Lap swim can be intimidating when all the lanes are occupied, but lane sharing goes smoothly if everyone follows a few basic rules of etiquette.
Showing up at the pool and finding all the lanes occupied can be a bit daunting for a new swimmer. But don’t be intimidated; the etiquette isn’t that complicated. If you’re aware of your surroundings and courteous to others, you’ll get on fine.
Here are a few tips to make sure you and your fellow pool users all swim in harmony.
Note which lanes are being used by fast, medium-paced and slow swimmers and pick a lane that fits your speed. (Some pools will designate specific lanes for different speeds, but if you watch the other swimmers for a few minutes you should have a good idea of where you’ll fit in best.)
Make sure the others swimmers in your chosen lane see you and know you’re going to join them. You can sit with your legs in the water for a minute or stand in the corner of the lane until they make a turn and acknowledge your presence. If you want to be polite, ask if you can join them, but it’s more of a rhetorical question since they don’t really have the authority to forbid you if it’s a public pool!
If there are just two of you in a lane, you will need to decide whether to split the lane down the middle (so you each stay in your own half the entire time) or circle swim (always staying to the right or left of the lane and swimming in a “circle” around the perimeter of the lane). If there are three or more of you, you’ll need to circle swim (and some pools require circle swimming regardless). The direction depends on the country you’re in. In the US you’ll stay in the right half of the lane and swim anti-clockwise (fig.1), in Australia you’ll keep left and swim clockwise, and in Europe many pools alternate the circling direction from one lane to the next, to reduce injuries from collisions between swimmers in adjacent lanes (fig.1).
Never jump in directly in front of someone who’s already swimming. If any swimmers are approaching the wall as you’re getting ready to enter the lane, wait until they’ve turned to avoid disrupting their rhythm.
Keep an eye on the black line when you breathe to make sure you’re swimming straight and not swerving out into oncoming traffic.
If not everyone in your lane is going the same speed, the slower swimmers will need to yield to the faster ones. If you feel a tap on your feet while swimming, that means someone wants to pass you. Don’t stop in the middle of the lane; just move a bit farther toward the outside edge and slow down a little to help the person get by more quickly. Or move into the corner of the lane if you’re almost to the wall. If you’re the one doing the passing, be sure to check for oncoming traffic before moving out into the middle of the lane, just like you’d do if you were passing another car on the road.
When you need to rest, stop at the wall and stay in the corner of the lane, leaving room for the other swimmers to make their turns.
If you follow these simple guidelines, everyone in the lane should be able to get in a good workout without undue interference from the other swimmers. Sure, it would be nice to have your own space and be able to swim at your own pace without having to think about anyone else, but you’ll soon get used to circle swimming, and you’ll see that it’s quite possible to share lanes without drama. One of your lane mates might even become your new best friend!
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