How Long Does It Take to Learn to Swim?

Want to learn how to swim but not how long it will take? Here we break down different scenarios so you can get the best estimate.

One of the most common questions we get as teachers is – “How long does it take to learn to swim?” – To which we always give the short (and rather unsatisfying) answer: it depends.

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Because the truth is that every prospective swimmer learns at different rates. For example, if you’re athletic and can devote a couple of hours of training per week, you’ll probably be swimming laps in no time.

On the other hand, if you’re not comfortable at all in the water and can only manage a few sessions per month, your progression will obviously be slower.

But that’s not the answer you came here for. You want solid estimates. Well, don’t worry because, in this article, we’ll set out guidelines and estimates to help you get a better idea of how long it’ll take to become a confident swimmer.

You’ll learn:

  • The maximum age you can learn to swim
  • The different stages of learning to swim
  • What factors can speed up or slow down how long it’ll take you to learn swimming
  • The average time it takes to learn to swim for both adults and children
  • How long it takes to become a strong swimmer
  • And lastly, 5 tips to help you learn to swim faster

If that sounds good, then let’s dive in.

What’s The Maximum Age You Can Learn Swimming?


Many people think that they’re past it when it comes to swimming. They have a belief that swimming is something you must learn when you’re young or you’ll never be able to do it.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. There is no maximum age when you can start learning to swim and getting all the benefits that come with it. You could be 3 or 93 – it makes no difference.

In fact, as a form of exercise, swimming is ideal for us as we age. The low-impact nature and added resistance from the water keep our bodies strong, flexible and lean.

And the funny thing is, because adults have greater patience and are better at taking on feedback, they can usually learn faster than kids!

What Are The Steps of Learning to Swim?

When learning to swim, you don’t just go from not being able to float to swimming laps for time. It’s more of a spectrum that’s composed of s 3 main stages. They are:

  • Gaining Water Confidence: Not everyone is comfortable in the water. It’s not unusual to be scared of getting into the pool for the first few weeks. A good coach will be able to guide you painlessly through this stage and instil the confidence to move to the next step.
  • Laying the Fundamentals: This is where you’ll learn the basic skills that can be transferred to any stroke. You’ll master how to float, how to control your body in the water, how to streamline, kicking on your front and back plus lots more.
  • Dialling in Technique: The final phase of learning to swim. Here you’ll learn how to swim full strokes such as front crawl and back crawl. You’ll also learn more advanced skills such as tumble-turns and dives.

How long you’ll spend at different stages varies greatly based on several factors – let’s take a look at those now.

Factors Affecting How Long It Takes to Learn to Swim

Every swimmer’s journey is unique, here are 5 factors that can either speed up or slow down the learning process:

1. Fear of Water

Worrying about getting in the water is a huge fear for many beginners. Acclimatising to the water can take some time which lengthens the learning process.

2. Consistency

Learning new things takes consistency. And swimming is no different. Keeping pool visits and lessons consistent will massively accelerate the learning process as skills compound on top of each other.

3. Frequency

The more lessons you have, the better you’ll get. If you can take two lessons per week, naturally you’ll progress at a much faster rate than somebody who’s only taking one per week.

4. Motor Skills

If you’re a sporty person, you’ll probably pick up skills faster than somebody who isn’t that active. Older children and adults will generally learn faster than young kids too as they’ve better-developed motor skills.

5. Quality of instruction

A great swimming instructor can help speed up the learning process through their experience, knowledge and teaching methods.

So, How Long Does it Take to Learn to Swim?


Like learning how to play the piano or speak French; learning to swim takes quality instruction, time, effort, patience and buckets of practice.

As mentioned above, it’s hard to give exact numbers for the amount of time it’ll take you to learn to swim. But here’s some best estimates based on our years of experience:

How Long Does it Take to Learn to Swim For Children?

If you’re a parent you’re probably eager for your child to learn to swim. Not only is it a healthy activity, but it’s an important safety skill that could save their life. Here are some typical guidelines:

  • Infants (12 months – 18 months) who get private lessons for 30 minutes per week can usually swim confidently in about a year and a half. However, because their motor skills are not as developed, mastering formal strokes is generally out of reach.
  • Young kids aged between 2-3 who get private lessons for 30 minutes per week can generally swim confidently within 12 months
  • Children aged 3+ years taking private lessons for 30 minutes per week can be expected to be able to swim in around about 6 months or about 20-30 hours.

