The lane of general bewilderment

Swimming Lane Etiquette

The man touched my foot, that man touched my foot!!  I swam as fast as I could go to get to the end of the lane to let him past.  I felt humiliated at first quickly followed by a surge of rage.  Oh I’m so slow,  was I going too slow,  how dare he touch me,  why was he in my lane, why couldn’t he just be patient and wait till the end of the lane,  it would only have been a few seconds for goodness sake….

The complexities of swimming lane etiquette were something completely new to me, I was new at swimming front crawl properly,  only just graduated from the very pleasant breaststroke slow lanes and trying to get my speed and distance up to do Swimathon,  swim holidays and eventually triathlon.

Moving from the Slow/Medium lanes into the Fast lanes introduces you to the world of the competition swimmers, either those who swam competitively in their youth or are competing today in Masters Teams or triathlon.   So what is the etiquette, what should you worry about if you are trying a few lengths in these lanes or looking to graduate there permanently.  I can’t pretend to be an expert, but these are a few of the guidelines that I try to follow and wish that everyone else would too…

  1. When you arrive at the pool, check out the lanes, number of people in them and general speed. Just because you normally go in the fast lane doesn’t mean that you should always go in the fast lane. Sometimes these lanes are absolutely chock full and awash with thrashing limbs, in these scenarios it makes more sense to swim in the medium lanes and keep an eye on the fast lanes to see if they slow down or empty out.  It may be that all the lanes are full, in this case I would always choose the slower lane option to start with and move up later on if I can.  It’s just not worth the stress of killing yourself swimming as fast as you can to keep up.
  2. In the scenario that someone in your lane is faster than you, then let them go first and wait for them to pass.My general rule of thumb is if someone is less than a quarter of a lap behind you and gaining, it will be better for you and them if you let them pass. Pushing on regardless just means you will stress for the whole of the next length. If someone lets you pass, give them a quick thank you or a smile (prefer a thank you,   my smile midsession sometimes look more like a grimace which must be horrifying). If someone is in front of you that you need to overtake but they are not stopping (give them a lengths grace just in case they didn’t see you) then just cut of the end of that length and turn in front of them (look both ways of course). Personally I would never touch someone’s foot, if you are in that much of a hurry maybe you are in the wrong lane/session/swimming pool.
  3. If you are kicking/pulling/breast stroking/backstroking, make sure you are in a slower lane than normal. You can always move up for your fast sets later. Try and allow more of a gap than for normal lengths and graciously let people pass you.
  4. If you accidentally clobber someone with your legs or arms, and I mean clobber not just accidentally touch, then wait at the end of the lane to apologise. It happens to everyone. I’ve been smacked in the face and also kicked someone in the face before, most people are generally pretty forgiving but I have had one person shout at me after an unfortunate leg/face interaction. It happens, try not to take it personally.
  5. If you are resting in between sets, keep an eye on swimmers coming and try to stay out of the way. Don’t hog the ends, be considerate. Make it clear you are resting – I always pull my goggles up. If you are just chatting, pull your legs up on the side (or get out – chatting is for changing rooms, and coffee afterwards!).

Last but not least, and not only for the ladies, there are some of us who are extremely comfortable with their bodies and their nakedness and that is wonderful, however please spare a thought when you are changing for other people’s personal space.  Revel in your wondrous nakedness but please just don’t do it too close to me…

Love swimmers, love swimming



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