lane swimming etiquette tips
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Lane swimming etiquette and why lane swimming’s like driving

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been going swimming at lunchtimes to try and get fit, and get back into some semblance of healthy living.  Well, the swimming’s going well (also looking healthier thanks to the outdoor pool and building up a natural sun tan – dodgy strap marks though!), but I can’t say much for the healthy eating aspect.  That still needs work.

Next week sees the outdoor pool open their holiday timetable, so that means no more lane swimming (boo), and if we want to swim, we’ll have to go back to the indoor pool which is only 25 metres and smaller lanes.  Such a shame as it is bliss swimming outside.

As I love to swim and people watch (separately, or together), I thought I’d share my thoughts on the different types of people I’ve met while swimming, as well as some lane swimming etiquette for those who are thinking about starting.  Bear in mind I’m by no means a ‘pro’ swimmer, but I like to think I have a bit of spatial awareness about other people in the pool.

lane swimming etiquette tips

Lane swimming etiquette

1.  Have a brief look at the speeds people are swimming in each lane

In our outdoor pool, they don’t name the lanes by speed, but it’s pretty obvious that there’s a fast lane (in ours, it’s predominantly triathletes), a slow lane and a middle speed.  I’m definitely a middle lane swimmer by speed, plus I do breast stroke which is what a lot of people in our middle lane do.  Do be prepared to change lanes if speeds change.  I know I get slower, and often the slower lane will get quieter so I’ll switch lanes

2.  Ensure you check the direction of the lanes before getting in 

One person in the fast lane today, hadn’t got the direction right and just crashed straight into someone else.

3.  Think of the implications when doing backstroke

If you’re going to do backstroke, choose a quiet day or a lane that’s either wide or has no one in it.  Don’t go powering up and down the lanes with no regard to anyone else and the general lane speed.  Or if you’re a wonky backstroker like me (especially in an outdoor pool with no overhead guides), just don’t go there.

4.  Generally be aware of others. 

Some people swim regularly and just want to do lanes.  After all, that’s the point of lane swimming – exercise, practice, times.  Don’t just stick your head down and ignore all others.  In our pool, once the middle lane thins out, people tend to then have an unspoken agreement to change to just swimming up and down rather than clockwise or anti-clock.  So if you then join the pool later, check before heading straight in.  We also had one session where there was pool rage.  I was swimming down and then heard behind me one of the faster female swimmers shouting at a bloke who kept kicking her as he swam past.  He’d obviously just been swimming and ignoring everyone else in the pool, as she was shouting ‘you’re wearing goggles, that lets you look what others are doing’.  Totally agree with her.  He didn’t stay in the pool long after that, but it doesn’t take a lot to check where others are before swimming or while doing your length.

5. Don’t use it as a chatting session with your friends. 

If you want to swim double abreast chatting away (usually in too fast a lane for your speed) wait until there’s no one else in the pool, go to a public swim session, or just swim your length and then chat at the ends.  Today, there were 3 women in the middle lane – one swimming backwards chatting to the other 2, and then the 2 swimming alongside each other.  Slowly.  The one on her back was a regular who’s a fast swimmer and should know better in my opinion.  But it meant people were having to overtake very wide.

6.  If you’re the slowest swimmer in the lane, keep at the edge of the lane. 

Today, I was trying to overtake one woman who was veering well out of the side.  It meant I was overtaking, and another faster woman was overtaking me taking us over into the oncoming swimmers.  So as I went past I just said ‘any chance you can move nearer the edge and use the guidelines on the floor’.  She hadn’t really realised, but her explanation was ‘I’m not good at swimming in the shallow end’.  Very odd given that she was halfway down a 50 metre pool but she did move over a bit.  Just comes back to the awareness thing really.

7.  Think about swimming around you if you’re slower/having a break.

If you’re hanging around having a breather before setting off again, and you’re one of the slower swimmers, please let faster swimmers go first.  Makes sense, especially if they’re just pounding up and down, and you’re needing to take a breather.  Oh, and while you’re taking the breather, don’t stand right where people swim in to the edge or where they set off from.

I’ll also throw in that once you’ve finished your swim,  don’t wander off and turn on the splash zone facilities to do your stretches under.  The last time we saw someone wander off to do that in his tight little swim shorts, to us it looked like he was naked as there was a pillar blocking his shorts.  And the lifeguard rushed off his chair to work out what was going on there!

To me these all seem like common sense, but it always amazes me how confused some people get.  Or those that just like to hog and take over the lane you’re all swimming in.  And this is where I think lane swimming is like driving.

Both public swimming and driving need a bit of spatial awareness and understanding of what’s going on around you, if not you can have a serious crash or swim/car rage going on. If you drive you follow the rules of the road, and lane swimming’s just the same.

Oh, and not forgetting the accessories…cars have go faster stripes, swimmers have goggles, hats and swim bikinis or triathlon suits.

Are you a lane swimmer, or do you do a splashabout with the children when you get the chance?

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  1. This is brilliant! At first glance your post looks highly humorous but you are so correct – it is so annoying when people have no swimming etiquette!…and all your comments remind me of everything I love about being English. One time I went swimming there was one lady swimming widths across the middle. Everybody was getting SO irritated. But it was so funny at the same time! No spatial awareness whatsoever! xxx #FitFriday

  2. I sure hope people choose to take your advice. I have the same problem when I run on the track at the gym. It’s so annoying!

  3. Ahhh lane swimming, a subject close to my heart! I haven’t swum on my own since I was pregnant but I lane-swam a lot before the littles came along and the lack of etiquette used to drive me nuts! Great analogy too – it is very much like driving, all it takes is a little consideration for others. Great post 🙂

    1. So hard to get time to swim for yourself when you’re stuck with having to be with children until they’re competent swimmers. Hopefully you find some time to get back to it.

