It feels great to be able to successfuly complete a mile swim. A mile is the longest competitive race for non-open-water swimming at the Olympics, and it feels pretty cool to do it. You may have a goal to complete a mile as a recreational swimmer as well. A mile of swimming is a great workout, so I thought it would be helpful to share how many laps you’ll need to swim to reach 1 mile.

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The number of laps you’ll need to swim to reach a mile will depend on the type of swimming pool where you’re performing your workout. It will most likely be in a 25 yard (SCY) pool, a 25-meter (SCM) pool, or a 50-meter (LCM) pool. Though a lap is technically defined as two lengths of a pool, most people use the term as one length of the pool.
Here’s how many laps (1 length of the pool) you’ll have to swim to reach one full mile or a “swimmer’s mile”:
Short Course Yard (SCY) Length PoolShort Course Meter (SCM) Length PoolLong Course Meter (LCM) Length Pool
# of Laps in a Swimmer’s Mile666030
# of Laps in a Full Mile 70.464.432.2

If that’s all the information you needed, we hope you enjoy your 1-mile swim! But we recommend you read on to find out:

What a swimmer’s mile isHow to determine other lap-distance equivalentsWhat to do to get an accurate measurement and not lose countAnd how long it might take you to complete your 1-mile swim.

How long is a mile?

A mile is exactly 5280 feet. In the US, in Denver (the mile-high city) 5280 is the name of the local magazine and there is a huge statue in Denver made from the same four numbers. So, yeah, that stands for 5,280 feet, which is the number of feet in a mile.

However, that number doesn’t really help you when it comes to swimming since swimming pools are either measured in yards or meters. Here’s the breakdown:

# of MilesMetersYardsFeet

Whether you are walking, running, or swimming, a full mile will always be the same distance. It just happens to look very different in a swimming pool since you’ll be going back and forth for a distance that is significantly shorter than a mile.

With that said, there is also something we can refer to as a “swimmer’s mile.” And this time, it’s not actually a mile. The swimming race that is referred to as “the mile” is actually only 1,500 meters (1,650 yards). So, if you reference the chart above, you’ll notice that it’s a bit over 100 meters short of a full mile. However, it’s the longest competitive swimming event in a pool and is the closest to a mile you’ll see. (Though swimmers do still compete in full mile races in open water.)

So, how much shorter is a swimming pool than a mile and how many laps do you have to complete to achieve both a real mile and a “swimmer’s mile”?

Different Types of Pool Sizes

Swimming pools that are utilized for lap swimming almost always come in one of 3 sizes: Short Course Meters, Short Course Yards, and Long Course Meters.

What is the difference between the three?


Short Course Meters and Short Course Yards are similar sized pools, but they are not the same. Being that they’re both Short Course (SC), one lap of either pool is referred to as a “25.” However, 25 meters is not equivalent to 25 yards. 25 meters is close to 10% longer.

This is the comparison:

22.86 meters = 25 yards

What this means is that if a 25-meter pool and a 25-yard pool were side by side, the meter pool would stretch a little longer. Though similar to most people, for swimmers it makes a big difference. Your “25” time will be slower in a meter pool. But you’ll end up swimming fewer laps to reach a mile in a meter pool since it’s longer.

There are also what we refer to as Olympic-size swimming pools, and they are 50 meters in length. One lap here would be a “50.” Most recreational swimmers and younger competitive swimmers will find that most pools available to them are 25 yards or 25 meters in length, but 50-meter pools do exist.

When completing a swimming workout, you might be going for time, but you also might be going for distance. If you want to complete a full mile swim (or a fraction thereof), you’ll need to know how many laps you’ll need to swim in each type of pool to reach each of those distances.

Number of Laps in an Actual Mile (and other distance)

The chart above shows how many laps you’ll need to swim in each type of pool to reach one mile of distance. In order to determine the number of laps, I took the mile distance in either yards or meters and divided it by the length of the pool. The equation is:

# of yards or meters in one mile/the distance of the pool (in yards or meters)

Short-Course Yard Pool: 1,760 yards/25 yards = 70.4 lapsShort-Course Meter Pool: 1,609.3 meters/25 meters = 64.4 lapsLong-Course Meter Pool: 1609.3 meters/50 meters = 32.2 laps

Once you know how many laps you need to complete 1 mile, it’s pretty easy to figure out some other distances such as 2 miles (multiply by 2), 1/2 mile (divide the laps by 2), or 1/4 mile (divide the laps by 4).

