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Where to Start: From Zero to a Mile Swim Plan for Newbies

The 4-Week Plan to Swimming Your First Mile

It is possible that in one month from now, you can say you've swum a mile. Following this training plan and keeping these beginner swim tips in mind, you can get into the best shape of your life in a matter of weeks. Like any new fitness routine, this program starts off slow and continues to increase in yardage. Stick with freestyle (for now), and do each workout three times a week with a rest day in between. Let us know how it goes!

Week 1

Warmup: 200 yards
1 x 200 yards — easy (rest as needed)
Endurance: 400 yards
2 x 200 yards — moderate (rest 1:30 minute in between)
Intervals: 200 yards
2 x 100 yards — build speed (rest 1 minute in between)
Warmdown: 100 yards
4 x 25 yards — easy (rest as needed)

Total: 900 yards

Week 2

Warmup: 200 yards
1 x 200 yards — easy (rest as needed)
Endurance: 600 yards
6 x 100 yards — moderate (rest 1 minute in between)
Intervals: 300 yards
6 x 50 yards — first lap fast, second lap moderate (rest 30 seconds in between)
Warmdown: 100 yards
1 x 100 yards — easy (rest as needed)

Total: 1,200 yards

Week 3

Warmup: 300 yards
1 x 300 yards — easy (rest as needed)
Endurance: 600 yards
3 x 200 yards — moderate (rest 1 minute in between)
Intervals: 400 yards
4 x 100 yards — make the first 100 easy, building up to a fast fourth 100 (rest 30 seconds in between)
Warmdown: 100 yards
4 x 25 yards — easy (rest as needed)

Total: 1,400 yards

Week 4

Warmup: 400 yards
2 x 200 yards — easy (rest as needed)
Endurance: 600 yards
3 x 300 yards — moderate (rest 1:30 minute in between)
Intervals: 450 yards
9 x 50 yards — 3 x 50 easy, 3 x 50 moderate, 3 x 50 fast (rest 15 seconds in between)
Warmdown: 200 yards
2 x 100 yards — easy (rest as needed)

Total: 1,650 yards* (1 mile!)

*This may seem odd since we all learned in school that a mile is 1,760 yards, but in competitive swimming the mile even is 1,650 yards (or 1,500 meters). However, in an open-water swim, a mile is really a mile.

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
Natasha15374970 Natasha15374970 3 years
Not sure if this has been addressed, but 1650 yards is not a mile. 1 mile is equal to 5280 feet which is 1760 yards. This final work out is 1650 yards, or 110 yards short of 1 mile. The author of this swim plan needs to tack on another 4.5 laps.
teri99 teri99 4 years
My goal is to try a couple of triathlons. I have looked at the couch to 5K, and as much as I hate running, I think I could do that program. But this Zero to 1-mile program starts off quick. 14 laps on the first day? I think I'm going to almost cut the program in half. I'm going to give this a try. 50 yards \u2013 rest for\u00a06 breaths, repeat 3 more times. 25\u00a0yards \u2013 rest for\u00a04 breaths, repeat more 3 times. 25 yards \u2013 rest for\u00a08 breaths, repeat more 3 times. \u00a0 Then maybe week 2 I'll try what was suggested. \u00a0
Da-Ly Da-Ly 8 years
It is doable. It looks like it's to be done all three days. If you don't feel up to doing it all three days, you could really spread it out better. I started swimming again last year, and each week I increased how much I did. 5 laps, 10, 25, 35, 50, 60. Sixty with the pool I went to was a mile. But, with gradual increase, you can do a mile. It took me about 1 month and a half, but this was also swimming 5 times a week, early in the morning. :S
Choco-cat Choco-cat 9 years
I'm a little confused with the instructions. Week One (Three Days): 100 yards. rest for 12 breaths - repeat 3 more times 50 yards. rest for 8 breaths - repeat 3 more times 25 yards. rest for 4 breaths - repeat 3 more times So am I doing this ALL each of the three days? Or am I doing the first line the 1st (of 3) days, the 2nd line the 2nd (of 3 days), etc.? I do have to say that if I am expected to do it all each day, this is not a program for a total couch potato (I would know, as I am one). Also, for the following weeks, how many days am I supposed to do those yards? Am I sticking with 3 days a week? Can someone help me out with this? Thanks
hayworthgilda hayworthgilda 9 years
I tried this last summer, and got really thrown by trying to do 14 laps on the first few days. Totally couldn't hack it. I need a plan to get me ready for the plan! I am, however, loving the Couch-to-5K plan! Maybe after I build up to 5Ks, 14 laps won't be so difficult for me. hmm...
SaraJeanQueen SaraJeanQueen 9 years
FitSugar... if your epeat each set a total of 4 times, it still doesn't add up to 28 lengths, does it???
SaraJeanQueen SaraJeanQueen 9 years
Thanks for posting this!! I'm an avid runner, and I'd like to try to add swimming. It's so hard though!! (I guess that's a good sign though, huh?) I will really try this program at the gym this week. I'm the type of person that needs limits and goals to do something.
Fitness Fitness 9 years
Thanks swimmergirl! Just added for clarification that you repeat each set a total of 4 times. Tidal Wave, what is nice it get to take breaks and the side and catch your breath, just like you walk in between running sets on the Couch to 5k plan.
swimmergirl swimmergirl 9 years
I am not sure about the yardage listed for the workouts - maybe there is an element missing? 100 yards – repeat 3 times. = 300 yards 50 yards – repeat 3 times. = 150 yards 25 yards – repeat 3 times. =75 yards Total: = 525 yards NOT 700 yards.
juju4 juju4 9 years
I am so glad you posted this! I am moving to a new area, and will be living with my in-laws while searching for a house this summer. They have a lovely private pool, and I had planned on making the most of it and improving my breathing ability. I always was a pretty good swimmer when I was young....lots of swimming lessons as a kid and days spent at the lake and pools. My problem was just that I could swim a lap really quickly, and then I'd have to stop. I think I was hyperventalating, or not breathing out when I should.
runningesq runningesq 9 years
I <3 swimming! Tidal has a good point though ... for many people, this plan starts out a little strong!
cvandoorn cvandoorn 9 years
I remember being able to swim 100 laps and still feel fine. I was also 13 years old. But I haven't swam in years, so this is a great way to get started again. I have a thing against public pools dirty!
minhoca minhoca 9 years
I actually did this last summer and its great. I, too, had difficulty doing a lap, etc.. but its amazing how fast you improve.
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
A "from zero" plan starts out with 14 laps!! I'm not even sure I can do 1 without stopping! I'm going to have to research this better because the "from the couch" running plan worked for me but they have you start out walking, not running a mile!
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I wish I had a pool.
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