The sport of swimming contains a lot of strange terms and jargon which some elite-level swimmers don’t even fully understand. One of the most confusing aspects is perhaps the mile swim.
Although it may seem simple enough there is actually quite a bit of confusion regarding the mile swim as your typical swimming mile isn’t actually the same distance as say a mile running or cycling for example.
With the mile swim being a goal of many swimmers around the world, this has resulted in many left clueless on how many laps there really are in a mile swimming. (And how many they should swim to reach that “milestone”).
That said, in today’s article we’ll cover everything you need to know about the number of laps in a swimming mile as well as some additional information about the mile swim that might come in handy during your future swims.
The number of laps you will need to swim to complete a true mile will depend on the length of your pool. In a 25-yard pool, 1 mile is 70.4 laps. In a 25-meter pool, 1 mile is 64.4 laps and in a 50-meter pool, 1 mile is 32.2 laps.
Similarly, the number of laps you will need to swim to complete a swimmer’s mile will also be dependent on pool length. In a 25 yard pool, you’ll have to swim 66 laps. In a 25 meter pool, you’ll have to swim 60 laps, and in a 50-meter pool, you’ll have to swim 30 laps.
|Distance||25 Yard Pool||25 Meter Pool||50 meter Pool|
|Swimmer’s Mile (1650 Yards/ 1500 Meters)||66 Laps||60 Laps||30 Laps|
|Full Mile (1760 Yards/ 1610 Meters)||70.4 Laps||64.4 Laps||32.2 Laps|
What Is a Mile in Swimming?
Perhaps the most confusing aspect about the mile swim is its distance. As mentioned earlier the “swimming mile” isn’t actually the same distance as your standard mile which is typically defined as 1760 yards or 1610 meters.
In swimming there are 3 main mile distances typically used by different categories of swimmers, let’s have a quick look at them.
The Meet Mile: Most swimmers are probably familiar with the meet mile as this is the distance commonly used in all international swimming competitions that take place in a pool.
In a yard competition pool, the mile is defined as 1650 yards which is actually 90 yards short of a real mile, and in a meter competition pool, the swimming mile is defined as 1500 meters, equating to roughly 1640 yards, once again short of an actual mile.
You can learn more about why this is the case here.
The Pool Training Mile: For training purposes, swimmers use either 1650 meters or 1650 yards to train for the mile event, both of which will provide subsequent fitness for the actual competition mile, defined as either 1500 meters or 1650 yards as we discussed just now.
The Open Water Mile: In open water swimming a mathematically-correct mile is used. Meaning 1760 yards or 1610 meters. If your goal is to train for a true mile for an open water event then you should divide 1760 yards by the length of your pool (if it is in yards) or if your pool is in meters you should divide 1610 meters by its length.
With all that said, you may still be wondering so what is the distance of a mile swim? And the answer to that is- it depends.
It depends on what your goal is- do you want to swim an actual mile? If so, train to complete 1760 yards or 1610 meters. On the other hand, if your goal is to swim a mile in a competitive swim meet, then train to complete 1650 yards or 1500 meters.
Related- Long Distance Swimming Technique.
Laps Vs. Lengths- Is There a Difference?
The next aspect that we need to cover in order to avoid confusion is the difference between laps and lengths- which if you are an experienced swimmer- you should know actually doesn’t have any difference at all.
Many recreational or beginner swimmers seem to believe that a lap is defined as 2 lengths of a pool, meaning swimming both up and down, while a length is swimming from one side of the pool to the other. This is incorrect as I explain in my article here- “What Is A Lap In Swimming?”.
In order to avoid confusion, you need to understand that both a lap and a length are the same distance, meaning swimming from one end of the pool to the other.
To explain this simply- the definition of a lap is a complete trip around a race track. In swimming, the pool is the race track, thus if you’ve swum from one end to the other then you have completed the track, meaning one lap or length.
Still don’t believe me? Well, listen to what Natalie Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medalist swimmer, has to say-
Your Pool Size Effects the Number of Laps in a Mile Swimming
Now that you understand what distance you are training for and that there aren’t actually any differences between a lap and a length, you need to understand the effect of your pool size on the number of laps you will have to swim.