  4. I have never been to a public pool like this with lanes. I don’t think I’d be able to stay in a straight line – I tend to drift sideways while swimming. It’s the best exercise, though!

  5. be aware of others indeed. there is one guy who swims like no one is having a swim in the same swimming pool here in our condo. kinda annoying hahaha.

  6. Great tips for lane swimming. The only time I swam in a lane with others was in Gym class in High School.

  7. I can’t swim nor drive.. so hahah kidding, actually I can drive, but swimming has nothing to do with it.. I have a fear of water and not being able to touch the bottom of the pool/lake whatever..

    1. I know someone else who’s always feared water too. She’s now learning to swim as she wants to encourage her 4 year old in his lessons. She can now put her face in the water and is really enjoying some things so there is hope for trying

  8. I love being in the water. I don’t go to pools as much as I used to but we try to frequent the beach. It’s such great exercise!

  9. So nice that you can do this! I am not a swimmer but my husband does and he gets so frustrated with the slow swimmer using middle/fast lanes and you are right these lanes are not labelled so there’s nothing that he can do. I wish every user knows this etiquette. =P #pocolo

    1. Yes, some people just refuse to accept they’re not as fast as they might want to think and then won’t change lanes. Very annoying.

  10. I’ve never gone swimming in this way, but it stands to reason that this could potentially be an issue if everyone isn’t on the same page. Great advice here.

    1. Mostly about common sense, but it seems a lot of people don’t have any. Definitely makes it more enjoyable for all if everyone’s working to the same idea.

  11. These are great tips! Most people don’t know that there are rules to follow while swimming. That way everyone can have fun and be safe 🙂

  12. Nice tips I have never done lane swimming but this is some great advice

  13. I’m not a swimmer. I can swim, but I don’t really like getting into the pool and such. However, these are some great tips for those who are swimmers! Thank you for sharing!

    1. I’m surprised at how many adults can’t swim at all. I have a theory that people are either runners or swimmers (well, apart from triathletes). I definitely don’t run but I love to swim and try and beat myself.

    1. However slow you are, I always think there’s somewhere slower. But most lanes are wide enough for people to overtake. The hardest bit I find is keeping straight

  14. I am not a swimmer but I get the etiquette. I wish that parents would teach their kids the etiquette of swimming while in public pools.

  15. I am not a swimmer but I am taking on the challenge of trying 100 sports and fitness classes in a year but I have decided to do my swimming challenge in the sea and not in the pool – hopefully I won’t hold anyone up in the Atlantic Ocean!

  16. Great list of tips. I used to swim occasionally at my college’s pool and I wish a few of the other swimmers had seen these tips and had any semblance of etiquette.

  17. I remember growing up at the local pool, and if you did anything in the swimming lane you would get docked and had to leave the pool for a few minutes.. after a while they would not allow you in that lane.

  18. We just have a community pool here but nothing with laps. But I think it’s always good to know the etiquette of everything. I never realized there was one for lap swimming. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. I guess every pool will be slightly different, but my view is take some time to check it out first. It’s all common sense really. thanks for commenting

  19. I’m not a lane swimmer, most of the swimming pools that we went to are public meaning everyone can swim and play in all the sides of the pool.

    1. Our outdoor pool will have largely public swimming over the summer holidays. Gutting for the regulars as there’s no lunchtime sessions which is a bit odd. The indoor pool always does lanes at lunchtimes even during school hols.

  20. Thanks for sharing this. It is frustrating when people do not know the etiquette of an activity. I bowl, and hate when other bowlers don’t know the etiquette! Thanks for sharing.

  21. I never really thought about it like that. I guess it is kind of like driving isn’t it?

  22. This is so important! I was swimming laps last week in prep for a tri at the end of the month, and there were KIDS in the lane. One tween was doing the elementary backstroke and ran into me. I had to hold my hands out to stop her from running into me. ANNOYING! The lifeguards could have cared less too.

    1. We have a lot of triathletes in our pool at lunch times, and they tend to be in the fast lane – most people are freestyling there too so at least all space required is the same. They say our lane swimming is adults only, but the other week there were 2 children, obviously good swimmers as they had been in the faster lane when we arrived and they were getting out.

      I’d agree that most lifeguards couldn’t care…they’re probably asleep to be honest – must be so boring!

  23. Lane swimming AND people watching at the same time. You can multitask! When I am swimming, I have to try and remember how to actually swim (maybe not that bad, really). Could not do something else as well! Great little list.

    1. Lol. I’m just too nosy, plus have to do a recce when we first get in to check things out. Goggles are handy to keep an eye on things – but I do have to concentrate otherwise my breathing goes to pots

  24. Great post! Totally agree with everything you’re saying – many of these things you describe are many of my own bugbears about lane swimming. It can turn something that’s supposed to be relaxing into something very frustrating. It just takes a bit of awareness and courtesy towards others – yes, just like driving.

    1. Nice to know it’s not just me! It’s all going to go to pots now though as the pool’s no longer doing lane swimming at lunch times in the school hols which is annoying. Might have to go back to the indoor pool, or swim through the fun swimmers if they don’t close it at lunch

  25. I find the whole idea of lane swimming totally intimidating. As you know I’m clearly not going to be in anything other than the slow lane, and can’t do a whole length yet. It’s really annoying that the times I can actually go, are pretty much all lanes only, which would totally freak me out.

    1. I used to go after work which was public swimming. That’s usually ok as sometimes they have one lane, but the rest is just dodge the people and that way you can stay in the depth you feel more comfortable in, sometimes going widthways instead of lengths. You’ll get there. I bet you’ll end up with much better technique than me!

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