What Is The Average Time It Takes To Swim A Mile?

Swimming a mile is a lot harder than walking one, and that’s because swimming takes a lot more effort, which is kind of obvious. However, some swimmers can, not only swim the whole mile, but do it at an impressive speed too! 

The current world swimming record for the mile swim, is an astounding 14 minutes and 31 seconds, by Sun Yang, a competitive swimmer from China. As for the women’s mile swim category, the record is kept by Katie Ledecky, from the United States, at 15 minutes and 20 seconds, which is equally amazing! 

What Is The Average Time It Takes To Swim A Mile

However, competitive swimming is not exactly the average time. Not to mention that the competitive mile swim is not actually a full mile, as it is around 110 yards short (quite an interesting fact!) 

So…what is the average swimming time, for an actual mile? Does the type of environment affect the average time? Does the swimming technique or style affect it? 

We can answer all these questions and more so that you become a sort of expert on swimming a mile, which is an oddly specific niche to focus on, but each to their own. 

Let’s get started! 

How Long Does It Take To Swim A Mile?

We’re going to talk about the average time it takes to swim a mile, but first, just so that you can compare and think about it in more depth, it’s worth talking about how long it would take to swim a mile exactly, and you can read this thinking about your specific abilities and circumstances to get an idea of how long it would take you.

Put simply, the answer would, of course, depend. The exact amount of time that it would take you, personally, to swim a mile, is dependent on many different factors, such as how good a swimmer you are, how much you have been training, your gender and age, your swimming technique, and many more. 

Beginners, as a general rule, will take between 40 to 50 minutes to swim a mile (that is if they make it, which on average, they should). Intermediate swimmers should be able to swim a mile in 30 to 35 minutes.

And advanced swimmers will usually be able to swim the whole mile in 25 minutes, or even less. (Competitive swimmers are on a whole other level, so we won’t even talk about them, we’ve given you the world records already.) 

If you’re aiming to swim a mile, at the best time possible, then the above times are a good chart of comparison that you can pit yourself against, depending on your level of swimming abilities and technique.

We recommend that you swim a mile calmly, at a comfortable pace, timing yourself. And then, swim a mile pushing yourself as hard as you can, and time yourself again. Then you will get an average time, and a time to beat and improve over time. 

However, don’t become obsessed with the times. The aim should always be to improve slowly, over time, so that you can eventually swim a mile at a decent speed, without having your muscles burn up in pain.

And remember, it’s all about getting into a good rhythm! Practice, practice, and more practice. That’s all there is to it. 

The Average Time For Swimming A Mile

The Average Time for Swimming A Mile

Okay, now that we’ve talked about your specific hypothetical swimming scenario, it’s time to focus on answering what the average time is, for swimming a mile. And once again, it depends on certain circumstances, so instead of one average, we’re going to give you a few:

  • The average time for the mile swim in a pool: 26 minutes
  • The average time for the mile swim in open water: 30 minutes
  • The average time for the mile swim in the ocean: 35 minutes
  • The average time for the mile swim with breaststroke: 45 to 50 minutes

It is important to note that these averages have been calculated with the results from swim meets, with various swimmers from different age groups and categories.

However, for a complete beginner, these averages will likely seem a little high, and that is because these averages are taken from swimmers that regularly train and focus on improving their swim speed.

Getting a more realistic average time, for normal people, would be almost impossible, as only serious swimmers will participate in mile swims. 

But if we’re talking averages, the fastest people would have an estimate of around 19 minutes to complete the mile swim, while the slower people would require around 50 minutes, sometimes even more. 

As you can see, from the averages we have exposed, it is a lot faster to swim the mile in a swimming pool, with the ocean being the slowest environment in which to swim.

And if you swim using the breaststroke, it will of course also take you longer, as it is not a swimming style specifically built for speed, and instead, most swimmers would choose to swim in a standard front crawl. 

