Novice Swimmers - Zero to One Mile in 6 Weeks

Swim the Mile in No Time

Sea Swim in the Atlantic Ocean
Harpa Hrund Berndsen / Getty Images

Young or old, fit or not, six weeks seems to be the most common length of time it takes to be able to swim a mile without stopping. It requires swimming three times per week and the willingness to be somewhat uncomfortable while stretching your aerobic capability. This series of swim workouts will get you swimming one mile in six weeks. You can take some of the recommendations to make your own version of the plan.

your main focus is to increase your distance while reducing the number of times you have to stop. Don't try to achieve the mile in the first week or two. You will get burned out. Instead, allow yourself to build up the necessary mental and physical strength you need to swim that mile with ease.

Here's the Plan to Boost Stamina

Swimming is just as much mental as it is physical. Both go hand-in-hand. Good luck trying to build muscle and boost stamina when you swim if you aren't in the right mind to push through the new workout. You will need it to achieve the 1-mile-mark in six weeks. Here's a quick look at how you could do it:

1. Week one: aim for 500 yards each day. You will take more breaths and swim fewer yards on day one, but as the week progresses, you must increase your distance and decrease the number of breaths you take in between. you will actually be able to do this by doing the reverse.

Give the following a try:

  • On day one: swim 100 yards 5 times. Stop to take 10-12 breaths in between each 100-yard lap.
  • On day two: swim 50 yards 5 times, and take only 6 to 8 breaths in between each lap
  • On day three: swim 25 yards 5 times, and take only 3 to 5 breaths after each lap.

1. When week two rolls around, try the same technique, but increase the total yards by 100 to 200 laps.

2. Each week leading up to the 6-week mark, increase the distance you want to cover by 200 to 300 yards for that week.

3. Work on your breathing. The ability to breath properly and efficiently will help boost your swim, target your timing, and increase your overall performance in the pool.

4. Consider dryland training techniques that help you build power and strength in the pool. Dryland exercises consist of strength training, resistance training, and stretching techniques to improve your swim, to reduce injuries, and to increase your overall strength.

When you are developing a dryland training program, don't assume that every workout will increase your swim performance. Stronger athletes don't always make better athletes if strength training is misguided. You have to train with intent. Do the exercises that directly translate into success in the pool, and make sure you avoid exercises that can damage your shoulders when you swim.

5. Your form is key! You have to maintain proper body mechanics and form for a safe and productive swim. Whether you swim in a pool or in open water, streamline is key to propel through the water, prevent injuries, and to reduce drag. 

What Is a Streamline?

Envision a straight line going down the back of your body.

Your head, body, and hips should all align. When you breathe, breathe on a horizontal plane (if you are doing freestyle) and raise the head only slightly if you are swimming the breaststroke. Don't maintain the integrity of the body to breathe.

The key to swimming stamina is this: go to the pool each day and push yourself harder than you did the day before.

Updated by Dr. John Mullen