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Novice swimmers - Zero to One Mile in 6 Weeks

By October 31, 2004

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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. (Ruth Kazez)


March 9, 2008 at 6:58 pm
(1) My Own Man says:

6 weeks. Maybe if you have no legs or you are Jared, pre-Subway.

March 18, 2008 at 1:21 pm
(2) Ken says:

actually.. I started training for a spring triathlon on Jan. 1 2008 and since I hadn’t been in a pool for 25 years and since the swim is the one part of a tri where you can die.. ie. drown this is of great interest to me. I have been fortunate to have a former Olympian giving me some stroke improvement and body position drills which has helped a lot but I still can’t go more than 50 yards freestyle without being out of breath. Although My Own Man pooh poohs this program he needs to know that even though I and 22% BF, max heart rate of 196 and can do a 10k under 50 min (at age 53) and bike for 2 hours at 18.5 mph on a hilly course, and can hang out in Zone 3 for 2 hours at a time (does that sound like fat Jared to you) this swimming thing has me stumped. So when I read that the very first rep is 100 yds I was wondering how in the world I was going to do that. What in the world am I doing wrong?

June 12, 2008 at 4:11 pm
(3) RS says:

6 weeks sounds about right. It’s been 20 years since I last swam laps (I’m 39 now). The first day I struggled to do just 20 lengths. It was pitiful; 5 weeks later I’m doing 80 lengths (1.1 miles) without any problems. I am about 40 lbs overweight too.

July 29, 2008 at 11:40 am
(4) Mike W. says:

I did this last summer at 50 lbs overweight and not having done laps in about 30 years, I was 38. It actually took 5 weeks. I felt good on the last workout of the fifth week so I kept going.

March 8, 2009 at 9:54 pm
(5) Charlie D. says:

50 lbs overweight. 1/4 mile / 1/2 mile 1 mile in 3 weeks. 1 mile non stop on the next swim. After about 2 weeks, got the time down to 35 minutes. I’m satisfied there and am now working on improving technique and shortening time.

March 12, 2009 at 11:52 am
(6) ruth kazez says:

The 0-1650 was devised because an asthmatic 72 year old woman in the lane next to me would swim an hour, one length at a time, with plenty of gasps in between. I said I thought she could swim continously and that it could be done in 6 weeks. And she did it. Next came a very fit 19 year old man who asked for a suggestion. It took him the same 6 weeks. Since then I have heard from every size, shape, age, unskilled to former competitor. Some who are already in good shape – defined by VO2max – get to the mile sooner, but almost no one takes longer.

March 12, 2009 at 11:54 am
(7) ruth kazez says:

After reading Ken’s note (above) I made up the following page about what to do if 100 is too much. http://ruthkazez.com/Zeroto1milePreamble/pre-zero.html

April 5, 2009 at 5:55 pm
(8) candie says:

I hadn’t been in the pool for several years (had twins) and was pretty out of shape…40lbs I am still carrying around from these babies. I am a former bball player but really fell out of shape. The first day back in the pool I barely made it 50y w/o gasping for air. I started this program doing 4 days a week and by the end of the 3rd week I was reaching the 4 week program and then on the first day of the 4th week I did the mile in 28 minutes. Now I’m focusing on technique and speed. Thanks so much, this got me pointed in the right direction. I’m a person who needs structure and this was perfect.

May 23, 2009 at 9:18 pm
(9) Estonia says:

I swam a mile today….. I haven’t swum since this time last summer. I didn’t stop at all. it took me about 30 minutes. Does being a 12-year-old account for the fact that I didn’t need 6 weeks?

August 19, 2009 at 4:36 am
(10) Someone says:

Estonia, I wouldn’t have been able to do it when I was 12!

