I always lose track of laps while swimming more than 1km freestyle in a pool.

Is there any gadget or technique which helps counting laps?

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    Have you tried counting how long 100m takes you (more or less) then look at how late you started and what time it is right now? That should give you a ballpark idea of the distance (assuming there's a clock or watch) – Ivo Flipse Mar 22 '12 at 10:04
  • @Ivo: I can never convince myself that these were 25 slow laps, not 26 fast laps. – Quassnoi Mar 23 '12 at 6:48
  • There are at least a couple of swim lap counter watches, including Garmin more expensive sport watches (vivoactive &more than one can do it). The Speedo swim watches do lap counts. I used to have one but lost it. A search on popular swim stores should give you plenty of options. – người Sàigòn Jan 17 '17 at 15:21
  • I count months in case I start counting stokes too and lose count of laps. To reinforce the month, I try to thing of an adjective with the same first letter, such as angry april, and use a different adjective for the next 12 laps. I also use the same month up and back so I don't get though them so fast. I have also tried counting by US state, in alphabetical order (sad isn't it!) – Nigel Davies Apr 2 '19 at 7:34
  • Friend just told me that they have plastic abacuses(Wiki-plural abaci or abacuses) for swimmers to use at the local pool in Sweden. – June Jul 12 '19 at 20:44

13 Answers 13


Count Yards/Meters, not Laps

I suffered from losing count so many times. Then, I started counting yards (or meters). I typically swim in a 25 yard pool so I'll use yards to describe. But if you swim in meters, just substitute - its the same concept.

I simply count yards instead of laps. I start in the shallow end and swim towards the deep end and then back continuously. I know that going towards the deep end, I have to be on either a 25 or a 75 (ie, 25yds, 125yds, 225yds, 325yds or 75yds, 175yds, etc). And, if I am coming down towards the shallow end, I am either on a 50 or a 100 interval (ie, 50yds, 100yds, 150yds, 200yds, 250yds, etc).

This really worked for me. When I was counting laps, my mind would wonder and then I couldn't remember if I was lap 14 or 15. But counting in increments of 25 or 50 really helps me. Sometimes I still lose focus. But, I remember about where I was. For instance, let's say that I'm coming back towards the shallow end and the number that pops in my head was 175. Well, I am probably working towards 200 yards because coming back towards the wall (in a 25 yd pool) will be a multiple of 50 (50, 100, 150, 200, etc). And I'm guessing I had 175 in my head because that's what I was on when I was last going towards the deep end.

And yes, as Ivo mentioned, you can always use time to help confirm your yardage. For instance, if you can swim 100 yds in 100 seconds (1:40 pace) then, 600 yards is 6000 seconds or 10 minutes even. So if you are swimming 1200 yards, and you think you lost track, when you are done, you should be at 20:00. If you swam 50 yards short, you'll be around 19:10 or if you swam 50 long you would be at 20:50.


On really long sets or sets longer than my attention span, I will set up a layman's abacus on the pool deck. Our pool deck is made up of ~2" square tiles. My water bottle covers two tiles. So, for instance, if I have to do 1200 yards and my attention span is about 200 yards, I will use my flip-flops as end points between 12 total tiles. I'll use my water bottle as a counter (bead on an abacus). Every 200 yards I stopped just briefly enough to move my water bottle to next set of tiles. And then I restart my count at 0.

  • Just returned from the pool. Unfortunately, that did not work for me too: I lost count at 475 (or 425) meters. – Quassnoi Mar 23 '12 at 16:40
  • I modified my answer to address your comment. maybe this will help – Ryan Miller Mar 23 '12 at 16:53
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    oh, great idea! I can use buoys on the lane divider as beads. – Quassnoi Mar 23 '12 at 17:22
  • @Quassnoi hopefully you don't share the lane with someone else who has the same idea ;) – andrewb Jul 21 '15 at 23:31
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    @andrewb: I've given up counting and got myself a Neptune Finis instead. I know where I should be by the end of each song, so now I know if I'm a bit ahead or a bit behind. – Quassnoi Jul 21 '15 at 23:37

Use a water bottle. Every 100 (4 lengths or 2 laps), move the bottle one tile over. The bigger question is, what specific purpose is served by a workout of 1km straight swimming, other than to know you can do it?

