The average swimming speed is 2 miles per hour but this varies greatly depending on the swimmer’s level, fitness, technique, and a number of external factors.
But, everyone has to start somewhere so if your swimming speed is not yet that fast, have a look at some of our top tips to pick up your pace.
What is the average swimming speed?
It’s no secret that Olympic swimmers are among the world’s fastest people. But what about the ordinary person? What are the average swim times by age?
Although the average swimming speed may vary due to several factors, it is approximately 2 miles per hour which equates to 56 to 60 seconds for one length in a 50-meter pool.
While you may not swim for the Olympics or elite competitions, knowing your speed helps track and improve your progress. If you know your swim pace, you can also use a swim pace chart to work out how long it will take you to swim longer distances or use this swim pace calculator to work out your pace.
Average swimming speed for beginners
If the average swim pace is approximately 1 minute to swim a 50m length, then it will take approximately 2 minutes to swim 100m. (A lap in a 50m pool.)
A beginner will take much longer to complete a length, so a time of 1 min 30 to swim a 50 m length is more realistic.
The key to building your speed in the water is dedication, patience, and time. Work on improving your technique and fitness. As you become more efficient and skilled, your speed will also increase.
What is a good swimming speed?
A “good swimming speed” is subjective, and what one person perceives to be good may not be the same for another. Many factors determine how fast you can swim, including water conditions, stroke, and fitness level.
The average two-minute mile pace is considered a great place to start. If you fall short of this goal, do not panic. It takes time and practice, even for Olympic athletes.
What is a fast swimming speed?
Consider rigorous training to improve your speed and excel at swimming. The fastest swimming pace ever achieved is 6 mph, a record set by Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps in 2010.
Here is a table displaying the World Record times for different races.
Factors that affect swimming speed
Let’s look at the factors that can affect your swimming speed. Keep these in mind when you’re timing yourself.
Physical fitness of the swimmer
Like any other sport, swimming requires muscular endurance to excel at the highest level. Maintaining a stroke such as butterfly, backstroke, or even freestyle takes an intense physical toll on the body and burns between 300 to 600 calories per hour.
Even though you are in the water, remember to stay hydrated during training to avoid muscle fatigue and injury.
Drag and resistance
Water is substantially denser than air, meaning it has a higher resistance to movement. It makes it difficult for a swimmer to maneuver with speed because of increased drag from friction.
Luckily, to solve this problem, technology has led to swimsuits specifically designed to minimize drag and reduce water resistance.
The swim stroke
Different strokes require varying amounts of energy expenditure. For example, the breaststroke is easier to do than the butterfly, so a less-fit swimmer might do better in a breaststroke event.
If you want to beat the average swimming speed, the front crawl is your best option.
There are a few factors around water conditions that can affect your swim speed.
Turbulence: The first one is turbulence. If you’ve ever tried to swim in choppy water, you’ll know that it can be slow going! If you are swimming in a pool with many other swimmers, it can get turbulent. Most training pools have lane ropes that are designed to absorb the waves. If you are swimming in a pool without a lane rope, the waves can affect your swim pace quite a bit.
Pool depth: The more shallow the pool, the more turbulence you’ll get from other swimmers. When you swim, you not only push water away from you but also downwards. If the pool is shallow, the waves can bounce back and slow your pace.
Temperature: Competition water is usually between 25 – 28℃. If the temperature is hotter than this, it may drain energy or the swimmers might get too hot. If it’s cold, it can shock the swimmer and may prevent the muscles from working smoothly. This will again affect how fast you swim.
Top tips to increase your swimming speed
You can improve your swimming speed in various ways. As with all things, practice and perseverance are key.
Improve your fitness
Incorporating dryland physical training into your routine can be beneficial if you want to improve your speed.
Fortunately, simple workouts don’t require much time or equipment and can significantly improve your fitness levels. Bodyweight exercises such as squats, pushups, pullups, lunges, and more can all improve your strength and overall fitness.
Reduce the drag
Drag is every swimmer’s worst nightmare. It not only increases resistance and makes maneuvering through the water more difficult, but it also exhausts your body faster.
You can quickly reduce drag by correctly balancing your body. Avoid kicking with your knees splayed open, as it’ll only create unnecessary drag.
Focus on a powerful pull
Contrary to popular belief, pulling is more than just moving your arms. Your right arm contributes about two-thirds of your stroke power, while the legs the other third.
Unfortunately, most swimmers cannot pull to their full potential, a condition known as a low elbow. This positions your arm at an awkward angle, limiting your ability to stretch fully.
To solve this issue, maintain your elbow as extended as possible during your stroke.
Practice your kicks
Like the rest of your strokes, improper kicks can reduce speed and lead to exhaustion. When done correctly, kicks help in the following:
- Balancing the body and lowering the drag.
- Increasing efficiency by creating forward momentum.
- Providing a strong hip drive to propel your body further and faster.
- Comes in handy from start to finish, offering the much-needed boost to win your race.
Focus on balance
Poor balance is often associated with slow swimming speeds. You’ll encounter more resistance and drag in the water if your body is unbalanced.
So, how do you overcome this problem? The key to improving your balance is simple: focus on maintaining a straight line from head to toe when you’re in motion.
Alternatively, swim downhill so that your legs and hips lift above the surface. By exerting additional pressure on your chest, you redistribute weight to the front of your body and relieve strain on your back muscles.
Spread your fingers
If you cannot keep up with other swimmers, a common mistake is gripping your fingers together in an attempt to streamline. This action drastically reduces your grip strength, slows your pace, and may even cause cramping.
Instead, maintain a small space between your fingers and make sure they’re relaxed.
Lastly, remember that everyone has to start somewhere. If you are a beginner, record your swim pace and use the above tips to work on improving your speed.
- The average swimming pace is roughly two miles per hour, and the fastest human speed recorded is six miles per hour
- Consistently exercise to improve your swimming technique
- Maintain proper body balance to reduce drags
- Maintain your elbow as stretched as possible during your stroke to maximize your pulling power
- Practice proper kicks and avoid interlocking your fingers