What Is the Ideal Swimming Pool Water for Competitive Swimmers?

Guest post by Laurie Smith

After watching the Olympics this is a question that occurred to me – it’s not something that most people think about it. Personally, I had never given it much thought and chances are that you haven’t either until now.

Instinctively I thought that they would prefer cold water. After all, it would probably be more refreshing and easier to swim in as your body heats up from the constant effort.

However, my friend assumed that they would prefer water on the warmer side so that their muscles would be loose and wouldn’t cram up. So we decided to do some research to see who was right. But first…

Ideal Temperature for Leisure Swimming

To put it into some context it’s best to explore the ideal temperature for casual swimmers. These people include just lap swimming, people going into the pool to escape the heat, for parties, etc. Basically, anyone who isn’t training to compete or actually competing.

According to the USWFA the ideal temperature for casual swimming is around 84 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (29-30 degrees Celcius). However, they also recommend a BUNCH of different temperatures depending on who you are. For little kids they actually suggest a much higher temperature of 88-94 degrees Fahrenheit (31-34.5 degrees celcius) which is really quite warm – after all that’s much too hot when it’s that hot outside!

From there as the kids get older the recommended temperature goes down which makes sense – younger kids are more sensitive to temperature changes.

Ideal Temperature for Competitive Swimming

So now that we understand what a “normal” and comfortable temperature is we can now better understand competitive swimmers. Like I had originally thought, competitive swimmers enjoy cool water. Typically they like water 77-82 degrees Fahrenheit (25-27.5 Celcius).

Here, we can see that even the highest of 82 is lower than the lower recommended range for casual swimmers of 84. You’re probably thinking, so what does it really matter? It’s only a 2 degree difference.

Well, the primary reason is to prevent the swimmers from overheating. Muscle cramping isn’t a big concern since swimmers warm up beforehand and are able to stay warm in some fairly advanced track suits.

With this in mind, the average human is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If we increase our temperature by 2 degrees (the LOWEST difference between a competitive pool and a casual pool) then that’s enough to cause a headache at 100.6 degrees and is actually considered a low grade fever.

When this 2 degree difference is magnified by extreme exercise that professional swimmers go through then it can quickly become much more unpleasant than a simple 2 degree difference. Why go through all of that when are you competing to be the best in the world?


Even though it’s not something most people consider, understanding the differences of ideal temperature between casual and competitive swimmers is pretty interesting. Although my friend had a good point about muscle cramping and tightening, a water temperature of 77 degrees F (the lowest recommended temperature) is still actually quite comfortable. After all, people tend to do extreme sports in much colder temperature without a problem so it makes sense that professional athletes can still very easily function at 77 degrees F.

Thanks for reading!

Laurie Smith is a proud mother of 2 children and loves swimming. In her free time she tries to provide the best information possible to fellow swimming pool owners at Ultimate Pool Guide because she struggled to find the necessary information she needed to make smart pool related decisions.


One response to “What Is the Ideal Swimming Pool Water for Competitive Swimmers?”

  1. Elisabeth Avatar

    Very interesting! I must say I have had this thought quite often as I travelled for many years for swimming. I was a competitive swimmer for 12 years. In those 12 years I have swam in warm, cold, extremely cold, and bath water warm pools. I have to say my favorite was probably the middle temperature pools, not too warm not too cold. This was interesting because though I have thought about it before ai never thought about it in that much detail before.This will help me explain to the swimmers that I coach now what it means when they notice that difference in temperature! Thank you for taking the time to research and write about this!

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