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    blushes I like swimming :) Is 1 km that much? – Quassnoi Jul 2 '12 at 21:19
  • No, not really. It will probably maintain fitness, but as I am and coach triathletes, and grew up a swimmer, I'm used to sets where the max distance covered is 500m at a time. Rarely have I swum more than 1k in a pool outside of a race. :D – JohnP Jul 2 '12 at 22:15
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    actually, it's a good idea to (often maybe) cover the distance of a race during training. I target long course triathlons with 1.2 mile swims. I will often (every 1-2 weeks) swim at least 1600 yds (up to 2000yds) straight to simulate race distance and build confidence in a straight (no rest) swim. – Ryan Miller Jul 3 '12 at 15:48
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    @RyanMiller - Mmm...agree to disagree :D – JohnP Jul 3 '12 at 18:36
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    I don't understand the concept of not swimming the distance you'll race, just like in running. Marathon runners do long distances to prepare for a race; are you suggesting that if a marathon runner did only interval or threshold runs, and never ran over 13.1mi they'd still be competitive at 26.2mi? Do you have a reference for that? – Dave Newton Oct 7 '12 at 3:12

I use SportCount 100 It is very easy to use, and can be operated by one hand. I would highly recommend it.


I tried many of the techniques described here, plus a few others (e.g., use lane divider floater coils as an abacus), but always lost track. I purchased a SportCount Combi counter/timer for about $30 and have been very pleased. It's small (you wear it like a ring) and easy to use: just push a button at the end of every lap (or length if you prefer) and it counts them and keeps track of the total elapsed time and the average, fastest, and slowest laps. If you wear it with the button on the inside of your hand you can push the button with a finger of the same hand. If you wear it with the button on the outside, you need to push it with a finger of the other hand. It's small and light enough that it's not noticeable while swimming. See it here.

There are fancy sensor-based watches that automatically determine when you are swimming and when you are done with each lap or length but they cost a lot more (over $100) and are larger and more obtrusive. However, they can tell the difference between swimming and resting, and they are automatic so no button-pushing needed. More advanced (and expensive) models can monitor your heart rate.

If any of the manual techniques described here work for you, great! If not, a technical solution can be a real aid.


My personal technique, which is a way to make it easier , was to remember which side of the pool did i start at (left or right side).

Then, let's say u start at the right side, so whenever u reach back this right side you are surely at an "even" number of laps (either 2,4,6,...).

So what you still have to do now is to count each 2 laps (ie swimming to the other side, then coming back to the "even" side) as ONE lap. When you are done, you multiply these laps by two(since "even") and you get the real nb of laps.
The advantage of this technique is that:

  • you are sure at least that you have done an "even" nb of laps (each time you are back at the "starting" side of the pool)
  • counting 2 laps as one, will diminish your need to count laps by 2 , which makes it a bit easier.
  • That's exactly how do I count, and I still lose track. – Quassnoi Mar 23 '12 at 14:00

I have the same problem, I plan to buy the Garmin Swim watch, it has some good reviews: E.g. DCrainmaker

Through an accelerometer and clever software, it detects styles of swimming, measures laps, strokes, stroke rates, SWOLF and exercise time. The instrument is targeted for swimming in pools so there is no GPS.

Based on the site and the review, it seems like they have thought about the different scenarios that you have in the pool, for example, swimming laps, interval training and drills.

