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How Long Does It Take To Swim A Mile?

If you’ve started doing some swim training, the you might be focused on your mile time.

You’re probably wondering what’s a good one-mile swim time in freestyle.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned swimmer, we’ve got some data to share with you so you can see if you’re a fast swimmer, an average swimmer, or a slow swimmer.

Factors That Affect Mile Swim Times

Unfortunately, there is no quick and short answer on how long it takes someone to swim one mile because there are too many factors at play here.

But we can give you some averages for various scenarios after we discuss those factors.

Things that affect mile swim times:

  • your stamina
  • your swimming technique
  • are you in open water?
  • the water temperature
  • your age & athletic ability

You’ll get the fastest results in a swimming pool compared to open water (lake, ocean, river).

In swimming, a “swimming mile” is only 1650 yards instead of a true mile.

How Many Swimming Laps Are In One Mile?

If you’re going to be doing your swim training in a pool, then it helps to know what you’re working towards.

Technically, a mile equals 1760 yards and 1609.3 meters, but competitive swimmers call both 1650 yards and 1650 meters a “mile”.

Typically, most fitness facilities have a swimming pool that is either 25-meters in length or 50-meters in length.

Here’s how many laps you need in each pool to equal one 1650-meter swimming mile:

  • In a 25-meter pool, one mile is 33 lengths, or 66 laps.
  • In a 50-meter pool, one mile is 16.5 lengths, or 33 laps.

Keep in mind that a “lap” is defined as all the way down the pool, not down the pool and back.

And a “length” is what you call down the pool and back.

Since a swimming mile is not a true mile, this math can be confusing.

So, here’s how to calculate it using the size your swimming pool:

How you define a mile DIVIDED BY the length of your pool = number of times you need to swim once across the pool.

Example: 1650 meters/50 meter pool = 33 laps

But what if you want to swim a true mile?

Well,  if you want to swim a mathematically-accurate mile and your pool is measured in yards, divide 1760 by the number of yards in your pool. If your pool is measured in meters, divide 1609.3 by the length. 

Average One Mile Swim Times By Skill Level

Based on the speed of Olympic swimmers, the fastest time for swimming one mile is around 16 minutes.

With than in mind, an amateur swimming should expect to complete a mile in around 25-45 minutes.

For the beginner, expect a mile swim to take around 45 minutes on average.

The U.S. Masters Swimming website has a cool table on their website that is a fitness pace chart.

It’s something that you might want to bookmark for later reference. Remember, a swimming mile is 1650 yards or 1650 meters.

You can also track your time and pace with something like the Garmin Swim 2, which is a swimming smart watch.

It tracks your distance, pace, stroke count, stroke type and swimming efficiency.

 Garmin Swim 2, GPS Swimming Smartwatch for Pool and Open Water, Underwater Heart Rate, Records Distance, Pace, Stroke Count and Type, Slate Gray
Garmin Swim 2, GPS Swimming Smartwatch for Pool and Open Water, Underwater Heart Rate, Records Distance, Pace, Stroke Count and Type, Slate Gray

You can order this swimming smartwatch online at Amazon for home delivery.

How Long Does It Take A Beginner To Be Able To Swim A Mile?

If you’re relatively new to swimming for fitness and and with the goal of swimming consecutively (no rest breaks) to one mile, then you might feel a bit discouraged about your progress.

Don’t worry if it seems like you’ll never be able to swim a mile without stopping, let alone a few laps in the pool with no breaks.

The truth is that everyone progresses at different levels.

For some beginners, especially those who are young and already in good cardio shape, it may only take two to three months to be able to swim one mile.

For other swimmers who are new only only to swimming but to cardio workouts of this caliber, it can take six months or longer to have the stamina to reach one mile without stopping for a rest.

How To Boost Your Stamina And Swim Faster

If you’re challenging yourself to get to that one-mile goal, then you might be looking for ways that you can do this quicker than the average person.

With a bit of work, persistence, and luck, you just might be able to make it happen – but take care that you don’t do anything stupid that results in an injury.

Do cardio and strength training outside of the pool. Work on boosting your arm and leg strength so that you can power through those strokes. And get in some cardio when it’s not strength training day.

Set yourself a goal of 500 yards each day for one week. Sure, you’ll have to take breaks, but really push yourself to achieve this goal each day. Maybe start with taking a break every 50 yards, and then every 100 yards, and so on.

Each week increase your daily goal by 100 to 200 yards. Yes this will be a challenge, but if you push yourself, then you can make it happen. Remember to take breaks when you need to but focus on the end goal.

Work on your breathing. There are some great breathing exercises that you can do to improve your performance.

Focus on your form in the water. Making sure that you’re doing your swimming with proper form is one of the easiest ways to improve your performance. Not only will you move through the water faster, but you’ll have lower injury incidences and reduce drag.

7 thoughts on “How Long Does It Take To Swim A Mile?”

  1. I am not sure I understand those who WANT to swim those kind of distances in open water. So I hope those practicing are for pool lengths & for personal improvement.

    Just stumbled on your article after a very scary situation yesterday of losing my kayak in the middle of a massive lake. Have been trying to research & figure out, could I have swam the half mile to shore (amidst extremely windy, wavy conditions) before the 48-51° water did me in.

    Near as I can tell it would have been around an hour to reach shore in those conditions (in a sweater, life jacket etc). And according to weather/health experts the expected time to pass out/exhaustion in 50° water is an hour. So I’m glad that I called 911, not a 50/50 I would’ve wanted to take.

    I hope people follow this excellent advice on swim training & building stamina! If I wasn’t a strong swimmer I wouldn’t be here today, and reading this makes me wish I were an even stronger swimmer.

    • oh wow, that does sound scary. Good thing you didn’t lose your phone with the kayak!

      If you’re looking for a place to start doing laps in a pool, then our recent article on gyms with pools should help. I’m a big fan of the YMCA membership.

    • I’m sorry you had a bad experience.

      I started swimming our local lake last summer. At first I could only swim half the lake, about a half mile total out and back. I mostly swam breast stroke keeping my head above water the whole time.

      When I started working on my freestyle I could do maybe 30 consecutive strokes (one stroke being one arm pull on each side).

      Today I solo swam the whole lake and back, which is over a mile (an actual mile). I swam breast stroke out and freestyle back the entire way. I stopped at half to rest about five minutes; otherwise it was continuous.

      It took about an hour and fifteen minutes.

      Open lake swimming is awesome. I’ve learned a huge amount.

      I take a swim buoy so I’m visible and keep my phone with me in the buoy. For me, it’s incredibly peaceful and relaxing and I can really take time to think, work on my strokes and just chill.

  2. Your calculation for a mile swim is incorrect. 32*25=800 meters *1.094 = 875.2 yards. A true statute mile is 1760 yards. Although most swimmers round down to 1650 or 66 laps.

  3. I am completely confused by all of the calculations In the article and comments section.

    On the basis that one lap is one length of a 50m pool then a

    Mile = 32.2 lengths (or laps)
    Swimming mile = 30 lengths (or laps)


  4. I have been kayaking for just about a year. We live on a lake. I can kayak 4.14 miles in 59 minutes would you consider this good. I kayak every day I’m addicted I just want to be faster.

  5. I thought lap was there and back and a length is just one length of the pool. Are you sure that is correct?

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