These estimates are based around the expectation that your child could swim 25m without stopping by the end of the time frame. For children to become strong swimmers, i.e swim 100m without stopping, it can take up to 2-3 years of regular lessons to accomplish that milestone.

Also, it goes without saying that taking group lessons instead of private lessons will generally make the learning process longer.

How Long Does it Take to Learn to Swim For Adults?

Learning to swim as an adult can be a challenging, scary, wonderful and rewarding experience. Here’s what to expect time-wise:

  • For adults who learn at a normal rate and don’t have any fear of water, around 20-25 hours of private lessons is usually sufficient to gain basic swimming skills. That translates to about a year of one 30 minute lesson per week.
  • If you’re particularly unfit, overweight, or have reservations about getting in the water, the process can take a good deal longer.

With adult learners, everyone is unique. Some find it natural to be in the water while for others, it’s a scary process. There is no set timeframe – but with enough practice, dedication and positive thinking, there’s no reason why every adult can’t learn to swim.

How Long Does it Take to Get Good At Swimming?


Learning the basics is one thing, but becoming a formidable swimmer is another. The good news is that once you’ve got a handle on the basics, you’ll start to progress exponentially.

How Long Does it Take to Learn to Swim For Triathlon?

One of the reasons many adults want to learn to swim or improve their swimming is because they’re interested in getting into Triathlon.

A sprint triathlon is 750m of continuous freestyle swimming, while an Olympic triathlon is 1500m of continuous swimming.

Being able to perform 750m of swimming once you’ve got a solid grasp of front crawl can take anywhere from 12 months up to 2 years of regular training. For the full-length triathlon, once you can do 750m it’ll probably only take you another 6 months of training 2-3 times per week to reach the 1500m mark.

How Long Does it Take To Master All The Strokes?

Learning your first stroke will take you the most time. That’s because most of the skills required to swim one stroke overlap with the others.

For example, when you learn how to swim front crawl, you’ll also be learning how to balance your body in the water and to link up your leg and arm motions for greater efficiency.

When it comes to the other strokes, backcrawl usually comes pretty quickly. Full breaststroke comes next while butterfly typically takes longer thanks to it’s more technical nature.

How to Learn to Swim in Less Time


Ok, now that you’ve got a ballpark figure about how long it takes to learn how to swim, you’re probably wondering – “Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?” – Yes, there is! Here are our top tips to help you get speedier results.

1. Set a Goal

Creating specific, measurable, time-bound goals is a great way to make sure you stay consistent and focused on your swimming journey. So, instead of saying ‘I want to learn how to swim soon’ say ‘ By the 15th July, I’ll be able to swim 25m front crawl without stopping”. A good instructor can help you set realistic goals and guide you towards achieving them – which leads us nicely to our next point.

2. Find a Great Teacher

Nothing will speed up your learning like having a good teacher. Good instructors will have a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills gained from teaching 1,000 of students how to swim. It’s best to go with a teacher who specialises in what you’re looking for. For example, if you’re an adult, choose a teacher who caters to adult learners. Seeking out the absolute best teacher in your area is a must.

3. Get More Time in The Water

The more time you can spend in the pool, the faster you’ll be able to swim. Most people can fit one lesson per week into their schedule, but if you can up that two (or even three) you’ll reach your goals a lot quicker and get the added benefit of burning extra calories in the process.

4. Focus on One Skill at a Time

Swimming is a pretty technical sport. When you’re just starting it can feel like there’s a million and on things going on at the same time. That’s why narrowing your focus to master just one skill will help you progress faster.

5. Invest in A Decent Pair of Goggles

Okay, this one might sound a little silly. But you’d be surprised at the number of new swimmers who buy cheap goggles and then have to suffer through leaking water and sore eyes. Learning to swim is challenging enough without having to battle eye discomfort, so buy a decent pair of goggles. An excellent choice for beginners is the Speedo Biofuse Flexiseal Goggle.

Wrapping Up

While it’s not possible to predict exactly how long it’ll take you to learn how to swim, we can say one thing for certain – No matter if it takes you 2 weeks or 2 years, private swimming lessons will help you get there faster.

Working one-on-one with a coach allows you to tap into their wisdom, get personalised feedback, and progress in the best way possible. If you’re interested in learning how to swim and want an expert to guide you through the process check out our private swimming lessons today.

From all of us here at Swim Now – Best of luck!

by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.

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