Bragging about it like that doesn’t give a too good impression though. People like me that take much longer to achieve this feel quite bad :( (I do)

August 19, 2009 at 8:56 am
(11) ruth kazez says:

Someone: Not to feel bad. But stressed? Yes. Google Hans Selye for info about stress adaptation. The purpose of limited breaths recovery is to make your little mitochondria so annoyed at your depriving them of oxygen that the little buggers multiply. That’s the magic word: multiply. Thereby giving you more of what it takes to absorb and process more oxygen. Result: stamina. If you rest enough to feel recovered, it won’t happen.

December 31, 2009 at 4:36 pm
(12) Karen says:

I see Ken has a wonderful Facebook ‘support group’ for doing this but I’m not on Facebook and don’t want to be – any other similar groups or ways to start one or join Ken’s without being on Facebook? I’m on Ruth’s ‘week 2′ loving it but could use the support!

April 2, 2010 at 6:29 am
(13) Sceak says:

I graphed a mathematical model of this swim program, and it’s full of fail.

The psychology behind it is entirely flawed.

This video of Mrs. Kazez shows her ability to swim. You’ll notice an average fly, but her front crawl at the end is a bit more than average.

It’s also convenient how the video just doesn’t show up in the browser from the page it’s supposed to be displayed on.

For fitness I guess it’s fine. If you’re training with an objective, this program probably won’t cut it, or at least won’t have the effects you desire.

I don’t encourage blind faith, and I think you should all know that Mrs. Kazez program was penciled-in, gained popularity, and now it’s out of control.

If you want to do it, do it. I don’t necessarily advise against it, but I want you guys to know that this program is often shaped to “meet the math” of the “one mile” rather than based on physiological factors.

Things of interest: Week 4 Begins the appearance of the 300 and 600 yards distances. Week 5 changes from 300 yards with 8 “breaths” of rest to 1000 yards with the same rest. From weeks 5 to 6, the total rest increases.

I think you should all browse the site kazez.com to really make yourselves an idea who you’re putting your faith into.

May 11, 2010 at 9:04 am
(14) rtk says:

Skeak: I would like to e-mail with you. Some constructive criticism is very welcome. rtkazez@gmail.com
The little swim video is of flyer who was second only to the woman who was an olympic record setter in 1952 (!), but 50 years later. Not so bad free? You’re looking at a 79 year old swimmer. 4th nationally at age 60 with a time of 31 seconds, 2nd fly 34 secs, then switched to triathlons, especially Ironman. This year, off to Budapest for tri world’s.

May 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm
(15) rtk says:

Karen: I will mull over the idea of starting a blog about the swim pages.

September 1, 2010 at 9:57 am
(16) creativeseconds says:

I did it! I feel so much better too ~ I was a swimmer 25 yrs and 50 lbs less ago! I did the workouts exactly as suggested and I can swim a mile now! ~ try it..go for it! If this chunky 40+ mom can do it, you can too -If I can keep it up, next year I can wear a bathing suit without that skirt because there won’t be anything left to hide!!! -lol-

September 13, 2010 at 7:20 pm
(17) thatoneguy... says:

Thanks for the article. It seems like you know what you’re talking about. I never been a swimmer, but I’m gonna try it and see whats up. Oct. 25th here I come…

September 23, 2010 at 6:56 pm
(18) kkh says:

rtk, it’s quite a helpful program/schedule. “mathematical model” or not, I needed the incremental structure set out for me by someone with knowledge about what the average Joe can handle because, otherwise, without someone telling me I was not going to drown by pushing myself (because it sure felt that way sometimes!), I don’t think I would have pushed on through and finished the program. Five weeks ago I started at week 2, and last night – one swim session early – I managed to do the whole mile without stopping. I am pleased and surprised, and i thank you for the info and encouragement provided by your website. –and the swim art, too! Beautiful.

