HOW TO: Lane swimming etiquette

Following last week’s rant, here’s a quick round up of lane swimming etiquette:

Lane direction signs

Rule 1: Never get in an occupied lane if another is empty.

Rule 2: Never get into an occupied land without letting the person/people already swimming know you are entering.Do this by dangling your legs into the water or standing to the side at the end of the lane when they are turning.

Rule 3: If there is only one other person in the lane, the lane can be split with each person taking half the lane. But you *must* explicitly agree this. Otherwise assume lane/circle swimming.

Rule 4: Once a third person joins, circle swimming must start. Make sure both people know you are joining.

Rule 5: Circle swimming is dictated by the fastest person present, not the slowest, biggest, or first in. Take note of the swimmer’s speeds before you enter. Direction is often pool specific. Check for direction signs or ask.

Rule 6: Tap feet to pass. The person whose feet are being tapped moves out of the way to the corner at the lane end. Do NOT speed up if you are being passed.

Rule 7: Move to the side of the lane end to allow faster people to pass. Allow them to turn at the centre of the lane wall. if there are more than one, allow all faster swimmers behind you to pass.

Rule 8: Do NOT turn or push off in front of faster swimmers. Faster swimmers should allow slower swimmers as much time as possible before starting.

Rule 9: Do NOT start swimming immediately behind another swimmer. They will not know you are there when they are turning. Injuries will result.

Rule 10: Swimmers resting at lane end should stay as far to the side of the lane as possible.

Rule 11: If the lane has a few swimmers doing long-axis strokes (front crawl, back stroke) do NOT do short axis strokes (Breastroke, fly)

Rule 12: Be polite. Communicate. Do your best to explain the etiquette. Remember most lifeguards don’t seem to know these. Most pools don’t have them posted.

Lane rage

Edit: given a renewed interest in this post (again), I realise this is a long list though, and impractical therefore.

Giving it some thought, I wondered what would be an effective but much shorter list of three essential rules? How about these three?

One: Never get into an occupied land without letting the person/people already swimming know you are entering. Do this by dangling your legs into the water or standing to the side at the end of the lane when they are turning. Never stand in the centre of a lane.

Two: Fastest person present has right of way. Note other swimmer’s speeds before you enter. Direction is usually pool AND lane specific.

Three: Do NOT start, turn or push off in front of faster swimmers. Faster swimmers should allow slower swimmers as much time as possible before starting. Don’t turn into oncoming swimmers.

But is even that brief enough?

Surely we can have a Golden Rule of lane swimming. I propose:

Be aware of what is going on around you.

Edit: clarified rules 2 and 3.

 

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18 thoughts on “HOW TO: Lane swimming etiquette”

  1. Very nice summary of lane etiquette. But I have a comment about Rule 4 (“Once a third person joins, circle swimming must start…”)…

    I’ll be blunt: Circle swimming DOES NOT WORK when people are of different speeds or abilities. Sounds harsh, I know, but I’ve been swimming for 50+ years, and I’ve seen it all. When a person enters a lane of adult swimmers of varying abilities (already swimming side-by-side) they are, in effect, forcing themselves onto these existing swimmers and completely disrupting the swims of those two swimmers. There is another option: Do not join the lane. Simply wait until someone leaves (that lane or another). That’s what I do. And, in fact, if someone forces their way into my lane, I usually quit and leave because it’s not worth the hassle. Of course, if you know the other two swimmers well AND you are all at roughly the same ability and speed, and/or there are many lanes to group different speeds, it is possible to make circle swimming work (as it does in competitive team workouts, which I used to do a lot of), but my experience with “civilian swimmers” (normal adults of varying abilities) is that circle swimming is a waste of my time so I do not do it. And most adults where I swim feel the same and also simply “wait their turn” to swim.

    1. Thanks Harald. I don’t disagree entirely. I wouldn’t get into a lane with more than one swimmer I didn’t know.

      But as you point out the problem also results when others, the Furious Bobs, join a lane in which people are already swimming. I am not going to forego a workout because someone who doesn’t have a clue joins. Of course, in a way much of this discussion is academic, because we both know that any two or even more experienced swimmers of different speeds can swim in the same lane. The problem arises with people who have no idea, and of course, those people will never check just what they should and shouldn’t do.

  2. Hi Donal. Loved your Furious Bobs piece. And like this at the end of that:
    “…Every pool has a Furious Bob. Every swimmer has encountered someone similar. We bite our lips, try to swim around them, and get on with our own stuff. After-all they’ll usually be gone in a few minutes.” That last bit is exactly right. The more they trash about – furious or not – the faster they seem to leave.

    To be clear, although I prefer to swim in a lane section by myself for my swimming meditation (that’s what swimming is for me at this point), I’m fine doing circles with others who are as experienced as I. Unfortunately, in my current location, the “swimmers” (not sure I can even call them that) are all over the board from elementary backstrokers to water joggers. That’s when things fall apart.

    And I had my own Furious Bob experience recently. I was sharing a (25-yard) lane with someone I knew when Bob shows up in the shallow end. At least he had the smarts (or luck) to announce his presence, I’ll give him that one. So this Bob stands by watching as we two go through at least 2-3 cycles of laps. I’m assuming he’s watching closely and judging our relative speeds so that he can enter the flow the right way. Nope! What does he do but wait until I am literally flip-turning at the wall when he decides to start his dog paddle. I mean right in front of me! Can any adult in their 40s possibly be that stupid or unaware? Yes, they can; they certainly can.

    Maybe some day I’ll come across the pond to swim with you.

  3. Hi Donal! I just came across your blog right now (I was looking for paddle reviews and you convinced me to get the Finis Agility ones ;) ), and I can only say, amen to what you have to say about lane swimming and the Furious Bobs of this world. At my local pool it’s mostly fine during the winter because the fast lane is in the outdoor pool, so numbers dwindle when it gets cold. But in the summer it is positively awful. Last year I had a discussion with the lifeguard about this and he told me he didn’t want to get shouted at if he told people to get off the fast lane, because they generally feel they have a right to be there, even if they can barely swim.
    Also, I can’t help but notice that some men REALLY cannot stand being overtaken by a woman. And as a result won’t let you, no matter how nicely you tap their feet or how obviously slower they are. I can’t even count the number of times this has happened to me. It’s never happened with other women though! (On a side note, this ludicrous behaviour also applies to bike commuting. I can’t count the number of times I’ve overtaken a guy only to have him overtake me, panting and about to have a heart attack, a moment later.)

    1. Thanks Bettina. I agree that men are often too egotiscal to listen. On the blog I call those like that the “who the hell do you think you are” brigade. Substitute hell for another word. Swimmers know to listen, other men, especially those who come from field games into the pool, well, not so much. It’s wet and we wear Speedoes, it must be easy, right?

  4. Useful post thanks.
    The two that astound me are ‘women who walk’ (side by side in the lane talking) and those men who use their arms like cricket bats and seem to have no awareness of anyone else in the lane.
    I haven’t met toe tapping at my club, Whose toes are being tapped and with or on what?

    1. Hi Tessa, if you want to pass the person on front, you tap their feet. Alternatively if someone taps your feet, you pull over a the lane end. Since this tends to freak non-swimmers out, it’s mostly used amongst swimmers, who don’t really need these rules explained as much.

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