What is the average swimming speed?

When swimming in a big pool, it can sometimes feel like everyone else is zooming past you and you’re lagging behind.

It is more than likely not the case at all. Most swimmers average out at about 2mph per hour during their swim.

Trained athletes can average at around 4mph and Olympians like Michael Phelps often max out at around 6mph.

When using swimming as part of your training plan or as part of your usual exercise regime, being able to track your speed, laps and time spent could be important.

Using an Apple Watch, a Garmin Multisport GPS watch, like the Forerunner 945 or their specially designed Garmin Swim can give you all the data and tracking you could ever wish for.

What affects swimming speed?

Your swimming speed depends on a variety of factors. Your general overall fitness is the first major factor obviously, but your swimming stroke can also affect your swimming speed.

Using front crawl will help you beat your personal best times and you could use these times across a variety of distances to get better and quicker.

Another factor is whether you’re male or female, men are often slightly faster due to muscle mass but women can be quicker on average over longer distances. 

The water you’re in can also have an effect. If the pool is colder then this can affect your breathing and core temperature which can slow you down and bring down your overall average swimming speed.

If you wish to use your swims to get quicker, it may be worth looking at finding a more specialist pool that trains swimmers or is used as a competitive swimming pool so you can start hitting those faster speeds you want.

If there aren’t any local pools for you, some pools do have specific times when they have speed lanes for people to train in, so this is also worth looking into. 

Average swimming speed in the sea

Swimming in the sea is often harder due to it not being a controlled environment like a pool and you’ll have waves to deal with in the open water.

A mile in the sea in average choppy waters can take up to an hour for the average swimmer which seems like a long time, but you’ll be working against the water more when in the sea. 

Compare this to the fastest time in a chlorinated pool of 14:31 for a man to swim a mile and 15:20 for a woman to swim a mile, you can see how difficult swimming in the sea can be. 

When swimming in the sea, you’ll have extra buoyancy due to the salt so you may find you float more efficiently and therefore can conserve some energy.

Wearing a wetsuit will also help as this will keep your buoyancy up and your core temperature at a slightly more regulated level. 

Average swimming speed from beginners to elites 

If you’re starting out trying to increase your speed, you’ll probably be swimming at around 1.3mph on average. This equates to one mile in around 45 minutes which is a massive achievement! 

As an intermediate swimmer, you’ll probably get up to around 1.5 to 1.9mph on average and seeing how you progress from beginner to intermediate will be a great motivator! 

It’s easy to compare ourselves to others but remember that nobody is the same and we all will have different strengths and speeds.

Elite athletes train for years to get to where they are, and they can often swim at around 4-6mph depending on their swimming style and fitness. 

How far can the average person swim in an hour?

The average person can normally swim around 2 miles in an hour if they are in a chlorinated, warm pool.

This is again based on their overall fitness, but this is pretty much the norm. 

As stated above, an hour in the sea may mean you’re a lot slower and this will reduce your distance by quite a lot. On average, an hour in the sea will get you about a mile in distance. 

An hour is a long time to be swimming, so it’s a good idea to build up to swimming for an hour and not try to do it all in one go straight away.

As well as building up to it, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re using the right swimming stroke and not over expend yourself by trying to go too quickly to start. 

How to swim faster 

If you want to increase your swimming speed, try breaking your target speed and distance into small chunks.

Try to hit your target in these small bursts and keep building and repeating until you can eventually swim your target distance at your target speed.

It’s about making it a more manageable challenge! Check out some more of our top swimming tips for beginners.

What is the fastest swimming stroke? 

The swimming stroke you use when trying to go faster can have an impact on how fast you go.

We’ve mentioned that front crawl will help you go faster as you’ll be more streamlined and you’re using less energy.

Front crawl or freestyle as its also known is the one that Olympic swimmers use as you can kick much faster. 

Breaststroke and back crawl are going to be slightly slower as they expend a lot more energy and you won’t be kicking as fast.

See this article for more information on the fastest swimming strokes

How long to swim certain distances 

When you look at your stats, you might want to look at how long it might take you to swim certain distances so you can plan your workout accordingly. 

50 Metres – this is a great sprint distance for you to do, especially in training if you’re doing sprint intervals. The average is probably around 1 minute for the average swimmer. 

100 metres – a standard race distance in competitions; it’s a great length to aim towards. This will take most people around 2 minutes to complete.

1 kilometre – in a pool this would be 20 lengths of a 50-metre pool or 40 lengths of a standard 25 metre pool. It would take between 25 to 45 minutes to swim this length. 

A swim marathon (10km) – a swimming marathon is not the same as a running marathon so to swim this in a 25-metre pool would be 400 lengths and will take around 2 hours and 20 on average for women and 2 hours for men. 

For more on how long it will take to swim certain distances and the records for men and women, we have another post which covers common swimming distances.

If you want to find out more information on swimming and how it can be a great exercise for you to take part in then head over to our dedicated swimming page.


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