October 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm
(19) Alex M says:

I think your technique will work for someone who is new to swimming or experienced but just hadn’t been really doing anything lately.
First working on endurance is the key to swimming a mile without stop.
Second- after endurance you can work on speed of your laps.
Third eventually you will be able to combine the two to make fast laps in that mile.
regular sports pools 1 mile is about 32 laps.
I am currently swimming 1 mile with a day break in between every day. Now I am trying to work on my speed sence i got the endurance to push 1 mile and its been going very well so far. I didnt use your technique but i think its very usefull for someone who is trying to lose wieght or just feel very good.
Sence i have been doing those 1 mile swims i have been feeling very good. I feel like i have more breath and my resting heart rate is alot lower.
I highly recommended to try to get into swimming pool and start your training.

January 5, 2011 at 11:56 am
(20) jk says:

I’m using this to train for the alcatraz shark swim in june. I can easily do a 40 minute mile with breast stroke, but crawl kills me. I’ll post up how it goes.

March 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm
(21) TJ says:

I think it’s very interesting that Skeak is so critical, but so many people have actually don’t the work and gotten the results. I’ll take results over negative analysis any day. Thanks for providing this…even if it takes longer, it’s still a starting point.

March 31, 2011 at 4:48 pm
(22) Patrick (IRELAND) says:

This is very hard indeed to complete such a task as 1 mile in 6 weeks.I got their in the end and with 2 hip replacements still intact for a 44 yr old male.Over a period of time i went from 10 lengths to 20/30/40/50/60.Now i can do this tough but wonderful task with PB under 33mins.And still going faster each passing week.The winning formula is to combine some road biking also increasing your millage on a weekly basis to condition your lungs(CV) and your legs.Also i find early morning swims on an empty stomach also helps as you feel lighter and by the end of your 1 mile swim your ready to eat good protein and plenty of water(not the pool).I love it and cant wait to master my turn after each length which i am sure will bring me under 30min for 1 mile.

April 4, 2011 at 5:11 am
(23) RJ says:

Is it ok/possible to do this in less than 6 weeks if you feel strong enough? Is swimming 3 days a week a minimum or the standard? I feel strong enough to swim everyday, so I’m just wondering.

April 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm
(24) Taylor says:

About how long or how many calories should these work-outs take me…any clue?

April 26, 2011 at 7:57 pm
(25) Mat Luebbers says:

You can get an idea of calories burned while swimming through this page: http://swimming.about.com/b/2010/05/24/calories-burned-swimming.htm

September 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm
(26) Tom says:

I used to run 3 miles immediately followed by a mile in the pool back in college. That was 22 years ago. Now, 30 pounds overweight, I struggle to get back into running (joints just can’t take it), but the very first night I went back to swimming, I did a mile no problem. I’m not going to pretend I broke any speed records or that I didn’t rest frequently, but the fact that I was able to do it while this out of shape gave me great confidence. First time I did it took 40 minutes, goal is to cut that down to under half an hour in short time.

September 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm
(27) Living a Great Life says:

I like the program. If it’s a “good” program or not, it’s a program. There are a lot of us out here who don’t really like the thought of exercising, but training is much more attainable. I have a goal, one week at a time, and that works for me. My ultimate goal is to get into triathlons. I am also doing the couch to 5k program. Same sort of thing. May not be the best program, but it’s a program that I can follow. So, thank you Ruth for giving all of us in training, a training program!! I’m not looking to set any speed records or win any medals, I just want to be able to swim a mile without stopping and this is working.

November 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm
(28) Tim Riker says:

It doesn’t have to be freestyle does it? I’ve been doing side strokes, breast strokes, back strokes, and freestyle. Yesterday I was able to do a mile of swimming. My next goal is to be able to do the mile without stopping at all. Then later I want to try to improve my freestyle swimming which for me has been more difficult because of the breathing techniques and mental aspect of it (such as feeling panic and stopping to gasp for breath).

November 17, 2011 at 4:41 am
(29) Mat Luebbers says:

It can be any stroke or style, just keep building.

November 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm
(30) Still Improving says:

I’m more than 100lbs overweight, but very active. I go to the gym for 1hr of cardio at least 3x weekly and have for the past 3 years (during which I’ve lost over 70lbs).