To make things easier here are the 3 main pool lengths used by swimmers around the world, both for training and competition-
25 Yard Pool: This is the pool length typically used by swimmers in the U.S. during the short course season, which takes place primarily throughout the winter months. 25 Yard pools are typically used for high-school and college swimming meets while many recreational pools in the U.S. are also 25 yards in length.
25 Meter Pool: Although only slightly longer than 25 yards, this is the pool length used by most other countries outside of the U.S for their short-course swimming meets. The 25-meter pool length is also used for international short-course swimming competitions around the world such as the World Short Course Swimming Championships which takes place every 2 years.
50 Meter Pool: This is the most common pool length used in international swimming competitions, including the Olympic Games. Almost all other swimming meets, including age-group competitions, take place in a 50-meter pool with many swimmers also training in this pool length throughout the year.
Unconventional Pool Sizes: Many swimmers may train in pools of varying lengths. This can include 20-yard, 30-yard, or 40 yard pools for example. These pools are suitable for training purposes but can’t be used for regulated swimming competitions.
The effect of your pool length on the number of laps you have to swim: Naturally, the longer your pool is the fewer laps you will have to swim to complete the mile swim, while the shorter your pool is the more laps you’ll have to swim to complete the mile swim.
Laps in a Mile Swimming- the Swim Distance Charts
Now that we have covered all of the aspects that you need to understand to avoid confusion when it comes to swimming a mile in a pool, we can get to how many laps are in a mile swimming. Below is everything you need to know in order to swim a mile depending on your goals and training purposes.
Number of laps in an actual mile (1760 yards/ 1610 meters):
- 25 Yard Pool: 1760 yards is 70.4 laps.
- 25 Meter Pool: 1610 meters is 64.4 laps.
- 50 Meter Pool: 1610 meters is 32.2 laps.
|Pool Length||Actual Mile Distance (1760 Yards Or 1610 Meters)|
|25 Yards||70.4 Laps|
|25 Meters||64.4 Laps|
|50 Meters||32.2 Laps|
Number of laps in a swimming mile (1650 yards/ 1500 meters):
- 25 Yard Pool: 1650 yards is 66 laps.
- 25 Meter Pool: 1500 meters is 60 laps.
- 50 Meter Pool: 1500 meters is 30 laps.
|Pool Length||Swimming Mile Distance (1650 Yards Or 1500 Meters)|
|25 Yards||66 Laps|
|25 Meters||60 Laps|
|50 Meters||30 Laps|
For unconventional pool sizes, you’ll have to do a little bit of math to figure out how many laps you’ll have to swim in order to complete a mile. Luckily it isn’t all that hard.
You can use this formula to calculate how many laps you have to swim to complete a mile-
Numbers of yards/ meters in a swimmer’s mile/ actual mile ÷ the distance of the pool (in yards or meters).
Example: Say your pool measures 20 yards long and you would like to complete a full mile swim, then all you have to do is take 1760 yards and divide it by 20. That would equal a total of 88 laps that you would need to swim to complete a full mile.
Related- How many laps is a good swim workout?
A Cheat Sheet for Creating the Perfect Swimming Workout and Routine
Download this FREE cheat sheet to create the perfect swimming workout and routine. Learn how to structure your swim workout and enjoy 9 example workouts, ranging from beginner to advanced.
How to Count Your Laps While Swimming a Mile
Knowing how many laps you should swim to complete a mile swim is all good and well, but it doesn’t exactly help if you miscount your laps along the way since you’ll ultimately be cheating yourself and your swimming goals.
As an experienced competitive swimmer myself, I know how easy it is to miscount laps or completely lose track all together when doing longer distance swims (I probably do it at least once every training session, luckily I have good teammates around).
For those training on your own, here are 3 useful methods for making sure you complete that full mile swim and reap all the rewards as well-
Smart Swim Goggles: A new technology in the swimming world is smart swimming goggles. There are currently only two models available, namely the FINIS Smart Goggle and the Form Goggles.