Swimming A Mile In The Ocean

Swimming a mile in the ocean is not the same as swimming a mile in the swimming pool, or a lake, or a similar body of water. The ocean presents additional challenges, which slow down the average swimming speed, and therefore, it takes a little longer. 

Here are some of the factors that cause the ocean to slow down the swimming speed: 

  • Currents

The ocean has currents, and these can pull you in different directions, at different varying strengths. Sometimes, the current can push you forward in the direction you are going in, which can be a massive help.

But most of the time, swimmers in the ocean will find themselves swimming against the currents, which means they are slowed down and are having to put in double the amount of effort. 

  • Waves

The waves in the ocean can be a lot of fun, but not if they are pushing you off course and getting in the way of your mile swim! This is yet another challenge that ocean swimming presents to swimmers, and it slows them down. 

  • Differences in water temperature

It might not seem like it, but changes in water temperature can also affect your swimming speed, as your body will react to the differences, especially when switching between one and another. The water temperature shifts usually come with the currents. 

  • Outdoor weather conditions

Weather doesn’t matter much while you’re in the water, as long as it is not having a direct effect on the water. Windy days can cause bigger waves, for example, and this will affect your swimming speed. 

  • Safety precautions

When you’re swimming in a pool, you don’t really have to think about much. It’s just back and forth, from one end to the other, and you could practically do it with your eyes closed.

However, in the ocean, you are within a wild environment, with plenty of risks to be wary of. You have to regularly check that you are on the right course and have not been dragged by the currents, and you also have to be careful of any rock formations, animals, and others. 

Basically, swimming a mile in the ocean is harder, with far more obstacles to overcome, which is why the average time is slightly longer than the average mile swims in a pool or other body of water. 

Swimming A Mile with Breaststroke

As a general rule, competitive swimmers will always swim using the front crawl style, because it is by far the fastest. That is unless they are competing and there is a specific rule of style they have to follow.

Front crawl, put simply, is the most effective swimming style for advancing forward through the water, at the fastest speed. However, it also consumed a lot of energy and effort, as it is quite a full-on style, especially at higher speeds. 

On the flip side, we have the breaststroke style, often considered to be one of the most comfortable to use, with it being ideal for long distances and for people that want to have a more low-effort attempt. 

(At the end of the day, different swimmers prefer different styles of swimming, and there is no truly objective way of classifying them, as it depends on the individual’s tendencies, technique, and abilities). 

But to get to the point; since the averages for the mile swim are for swimmers that have used the front crawl style, it is also worth exploring the average for breaststroke, and why it differs. 

The average for swimming a mile with breaststroke is between 45 to 50 minutes, far longer than the normal average. So it’s safe to say that it is a lot slower. 

There is the chance to reduce this time significantly, if you implement a more competitive style of breaststroke, in which you up the speed. However, this would be very hard to maintain over a longer distance, and it would require a lot of effort.

So only swimmers that specifically train in the breaststroke to competitive levels would be able to get a far better average time using this style of swimming. And even then, it would not come close to the normal average for front crawl. 

So…why would you ever use breaststroke for swimming the mile? Well, there are several benefits to it: 

  • It is more low-effort, making it a great option for beginners or intermediate swimmers that want to attempt the mile swim without much previous experience or training
  • It offers the possibility of keeping your head above water (although this massively slows down the speed), which is a great option for non-competitive swimmers to perform the mile swim in the ocean, safely, keeping track of the direction and where they are
  • It is a more apt style for casual swimmers and older people, so that they may too attempt the mile swim safely 

Basically, using breaststroke is not the best idea if you want to swim a mile at top speed, but it can be a good option if you want to enjoy the mile swim calmly.

Final Thoughts

To sum this up, the average amount of time that it takes to swim a mile depends on the environment and conditions. The average in a pool is 25 minutes or less, while the average in the ocean is 30 minutes or more. This will, of course, also depend on the swimmer’s abilities, and many different factors.

If you are planning on swimming a mile, and you want to improve your time, focus on regular training, long-distance swimming, and technique.

Matt Williams