I can’t remember what “inspired” me to decide lap swimming was something I should master. During my first swim I gasped at the side after 50 yards, and seriously considered the possibility I was having a heart attack. The first several swims went similarly. I’m really not sure what kept me going back, except I’m just that stubborn!

It’s two years later now. I still go to the gym 3x weekly, but I also swim 3 miles weekly. In the first two months I went from thinking I may die in the pool to comfortably swimming a slow mile freestyle w/o stopping. It took me over an hour (65-70 minutes) but I sure was proud of myself!

Now I can swim my freestyle mile in 45-50 minutes. My average heart rate during this mile is 104-106. It’s sooooooooo easy for me now, I’ve actually fallen asleep while freestyling down my lane and slammed into the wall I would formerly clutch for support!

I feel GREAT, and resting pulse is under 60, but interestingly enough my weight loss rate hasn’t changed much. I’m still on a very slow downward crawl and if I don’t keep exercising on land (I went to swimming a mile per day for about a month) my weight levels out. I know the swimming makes me feel better……..as in MUCH better……..but it doesn’t seem to be my recipe for weight loss.

May 17, 2012 at 9:21 am
(31) Brick says:

I’m with Ken at #2.

Four months ago I was a complete beginner swimmer.

I have swum twice per-week every week since then for an hour at a time (well an hour in the pool anyway) including coaching on technique etc. I’m usually working quite hard.

I still struggle to make more than 50m without having to stop.

I’m 46, have a lab measure V02max of 57, can still manage a 10km in around 42mins and a 1500m in around 5mins15secs and comfortably manage 15mile training runs. I have a resting pulse in the low 50′s. I weigh around 150 pounds at 6 feet tall.

So excuse me for being sceptical.

July 3, 2012 at 3:21 am
(32) Kevin says:

I’m currently about 252 lbs (should be around 180) and just started swimming again. After my third time in the pool, I’m swimming 1 mile in 1 hour without resting (combination of freestyle, breast, and back).

I felt like I was expending a lot of effort but I guess I’m just slow. Maybe I can cut that down to 30 minutes and my weight down to 180 someday. :)

Anyway, I think it really depends. I can bike and swim, but I would die trying to run a mile. The most I ever ran was probably around 3 miles while wrestling in high school.

When I get into a pool, I have no issues and I get stronger as I swim. I feel after the hour is up, I could go another hour.

August 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm
(33) Kiim says:

I am a strong cyclist, and a good runner…..I was ready to GIVE UP my dream of half ironman due to my swim. I started this program 2 weeks ago….and Ruth has renewed my inspiration and dream. I am doing it!!! I will be doing that Half Ironman before Year end….and I will be wearing the name RUTH on my body as…she will be getting credit for me getting my dream accomplished.

August 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm
(34) Lesley-Clare says:

I am nearly 60 and started swimming again last march. I am now swimming freestyle on average I swim 4 – 5 miles a week and I usually swim a mile in about 27 mins. Is that a respectable time?????

January 25, 2013 at 8:22 am
(35) Elizabeth says:

I am a 71 one year old female, who has always loved the water and swimming, April 2012 I had a successful bi-lateral knee surgery. Several months later in early November I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow. I had a rod put into my femur because of the cancer; I have completed my radiation on the femur and spine; I am now completing my last two rounds of chemo. I have been hospitalized 3 times with side effects from the radiation and drugs.

I am preparing for a stem cell replacement at Dana Farber in Boston at the end of March. The prognosis is looking good.

My goal is to to swim 1 mile before March 17, when I enter the hospital. Yesterday at our YMCA,, I swam 1/2 mile, all crawl and I might add very slow. I did it. I will continue with the endurance and speed for the 1/2 mile during February and then go for the mile in March before I enter the hospital on March 17. Any thoughts are appreciated.

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