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    So how do you use a Swim watch? Do you use it to count laps? – Ivo Flipse Jul 3 '12 at 4:24
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    My plan is to use it to count stroke per lengths (SPL), which for me as a relative beginner in swimming seems to be a great performance indicator, and count laps. – FredrikD Jul 3 '12 at 6:39
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    Can you add some of what it does and why you would want to buy one to your answer, as well as maybe a picture of one and a link to their product description page? – Nathan Wheeler Jul 3 '12 at 15:06
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    @fredob - SPL is an ok metric, the problem is that people start to artificially extend their glide phase to lower the SPL, because lower is better, right? Plus, it's also dependent on body morphology, etc. It's unreasonable to expect a swimmer that is 5'6" to have the same SPL as someone 6'6". It's a good thing to be aware of, but I wouldn't make it a focus, but YMMV. – JohnP Jul 3 '12 at 16:30
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    @JohnP, completely agree, the measurement is individual. I attended a Total Immersion class here in Sweden last winter and the instructors made that clear. Having said that, the greatest improvement in the class was from 33 strokes for 25 meters to 18. I try to keep the extended glide in check through focusing on always moving the other, not extended arm. – FredrikD Jul 3 '12 at 18:49

I use a mechanical hand held tally that i leave at the edge of the pool and i click each time I'm at that end, so that counts the number of laps. the tally costs around 15 dollars. I've slightly modified it by removing the plastic cover that goes over the numbers so that i may clearly read the numbers. since it's mechanical it's not affected by the water at all. works very well for me


I count in smaller increments - 4 or 8 or 10. Of course you can't lose count of your count. (Was that my 4th set of 8, or my 5th?)


Use coins (or marbles and two containers) and move them from one location to the other every lap or two, somewhat similar to how score is kept on Foosball tables.

  • Have you tried this yourself? Sounds a bit tricky to do with wet fingers. – Baarn Feb 10 '13 at 8:07
  • I haven't done it myself, but I've seen people doing it at my gym. – Alex Lauerman Feb 10 '13 at 20:54
  • That would mean I'd have to 'stop' and move the object every 2nd lap, killing my turning point. But having something to count with definitely helps – Ivo Flipse Feb 10 '13 at 23:18

I used to face the same problem. But after picking up a second swimming style, I don't have this problem anymore. The trick is to swim two laps of one style, followed by one lap of another style.


  1. Breast stroke forward
  2. Breast stroke return
  3. Front crawl forward
  4. Breast stroke return
  5. Breast stroke forward
  6. Front crawl return ...

??. Breast stroke return --> 8th lap

Better still, if your memory is really very bad, pick up more styles and swim them in a sequence, counting them as ONE SET. Example:


  1. Breast stroke forward
  2. Breast stroke return
  3. Front crawl forward
  4. Front crawl return
  5. Butterfly forward
  6. Butterfly return
  7. Back stroke forward
  8. Back stroke return


  1. Breast stroke forward
  2. Breast stroke return ...

Hope you get the gist.


At pools where I swim, there's usually an hour : minute : second clock somewhere in sight. If I know my starting time and my pace, a quick head glance during a breath when needed keeps me on track.


Swimming 1000m straight is nuts. Even seasoned swimmers like myself only do that when we have to – that is in preparation for a race that is that long. ;)

Here is an easier way to keep track of how far you've swum, and one that will give you better training than just doing it straight:

  • 2x50 back + 100 free
  • 4x50 back + 200 free
  • 6x50 back + 300 free
  • 8x50 back + 400 free

Oops, that turned out to be 2000, which you did without getting bored and definitely without getting lost about how far you swam.

But if you really do want to do 1500's in practice, counting on the clock is the thing. Know your 100 m pace and look at the clock at every turn. That is, during the first 500 or so, look at the clock to se how fast you swim each 100, multiply your 500 time by three, and keep track of that you get to 1500 in around that goal.


This gadget will do the job nicely:

SportCount Chrono 200 Lap Counter and Timer

enter image description here


If the link breaks - Google the name

  • Agree with rrirower here, we like to have the information at our place, just in case ;). Also, the preceding model SportCount Chrono 100 was mentioned in an answer from 2012, so this is not exactly news. – user8119 Jun 2 '15 at 7:09
  • fair point - added more information – Justin Jun 2 '15 at 7:17

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