How long does it take to swim common distances?

Written By UK Fitness Events

If you’ve taken up swimming for fitness, it’s completely understandable that you want to get a benchmark of your speed against other swimmers. 

But trying to get an average time per distance for swimming is a little more complicated than running or cycling. 

With running and cycling, the main variables are your age, fitness level, and experience. 

With swimming, you still have these variables, but also 4 different strokes, and the difference between a short course pool (25m) a long course pool (50m), and open water swimming. 

But we’ve pulled together an overview of how long it takes to swim typical distances, breaking it down by stroke where we can, if you want to track your swimming times or distances here are three great trackers to use;

  1. Fitbit health and fitness smartwatch
  2. Apple smartwatch
  3. Garmin Instinct solar multi-sport GPS watch

How long does it take to swim 50 meters? 

This is the shortest Olympic race distance and is a good sprint distance for recreational swimmers too. 

In a long course pool, the world record for men in the 50m freestyle is 20.91 seconds, set by Cesar Cielo (Brazil) in 2009.

The women’s 50m freestyle world record is held by Sarah Sjöström (Sweden) at 23.67 seconds, set in 2017.

An overview of the fastest 50m times in a long course pool for each stroke is below: 

Men

EventDateRecord HolderTime
50m Freestyle18/12/2009César Cielo20.91
50m Backstroke18/05/2021Kliment Kolesnikov23.80
50m Breaststroke25/07/2017Adam Peaty25.95
50m Butterfly01/07/2018Andriy Govorov22.27

Women

EventDateRecord HolderTime
50m Freestyle29/07/2017Sarah Sjöström23.67
50m Backstroke21/08/2018Liu Xiang26.98
50m Breaststroke22/05/2021Benedetta Pilato29.30
50m Butterfly05/07/2014Sarah Sjöström24.43

In terms of average speed for most swimmers, it can be really tough to get reliable figures! 

Probably the best page to try and pull some averages is Livestrong.com which suggests that the average pace for a 100m swim is around 2 minutes…so 50 meters would be around a minute. 

How long does it take to swim common distances

How long does it take to swim 100 meters? 

This is a standard race distance for competitive swimmers, and a good length for recreational swimmers to aim for. 

As reported on the Livestrong website, the average pace for a 100 meter swim is around 2 minutes. 

The men’s world record for 100m freestyle is held by Cesar Cielo at 46.91 seconds, while the women’s world record is held by Sarah Sjöströmat 51.71 seconds. 

An overview of the fastest 100m times in a long course pool for each stroke is below: 

Men

EventDateRecord HolderTime
100m Freestyle30/07/2009César Cielo46.91
100m Backstroke13/08/2016Ryan Murphy51.85
100m Breaststroke21/07/2017Adam Peaty56.88
100m Butterfly31/07/2021Caeleb Dressel49.45

Women

EventDateRecord HolderTime
100m Freestyle23/07/2017Sarah Sjöström51.71
100m Backstroke13/06/2018Kaylee McKeown57.45
100m Breaststroke25/07/2017Lilly King1:04.13
100m Butterfly07/08/2016Sarah Sjöström55.48

How long does it take to swim 1km? 

This is a popular distance for open water swimmers.

If you were swimming in a pool, a 1km swim would be 40 lengths of a 25 meter pool and 20 lengths of a 50 meter pool. 

The site MeasuringStuff.com suggests that the average swimmer would take between 20 and 40 minutes to swim a kilometer. 

How long does it take to swim a marathon?

Confusingly, Marathon Swimming does not cover the same distance as the Marathon road race (26.2 miles).

The Marathon Swimming event is the longest swimming race in the modern Olympics. It’s an open water swimming event, covering a distance of 10km.

To put this into context, this is 400 lengths of a 25 meter pool, or 200 lengths of a 50 meter pool. 

The typical time it takes Olympic athletes to complete this distance is between 1 hour and 50 minutes and 2 hours for men, and 2 hours and 2 hours 20 minutes for women. 

How long does it take to swim the English Channel? 

The English Channel covers a distance of approximately 21 miles or 34km between England and France. 

