In the international swimming community, one mile is signified as 1,650 yards or 1,500 meters. However, these distances are just short of a true mile. One mile is equal to 5,280 feet, 1,760 yards, or 1,609.344 meters. This means that the 1,650-yard mile is 6.25% shorter than a true mile, and the 1,500-meter mile is 6.8% shorter!

How many laps will it take you to swim a true mile? Let’s find out.

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Related: How to Get Back Into Swimming Shape

Laps vs. Lengths

Some people measure their swims in lengths, and others measure their swims in laps. While the conversation about laps vs. lengths differs depending on who you talk to, for the purposes of this discussion let’s assume the following:

  • One length: Swim from one end of the pool to the other.
  • One lap: Swim to the other end of the pool and back one time.

However, it’s important to note that many competitive swimmers don’t comply with the above definitions, and instead consider one lap to be swimming from one end of the pool to the other.

Long Course vs. Short Course

Pools are categorized as either short course (25-yard or 25-meter pools) or long course (50-meter pools). For racing purposes, there are two distance standards for the mile that account for the difference between yards and meters:

  • 25-yard pool: 1,650 yards
  • 25-meter or 50-meter pool: 1,500 meters

Related: How MySwimPro Helps Me Train for the 200 & 400 Freestyle

How to Swim a True Mile in a Pool

Based on your pool length, here are how many laps you’ll need to swim to complete a true mile:

  • 20 Yard Pool: 1,760 yards is 88 lengths (44 laps)
  • 25 Yard Pool: 1760 yards is 70.4 lengths (35.2 laps)
  • 25 Meter Pool: 1610 meters is 64.4 lengths (32.2 laps)
  • 30 Meter Pool: 1610 meters is 53.6 lengths (26.8 laps)
  • 50 Meter Pool: 1610 meters is 32.2 lengths (16.1 laps)

The longer your pool, the fewer laps you will need to complete to reach one mile.

Related: The 12 Most Beautiful Pools in the World

The Nautical Mile

If you have access to an ocean or lake, consider swimming a nautical mile. The nautical mile is measured as one minute of arc of latitude along any meridian, and is commonly used for navigation on boats and planes.

Related: How to Swim Straight in Open Water

Measuring miles by degrees of latitude is also imperfect, as the Earth is not a perfect sphere, causing a nautical mile to get longer as you get closer to the Earth’s poles. For that reason, the nautical mile has been standardized as 1,852 meters.

A Bit of History

The first meter pool was used in the 1908 London Olympics. The imperial system became the standard for the international swimming community outside of the U.S. and swimming events then became modeled after track events. Similar to the 440-yard running tracks of that time, 55-yard swimming pools were built in the United States to make the entire process more standardized. Today, the 100m, 200m, and 400m events are standard on the track and in the pool.

The United States eventually began running long course meters (50-meter pool) competitions in the summer and preserved short course yards (25-yard pool) swimming in the winter.

Today, long course swimming is respected as the international standard for competition, with the World Championships and Olympic Games held in long course format. The Short Course World Championships, European Championships and the FINA World Cup Circuit are held in short course meters (25-meter pool).

Precision is Key

At one international competition, the 50-meter pool was built before the invention of touch-pads. The pool was 1cm shorter than 50 meters when the touch-pads were IN the pool. Records that might have been set in the so-called “short” pool would not count as records. Before the meet started, organizers discovered this very problem.

With hundreds of swimmers set to arrive in a matter of days, the facility drained the pool, shaved 1cm off the wall, re-plastered the shaved surface, and re-filled the pool, with only hours to spare.

Ready to Swim Your First Mile?

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    • Hi Chris, 5 miles equals 26,400 feet or 8,800 yards. That would be 352 lengths in a 25 yard pool or 161 lengths in a 50 meter pool or 322 lengths in a 25 meter pool.

  1. Pingback: how many lengths of a 25m pool is a mile – WDF

  2. Danelle Shoemaker on

    If yards are longer than meters, why does it require more lengths of the pool to swim a mile in a yard pool, rather than a meter pool?

  3. Louise Ann Harrison on

    So call me thick but im doing a 22 mile swim over 3 months to raise money for Diabetes, so i was thinking of doing 5 days a week 25 length pool so 60 back n forth how many would i have to do have i worked it out right

    • Hi Louise! To reach 22 miles in 3 months, you would need to swim at least 550 meters at each of your swim sessions (if you swim 5 times per week).

  4. Patrick McGough on

    I’m so glad to see it written somewhere authoritatively that one lap equals two lengths of the pool. In other words, a lap means: back to where you started from. There seems to be some debate about this in some swim communities but it seems so obvious to me. One of the worst offenders is the Apple watch. I love all the metrics their swim workout app provides but it drives me crazy that they consider each length to be a lap.

    • I’m not sure which Apple Watch you have, but mine count lengths. Check your settings to make sure you have the correct length set (ie: if one length is 25 meters you would need to set for 27 yards.) Unfortunately it only measures in yards.

      • Hey Greg! Hold in where it says pool length with a hard press. It will let you change to yard if you have a yard length pool🙂

  5. Great article Fares, with some good historical bits. And cleared some stuff up around miles and nautical miles. Just needs knots in the info to help the open water swimming and wind /tide effect! Unless this is another topic?

  6. Hi my name is Teresa I have signed up to do the diabetes 22 mile swim 2021, I only can swim 2-3 days per week for one hour each session at the minute due to COVID , it’s a 30 metre pool, so how many lengths would I need to complete each swim, I keep trying to work it out but I must be thick or something, I’m not a very fast swimmer at all lol.

    • Hi Teresa! To swim 1,500m (traditionally considered the “mile” in meters), you would need to swim 50 lengths (or 25 laps back and forth) in your 30-meter pool. Hope this helps!

  7. Awesome!! I swim a “mile” 5-6 days a week and today a gentleman at the pool informed me I would need to swim 72 lengths instead of the 64 I was doing (25 yard pool). I was so discouraged! This helped me feel better. Btw, I’m 69 years old. Lol

  8. Pingback: How many meters in a mile swim? – QNAFaq

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