These goggles allow you to easily and accurately track swimming metrics like laps, stroke rate, splits, and much more while allowing you to view these metrics directly inside your goggles as you swim.
Personally, I recommend the FINIS Smart Goggles over the Form Goggles due to their low-profile design and the fact that you can choose when to look at the display instead of having it display the entire time.
The FINIS Smart Goggle is the most innovative smart swimming goggle available.
Directly display and track your laps, splits, set time, rest time, stroke rate, and more in your goggles with the non-intrusive heads-up display while swimming.
GPS Swim Watch: Another easy and accurate way to measure how many laps you have done is by using a GPS swim watch.
I have found the Garmin Swim 2 to by far be the most accurate swimming watch on the market. What’s great about this watch is that it can measure both open water and pool swimming and it comes in at a very affordable price compared to watches with similar capabilities.
Ray over at DC Rainmaker also did a really great review on the watch if you’d like to learn a bit more about the Garmin Swim 2.
Wearable Lap Counter: Another effective and cheaper way of counting your laps, but one that requires a bit more brainpower, is a simple device that you can wear on your finger, known as a wearable lap counter.
Easily and effortlessly track your laps in the pool with the simple press of a button. No more losing count!
This is a low-profile, low-tech device where you press a button each time you have completed a lap. It also has a timer built-in so that you can see how fast you are swimming your laps. You can check out this nice one on Amazon here.
How Long Does It Take to Swim a Mile? The Average Mile Swim Time
You might be wondering what is the average time it takes to swim a mile? This will give you a good goal to aim for to make sure you are on track to swim some decent times in the pool.
Anyway, a while back I did an article on the average mile swim time and analyzed the times of 67 278 swimmers (yep, you read that correctly) from a wide spectrum of ages and experience levels who competed in a mile open water race to provide you with an average time to aim for.
In short, the average time it took to complete a mile swim in open water was exactly 37 minutes and 39.38 second. Obviously, in a pool, this time is going to be a bit faster as you won’t have waves, vision will be better, and you can push off from walls after each turn. So that time for a pool swim will probably be sitting around 30-32 minutes.
That said, these times might not apply to everyone. Here are some general guidelines to aim for when swimming a mile for time-
Beginners should take anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes to swim a mile, while intermediate swimmers will be able to swim a mile in 30 to 35 minutes and advanced swimmers in 25 minutes or less. Elite-level swimmers should be able to go under 20 minutes for the mile swim.
|Swimmer Level||Mile Swim Time|
|Beginner Swimmers||> 40 Minutes|
|Intermediate Swimmers||30-35 Minutes|
|Advanced Swimmers||25 Minutes|
|Elite Swimmers||< 20 Minutes.|
Related- Swimming endurance workouts.
How Many Calories Do You Burn Swimming a Mile?
Everyone knows that swimming is a great all-around workout as well as an excellent way to burn some extra calories. That’s why you might be wondering how many calories you can expect to burn swimming a mile.
Obviously, there are many factors influencing how many calories you will burn swimming a mile such as your age, weight, how fast you are swimming, as well as the stroke you swim so providing a 100% accurate answer isn’t completely realistic.
That said, there are some general guidelines I can give you to provide a rough estimate of how many calories you will burn swimming a mile-
Most people can expect to burn around 250-350 calories swimming a mile freestyle, 230-300 calories swimming backstroke, 350-400 calories swimming a mile breaststroke, and 450-500 calories burned swimming a mile butterfly.
|Swimming Stroke||Calories Burned Swimming A Mile|
If you would like to know a more accurate answer as to how many calories you will burn swimming a mile consider using this swimming calorie calculator.
Swim Your Laps- Get Your Mile
For some swimmers the mile swim may be a big goal and accomplishment to others it might just be part of the daily routine with many competitive swimmers dishing out upwards of 4-5 miles in a single workout.
Regardless of your swimming level, it is important to know how many laps is in a mile swimming in order for you to accurately train for your goals in the pool.