Luckily, I did the math for you.

Short Course Yard (SCY) Length PoolShort Course Meter (SCM) Length PoolLong Course Meter (LCM) Length Pool
# of Laps in 1/4 Mile17.616.18.05
# of Laps in 1/2 Mile35.232.216.1
# of Laps in 1 Mile70.464.432.2
# of Laps in 2 Miles140.8128.864.4

You can use the same formula (# of yards in one mile/yard distance of the pool) if you have a pool that’s a different size. Let’s say you measure your backyard pool and it’s 18 yards long. Take 1,760 and divide by 18. You’ll need to complete 97.8 laps to reach a mile. That’s a lot of flip turns!

In a workout, you’ll probably look to the chart above to cover various distances. However, if you’re practicing for or competing in a swimmer’s mile, the following information will be helpful to you.

# of yards or meters in a “swimmer’s mile”/the distance of the pool (in yards or meters)

Short-Course Yard Pool: 1,650 yards/25 yards = 66 lapsShort-Course Meter Pool: 1,500 meters/25 meters = 60 lapsLong-Course Meter Pool: 1,500 meters/50 meters = 30 laps

The easy part was figuring out how many laps you’ll have to swim to reach each of these distances. The hard part will be the actual swimming…and, um, trying not to lose count of your laps.



Whenever a swimmer races a mile at a competition, they have a counter-friend who shows them every other turn how many laps they have left. At the end of the race, the judge honks a horn for the leading swimmer which indicates that they have two lengths left. Nowadays, more and more often, big international competitions use electronic counters that are placed at the bottom of the pool and are visible to the swimmer.

This isn’t realistic when you’re swimming alone, however. And remembering what lap you’re on is a lot harder than you’d think! Even swimmers who swim a 500-yard race (only 20 laps) have someone counting for them so they don’t forget.

Although you could try your best to count your laps one by one until you get to a mile (or a variation of that), there are three much easier ways to accurately track your distance.

Tools to Use to Measure Your Swimming Mileage

On-the-Deck Lap Counter

If you don’t feel like dropping extra dollars on a fancy watch that counts your laps, this lap counter will do the trick. One bead could equal one or two laps, so you’ll be able to easily keep track. I would recommend only stopping every 100 to move the beads down. Then you don’t have to stop as often.

Wearable Lap Counter

This type of lap counter is one you can wear on your finger. Each time you complete a lap, you will push the button with your thumb to count the lap. The nice part about it is that it won’t interrupt the flow of your swimming. You never have to stop to count a lap as it’s easy enough to push the button as you push off the wall into your next lap. It also includes a timer so that you can see how fast you’re performing your laps.

GPS Swim Watch

If you’re able to spend some extra money, then a swim watch with GPS capability is the way to go. There are various products to choose from and this one in particular measures total distance, laps, time, calories, and pace. Not only will it completely count your laps for you, you’ll also get a load of other helpful data. Swimming a mile is probably going to take you a while and you’re going to be tired. It’s nice to have the guesswork taken out for you of how many laps you’ve already swum. On top of that, if you’re swimming in an odd-shaped pool or in open water, having this type of watch is necessary if you want to know how far you’ve gone. And hearing that beep when you’ve finished with your mile is a great feeling.

How long will it take to swim a mile?

Now that you know how many laps you’ll need to swim to reach a mile (or a “swimmer’s mile”), you might be wondering how long that’s going to take you. The time it will take someone to complete a 1-mile swim varies drastically between swimmers. But one thing is for sure, it takes a whole lot longer to swim a mile than it does to run a mile. And since a “swimmer’s mile” is shorter than a real mile, you’ll obviously cover that distance in less amount of time.

See more: How Many Seconds In A Ms Milliseconds To Seconds S, Milliseconds To Seconds

Elite swimmers can swim a full mile around 15-17 minutes, faster swimmers will be in the 20-30 minute range, and it may take slower swimmers closer to 40 minutes or more.