Adventures in Swimming… Lane Etiquette

I rarely swim in a public swimming session. I joined a club so I didn’t have to swim in a public swimming session. I definitely could not do the swimming sets I do with the club in a public session. I would be considered rude in a public session. That is why lane etiquette is so important, even in club swimming!

I’ve been upping my swimming a bit and have included some recovery sessions into my schedule and to do that I have to go to public sessions.

Lane etiquette is a bone of contention for lots of swimmers. Everyone think they know best and have the only right way to do things.  I am probably one of those swimmers at times. However I think there are some general guidelines that most pools have signs up about or lifeguards would be happy to advise on, such as speed, passing, and blocking the wall when resting.  I search to see if I could find any official rules, but the internet is swapped with lots of different versions so I thought I would add my own that I follow myself:

  • Get in the lane that matches your speed, but don’t assume you stay there for the whole of your swim, or every time you visit.
  • If it’s quiet use an empty lane, but be prepared to switch if more people arrive.
  • If more people get in your lane and the speed changes, then switch lanes!
  • Circle swimming as per the signs on poolside. This reduces the risk of hitting or locking arms with people in the other lanes.
  • Tap the feet of the person in front to pass – no overtaking. If they don’t stop they might not know what it means, so let them know nicely.
  • Slower swimmers must let faster swimmers pass and definitely don’t push off just as one is coming in to turn.
  • If resting, allow room for swimmers to tumble turn or touch turn – don’t block the end of the pool. We all know a length doesn’t count unless you touch both ends!
  • Chat to the people in your lane and let them know what schedule/swim you are doing – don’t try to ‘teach’ or advise unless they ask you something.
  • Be polite to other swimmers and take the high road. If someone is rude escalate to lifeguard. Or if there is a problem with someone slower blocking the lane; don’t deal with it yourself (unless it’s a fellow club member you can banter with)
  • Be careful with swimming backstroke or butterfly – make sure there is room and people are swimming in the right direction – also if your pool uses the horrible lane ropes, rather than the wave cancelling ones, don’t do butterfly unless you know every single person swimming – it impacts the entire pool! (I know this is often in the ‘don’t do’ column for people, but I don’t mind)
  • Don’t go off the rails if there is some accidental touching – it happens. Sometimes I come home with bruises, other times I’ve had a pat on the back as someone passes (it’s quite nice). If you think it isn’t accidental then report it.

For me the overall guidelines are to be prepared to switch lanes and to look out for each other. This is not only in public session, but also in my club sessions, where the faster lanes are filling up, but no one will move into the slower lanes, even though it would up the speed of that lane, so overall we would have more lanes for faster swimmers. It gets quite frustrating with some people.  If you can’t stand the stress of public session my advice would be to join a club where you can swim with people the same speed or slightly faster to be able to push yourself. However if you can’t stand the lane etiquette, then stop swimming as it still applies to clubs and can be useful for open water swimming.

I still only swim in public sessions when I absolutely have to. I prefer to swim with likeminded swimmers, rather than the occasional swimmer, but I like to see the sport open to everyone and would hate to be someone who might put someone off swimming for good.

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