It's a badge of honor for any place that has one. The Olympic-size swimming pool.
No venue neglects to boast the fact that their pool is 50 meters in length instead of the more common 25 meters or 25 yards. At the same time, hardcore swimmers flock to the 50-meter pools as their training length of choice.
"I generally train seven days a week in a 50-meter pool," says Alex Kostich, a champion swimmer and triathlete who's won numerous elite races.
Obviously, the appeal of the longer pool is strong. Why, though? Due simply to availability, many triathletes and swimmers are forced to train in 25-yard pools. If that's you, what are you missing? How big of a disadvantage are you at in a shorter pool?
Here are some of the bigger training differences in the two lengths.
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Simply put, 50-meter pools force you to work on your endurance. For triathletes and open-water swimmers, it's crucial to build this when you're not actually training in the open water.
"A 50-meter pool provides you with that extra challenge of not having the wall," Kostich said. "You have to rely on twice as much endurance to get across. It instantly puts you at an advantage compared to people in 25-meter pools."
The pool's wall is a temporary reprieve from the grind of your workout, whether you're grabbing it and taking a quick breath or even just doing a flip turn and heading back the other way. However much you utilize the wall, it doesn't translate to an open water swim so it's not an ideal part of your workout. A 50-meter pool is twice as much swimming before you hit a wall, a big advantage.
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Many swimmers prefer a 50-meter pool and actually go faster in a 50-meter pool simply because the longer distance lets you get into a rhythm.
"You want to keep your cadence at a steady rate," Kostich said. "(A 25-meter pool) breaks the rhythm of the cadence."
If it takes you 18 strokes to get across a 25-yard pool, it's probably going to take you at least twice as many to go 50 meters. That's plenty of more time to get all systems churning together and get you going at maximum efficiency.
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If your race—be it a triathlon or a swim event—is in the open water, nothing can mimic the feel of the event much like getting out and swimming in the open water. An open-water swim is truly a different beast than a pool of any length.
Short of that, though, doubling the distance between the walls will serve as a confidence boost before you head out to your wall-less event. If you develop comfort swimming in a 50-meter pool compared to a 25-yard pool, you'll be another step closer to being comfortable when you dive into the open water.
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Short pools aren't all bad, though. Though Kostich doesn't personally swim in 25-yard pools, he can see how they would benefit age-group triathletes.
"Short-course training is a very good way to get faster," Kostich said. "I think going to a short-course pool and focusing on quality-oriented workouts can be good for triathletes. It's not to develop endurance because (endurance athletes) already have that. It's to develop speed, which they don't."
If the 50-meter pool in your town is an extra 15-minute drive away, or costs more to get a pass or whatever may make it an inconvenience, mix up your training days. Go to the 50-meter pool once a week to throw a wrench in your routine.
Come race day, it could be the advantage you need to fly through your swim.
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