily/cheaply replaced if lost.
I’ve used this method that’s been working for me: I take a pull buoy or other small but visible object and set it on the deck in line with the lane divider. Every so many laps, reach out and move it one grout line over.
I’m new at this, so as I need less rest between laps this might become annoying. But it seems to work for now.
That’s a great idea, I hadn’t thought of doing that before!
I put a small rubber band on the thumb of my right hand then just move it to the next finger until I hae completed 10 laps. Then I start the whole thing over.
That’s a good idea, never tried that before.
This is a great one I am using this to track water drinking through out the
I have a leather shoelace with 32 beads that I stole from my 9 yr old. Every 4th one is red, the rest are white. I can usually keep track of at least 4 laps in a row. I keep it at the end of the lane and adjust every rest I take or at least every 4th lap. Also every 4th lap is 1/8th of a mile.
Thanks letters and lane dividers will work great!
SportCount has an easy to use lap counter and timer that is great for counting swimming laps. It fits on your index finger and works by clicking the button with your thumb.
I use COUNTU Goal as my swimming tracker. Easy to use. And the most useful function is vibrate alarm function, which vibrate your finger to alarm that you already achieve your workout. Recommended.
I’m in the middle of “Max Workouts” by Shin Ohtake, and there a lot of reps to keep track of. I forget my reps and larger sets quite frequently. And the numbers are essential to tracking progress.
But I have to admit: I’m terrible at remembering my numbers. Whether it’s a thirty-second count, a rep, or a set.
I’ve been sorely in need of a great solution, and I’m grateful to those who have contributed to this post. What a great collection of thoughtful answers!
I’m looking forward to testing out a few methods. I’ll report back with the one that worked for me. All the best!
I count in blocks of 8 just using my fingers. At the start of the 1st block I put a small hairband on my first finger and press my 1st fingertip with a nail, second length I touch the 2nd fingertip and so on until I’ve done 8 lengths then I move the hairband to my second finger and start the sequence again. In a 25 meter pool 64 lengths (+plus a few more meters) is a mile or 8 blocks of 8 lengths.
I had eight brothers and sisters and use their names in multiples for laps!
I love these ideas!
I’ve been taking two small containers (I use Rubbermaid TakeAlongs) of the same type to the pool. I bought a little netting bag of 32 glass “jewels” at the local dollar store.
I set both containers at pool edge… One empty and one with the jewels/rocks/marble things in it. Then each time I return to that end of the pool, I move one marker over to the empty container. When I’ve moved all the rock/jewel things? I’ve done a mile.
I am a newbie swimmer. I use a small plastic abacus.
I try to think of a word to rhyme with the length number and repeat it in a sentence focused on gratitude and prayer . It’s good for lthe soul and brain. So on 3 I might say I’m thankful for the love of my hubby. On 14 “I’m thankful for my precious daughter” (she’s 14) Most of the time I stay very close. It’s like Swim(medi)tatiom.
Technology has improved but I still use “time” to track. Every few years, I’d get an update on my current swim speed (Garmin Swim is pretty accurate for me). Then I’d use that speed x time in pool. I stopped counting laps when I started swimming more than 2 hours; it’s so much easier to count time.
I think of something positive that rhymes or is connected to the lap number I’m on to track. So for lap 3, I’m thankful for my family, is my mantra. It is very beneficial to the brain to repeat positive phrases.
I like to think while swimming so hate having to put any brain power to counting. I also don’t want to bring too many things with me to swim so I use my sandals to count -- everyone brings them to the pool.
Turn the right one a quarter turn at the end of a lap. At the end of the fifth lap, turn the left one a quarter turn. On the next lap turn the right one a quarter turn, when get to lap ten move left one a quarter turn.
Example: ⬆️➡️ is 1, ⬆️⬇️ is 2, continue quarter turns on right one. 5 is ➡️⬆️, 6 is ➡️➡️. 10 is ⬇️⬆️, 12 is ⬇️⬇️. The right shoe is the little hand and left shoe is big hand in quinary counting system.
This works for 20 laps and then it resets so can keep track of each 1000m for a 25m pool.
I swim 2 lengths of free style then breast stroke, then back stroke then side stroke then free style to complete 5 laps or 10 lengths or 5 laps, hold up one finger then 2 and so on for each 10 and when I swim 70.4 lengths or a mile. Am working to get my mile under 60 mins (am now down to 57 mins). Also my times at the end of 70 laps lets me know if I am done if my count of 10 is off. This way I don’t have to stop to tick something which has helped me to swim without stopping.
Ooh Im thinking maybe using a beaded counting bracelet now after reading these great ideas thanks for the ideas
I think of each age I was as correlated to the lap. At six I spent summers fishing for perch with my brother, at 19 I went to college, at 30 I got married, At 35 I was…and so on. Its fun to try and think of the age I was and what happened that year.