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by Kelly O’Mara

December 23, 2019

U.S. Masters Swimming provides many ways to see how your times compare to swimmers across the country

If you just started swimming, it can be hard to know if you’re doing well. What’s a good time and what’s a normal time for someone your age?

It’s hard to determine the exact average swimming speed, because it depends on who and what you’re averaging. According to a Red Cross survey, although 80 percent of Americans say they know how to swim, only a bit over half of those people are actually able to pass a basic swim safety test. That means the average swimming speed for a 50 or a mile is much slower when you factor in all those nonswimmers.

If you’re looking to compare yourself to fast swimmers around your age, you can look at the U.S. Masters Swimming national championship national qualifying times. Those certainly aren’t average swim times of adults your age, but they can give you something to aim for.

You can also use the results from all the different Masters meets as a way to figure out some range of average swim times by age. Look through the USMS meet results database to see times for everything from the 50 freestyle to the 1650 and other strokes. You can sort the meet database by age, distance, year, and even short course (25 yards or meters across) or long course (50 meters across).

Looking for more great information about swimming? Check out our Swimming 101 guide featuring swimming pool and stroke basics, how to start swim training as an adult, and more.

For example, if you search for 50- to 54-year-old men’s 100-yard freestyle in 2018-19, the fastest time is 48.26 seconds. But the middle time of the top 500 is 1:04.64. For the 25- to 29-year-old women, the average swimming time for the 1650 (the swimming competition version of a mile), out of the times recorded, is around 21:30.

None of this is exactly a mathematical average, but it’s a bit more accurate of an approximation for the normal or average swim times for those who actually race.

Trying to answer the question of what times are normal for a swimmer your age is partially why USA Swimming releases what it calls “motivational standards” for its age-group swimmers. These are determined using historical fastest times and an adjustment factor. (You can see the full mathematical model of how the times are calculated.)

However, the motivational standards—ranging from AAAA to B standards—are only calculated for youth swimmers, which can be a bit discouraging for adult swimmers. That’s why some USMS members applied the formula to their own age groups to create motivational average swimming standards for adults too. For those same examples above, the 50-54 men’s 100-yard freestyle motivational times range from 52.69 to 1:10.29. The average swimming speed for the 1650 for 25- to 29-year-old women ranges from 20:44.49 to 27:39.29.

You can do the same math to figure out the average swim times for your age and distance and pool length.


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