To help put this distance in context, it is 1360 lengths of a 25 meter pool or 680 lengths of a 50 meter pool. 

The fastest time for completing a swim of the English Channel is 6 hours and 55 minutes by Trent Grimsey of Australia. 

The fastest woman to swim the English Channel is Yvetta Hlaváčová who swam the distance in 7 hours and 25 minutes in 2006.

What are swimming laps?

In the swimming world, the word ‘lap’ essentially means one length of the pool, so one lap is from one end of the pool to the other.

Many people confuse swimming terminology with running terminology, one lap of a track means you run in a circle and end where you began.

Whereas in swimming some people believe one lap is one end of the pool to the other, while others believe it is one end and back again.

To save the confusion, if someone asks how many ‘laps’ of the pool you did, tell them how many times you went from one end to the other- i.e. lengths of the pool.

How many swimming laps is a mile?

Swimming is one of the most beneficial workouts out there, using all of the muscles in the body, swimming is guaranteed to give you the perfect workout.

Exercising in water makes your body work harder – 30 minutes in the water is equivalent to 45 minutes of the same activity out of the water.

Swimming is the perfect way to destress, improve your mental health, lower the risk of diseases, and most importantly – you can work out without sweat!

How many pool laps is a mile?

Now, this question really depends on the swimming pool you use to complete a mile.

1 mile is equivalent to 1609.34 meters, so if the pool is 25 meters you will need to complete 64.4 lengths of the pool.

If you are unsure about the length of the pool, just ask someone – then divide 1609.34 by the measurement they tell you!

How many pool laps is 2 miles?

If you swim at a 25-meter pool, 2 miles will be equivalent to 3218.68 meters – equivalent to 128.7 lengths. If you swim at 50 meter pool 2 miles will be 64.4 lengths.

How many laps in an Olympic pool is a mile?

An Olympic pool is 50 meters long, so a mile is 32.1 lengths of the pool as 1609.34 divided by 50 = 32.2.

How many laps is a 1000 meter swim?

If you plan to swim 1000 meters in an olympic sized pool you will need to swim 20 laps.

However a lot of swimming pools are only 25 meters long, that would mean you need to swim 40 laps of the pool instead to swim a total of 1000 meters.

How many laps in a pool is 1500 meters?

Swimming 1500 meters in a 50 meter long olympic pool is equivalent to 30 laps.

Depending on where you swim the pool might only be 25 meters long, that means you would need to swim 60 laps to reach your 1500 meter distance goal.

Swimming meters to pool laps chart

Sometimes it can be hard to know exactly how many laps you need to swim in order to reach your goal.

A swimming pool can be different sizes, we have created a simple chart to help show common distances in laps.

Distance in Meters50 Meter Pool25 Meter Pool
500 Meters10 Laps20 Laps
800 Meters16 Laps32 Laps
1000 Meters20 Laps40 Laps
1200 Meters24 Laps48 Laps
1400 Meters28 Laps56 Laps
1500 Meters30 Laps60 Laps
1600 Meters32 Laps64 Laps

Are swimming laps hard?

In short, yes swimming is hard, but so is any other exercise. Working out is supposed to be challenging, but at the same time, it is extremely rewarding too!

Swimming uses all the muscles in your body and swimming is very different from walking or running, therefore our body isn’t used to it.

With practice swimming will become a lot easier, you’ll be able to swim further and faster before you know it!

More tips on swimming laps

Whether you’re an experienced swimmer or a complete beginner there is always more to learn about swimming.

Setting goals is one of the most beneficial tips, make a realistic goal- one that is achievable for your current fitness level, but don’t be too hard on yourself as improving takes time.

Working on your breathing is another important component of swimming, as you swim work out how many arm lengths feel comfortable before you take a breath- once you work this out swimming becomes a lot easier.

The most important thing is to ENJOY swimming, it should be an activity you want to do rather than something you dread!

If you want to be able to convert distances use our Convert Miles into Kilometres and Kilometres into Miles tool

To see more blogs on fitness and exercise tips, head over to our main blog here.  


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