Sunday, April 8, 2012

Basic, very basic lane swim etiquette

- Find out what the rules are at your pool.  If you don't know, ask a life guard or read a sign.

- You might "split" a lane or you might "circle swim".

- You can split a lane if there are only 2 people in the lane, as it means you each swim up and down the same side of the lane.

- If there are more then 2 people, you must circle swim.  Even if there are only 2 people, if it is likely to get busier, it is polite to circle swim anyways.  This means that everyone swims down one side and back up the other.  At my pool, the sign says you stay on the right.  Some pools, it alternates per lane.  This information is almost always on a sign near the pool.  Read the sign.  If there is not one, ask the lifeguard.

- Some pools have signs designating speeds.  If there are no signs, try to join a lane where the people are going the closest to your speed.  Even with signs, remember that speed is relative.  I have nights where I am the fastest in the pool, but there are times I'm among the slowest.  Take a moment to figure out where you fit in speed-wise on a given day.

- Five year olds do not belong in lane swim.  I'm sorry.  They just don't.  I have kids.  I love kids.  I am not anti-kid, but there are some places they don't belong.  Lane swim is one of them.  The only kids that should be in lane swim are the super serious ones who are capable of doing it properly and have the ability and maturity to do so.  And, don't get me wrong.  I've swam in the same lane as some of those kids and they have smoked me.  They weren't 5 years old.

- It is polite to let people know you are joining their lane.  If you don't ask, make sure you know how they are swimming (circle or split) prior to joining.  If someone is swimming down the middle (which isn't very polite) or you need them to switch from splitting to circle swimming, you must make sure they know you're there.  

Saturday nights at my pool tend to be among the quietest nights there.  When it's that slow, the lanes get split with two people per lane - if that.  Often you get a lane to yourself.

Last night, about 10 minutes into lane swim, there were 5 people in the pool (there are 4 lanes).  I was in a lane by myself, so I was swimming up and down one side so that if somebody wanted to join, they would see that I was leaving it open.

I had a long set, and wasn't stopping much.  I turned around at the wall, started swimming back and almost had a heart attack, as I was on a collision course with a kid and an elderly man.  I quickly corrected course.  However, in the few strokes it took to reach them, I quickly calculated that this was going to be a problem. This was a kid.  Maybe 5 years old, wearing a life jacket.  Probably taking 2 plus minutes to swim the length of the pool.  The man was walking.  Seriously?

This is actually a night where I was the fastest one in the pool.  So, you choose the lane with the fastest person, who is doing front crawl at 4 times the speed you intend to travel?  So, I stopped and started asking them to split the lane rather then circle swim.  Normally, I would never ask people to do this when there are over 2 people in the lane, but this Grandfather and kid (who should have been in bed) were obviously not really "swimming".  Yes, totally judgemental of me, I know.

He totally did not get the concept.  Initially he thought I was just telling him how to circle swim.  I tried to explain it again.  Not getting it.  Then, a woman (who turned out to be the mother) joins the lane and starts doing a very slow breast stroke.

 I give up trying to explain anything and just make the decision to move over a lane.  The woman asks me what the problem was.  At this point, I've already decided to switch lanes, so I try to give a very brief explanation.  She also has no concept of why it's not okay for three people to jump into the lane of someone working out and go a quarter their speed.

Okay, so there are 4 lanes, 2 others of which only have 1 person, and somehow it's okay for three people to join one lane?  Sorry, but if you want a lane to yourself, arrive at the beginning of lane swim.  Don't just hop in and try to screw up somebody else's workout.  If they had even had marginal politeness and touched base with me prior to jumping in, I probably would have just switched lanes right off the bat, without as much annoyance.

In the end, they got their lane to themselves, and I joined the woman in the lane next to me.  I got a good training session in, with a brief annoying interruption.

I promise, at least a couple more months before I rant about another person that totally lacks lane etiquette... 

Any other etiquette that the experienced swimmers would like to add?
Was I totally out of line?


  1. You were not out of line. Also:
    Passing people, or having them pass you. Odd as it sounds, faster swimmers have the right of way. Slower swimmers stay out of their way. That means if you're coming up to the wall, pause a few seconds and let the faster swimmer through. When you do this, stand at the side of the lane and let them aim at the centre line.

    It's common to indicate you want to pass by touching the feet of the person in front of you. Once. That tells the front person they should pause at the wall.

    If you are circle swimming with 2 people in the lane passing any time is ok, just be really sure there are only 2 people in the lane. This is why it's considered polite to let all the people in the lane know you are joining them, and then fit into their pattern, or give them time to change from split to circles. If you're circle swimming, the only option for passing is at the wall.

    Do not push off the wall in front of another swimmer if they are faster than you or even if you are the same speed. That will mess up their groove. The only time, and it's really the only time to push off in front of someone is if you are on the clock trying to make an interval, and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you are faster. Even then, if they're just about to touch the wall, it's too late for you to push off.

    Drafting can be fun for all involved, but you have to work it out with the person first, otherwise they'll know you're back there even if you don't touch them, and the polite ones will let you by.

    Don't ever touch anyone else's pool toys unless it's to save them from floating into the pool. Don't even ask to borrow it, use the ones the pool supplies or bring your own.

    Speeds. You are right when you say to figure out where you are. What this means most of the time is to time your potential lane mates and compare to what you plan on swimming. You do know, within a few seconds, what your pace is, right? Swimmers know. Floaties don't. I'd rather swim in a crowded lane at my speed, than be the third person for 3 different speeds.

    If your workout has some slow stuff, such as a kick drill, consider moving into another lane for that if your current lane has people doing a fast freestyle. Either that or be really considerate about swimming up and down the lane hugged right against the lane ropes, and I mean really against them. That will give two people room to carry on beside you. (Get your minds out of the gutter!)

    You will occasionally touch another person in the pool. Perhaps you've rapped knuckles, or touched bodies during breast or back stroke. The correct course is to apologize at the first opportunity. Even if your stroke is tighter than the clasp on Scrooge's wallet, and theirs looks like a wounded seagull trying to take off.

    Attempt butterfly only when you are alone in the lane unless you really know how to do it.

    Make sure your suit is suitable and properly tied up. Not see through. No ripped seams. No huge baggy shorts that float up and expose the junk. Shower before you get in the pool! We all pee in the lake or ocean, but a pool supplies toilets for a reason. Don't mess up the water chemistry, and don't swim when you are sick.

  2. Yet another reason why I like the swimming in the ocean!

  3. I like the comment about the pool toys. The first night I brought (and had just purchased that day) my own pullboy and flippers...they were used by who knows...I found them two lengtghs over, side of the pool. Like honestly...all my stuff was in apile (with my workout sheet and they still "borrowed")
    and for the record I am still new to this swimming laps thing so even I appreciate the knowledge you are giving :)
    I definately practice most of those (especially the kick sets...I keep so close to the side, I usually end up kicking the lines (ouch! LOL)

  4. That is bs they joined your lane. Clueless.