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Lap Swim Ettiquette (i.e. how to not piss off K if you are swimming with her) May 21, 2008

Posted by K in Swimming.

I’m double posting today to make up for the lack of activity lately. In commenting on T’s latest post, it made me think of lap swimming and the things other swimmers do that really piss me off. For the benefit of the tons of people who read this blog (heh!), I thought I’d put together some simple lap swimming rules that are non-negotiable:

  • Swim in the lane that matches your speed – If you cannot continuously swim 100 yards/meters at the fast speed, do not swim in the fast lane. Nothing is more aggravating than having to constantly navigate around the egotistical male swimmer (and it’s totally ALWAYS a dude) who sprints for a lap, then rests at the wall after each lap just trying to “beat me” (obviously excluding those who are actually doing sprints as part of their workout). Get over yourself and swim in the lane that most accurately matches your swim speed for continuous swimming. And REALLY – don’t get in the fast lane because the medium or slow lane already have a swimmer or two. I HATE that.
  • Understand what circling and splitting means – Splitting a lane with two people means you have your side and I have mine. Stay on your goddamn side. Circling when there are three or more swimmers means that you circle swim (i.e. up the pool on the right hand side and down the pool on the left hand side – possibly backwards in the UK, I’m not really sure). When you circle, be aware of your other swimmers and be prepared to push off the wall on the correct side. I hate when we’re circling and I’m coming into the wall and some idiot is pushing off the wall on the wrong side of the lane!!!
  • Understand the signals of lap swim – There are signals to indicate to other swimmers what you want. Usually, a circling motion means “let’s circle swim” and a foot tap means that someone wants to pass you. Be aware of those.
  • Passing – It’s inevitable that you may need to pass other swimmers or they may need to pass you. PAY ATTENTION to the people in your lane, move over if they are trying to pass you, DO NOT speed up only to get in their way at the wall. On the flip side, be courteous to those that you are trying to pass, give them enough space as there’s really no need to swim over them.
  • Use the equipment properly – Learn how to use the equipment and what it’s for before using it. A pull buoy is for pulling. You put it between your legs so it keeps your legs afloat, leaving you to focus on your stroke and build up strength in your legs. A kick board is for kicking, it keeps your torso afloat so that you can practice on kicking and build leg strength. I don’t need to be kicked by some dope using a pull buoy and trying to kick at the same time, thankyouverymuch
  • Wear the proper suit – I know you may have money and may think that you need the fancy suit but you know what? If you’re a lap swimmer, chances are you don’t so get over yourself, wear a suit that gets the lap swim job done and move on. I don’t care that you’re wearing the fancy new TYR suit, I’m probably still faster than you (ahem, guyintheendlanethatiseeeverydayIswim…) Also ladies, lap swim is not a place for the string bikini. They make workout bikins that are much better for your swimming needs.
  • Don’t be a know-it-all – Nothing bugs me more than some doofus lap swimmer who thinks they know everything there is to know about swimming and wants to time me and inform me of my time. I can track my own time using the pace clock. I started swimming competitive at age 11 and though I’m not nearly as fast as I used to be (I peaked at 14 :-(, I think it’s clear that I know what I’m doing. Which brings me to my final point…
  • Don’t talk to swimmers who look angry – I have a short amount of time to swim during my lunch break and I want to maximize that time. I come to the pool to swim and though it may look as if I’m resting because I’m not swimming, I’m most likely watching the clock for my send off. Don’t engage me in conversation unless there is a reason we need to talk. And yes, I do look angry when I swim. I work hard at my swim workout and I don’t want to be interrupted. Swim time is not a chat time for me.

At the end of the day, I just want to get in, do my workout, so if fellow lap swimmers could just figure it out, life would be all that much better for me in the pool.



1. Anne Keckler - July 30, 2008

Oh wow. Now I’m completely intimidated. I’m afraid to even try lap swimming because I don’t know what I’m doing.

How does a newbie learn all this stuff? If I’m just learning how to swim freestyle, how can I be sure I won’t break a rule while I’m trying not to inhale water??

2. Rabbit - July 31, 2008

There is only one rule that a newbie needs to know. Stick to the SLOW lanes and stay FAR AWAY from the fast swimmers. Realize that their speed is the result of years of practice and tens of thousands of lengths. They do not take kindly to having their workout interrupted by someone who considers themselves “fast” because their personal trainer gave them a gold star last week.

The truth is that there are no hard and fast rules to learn. Its one of those things where if you have to ask, then you shouldn’t be there. Those with the experience rarely have any problems sharing lanes regardless of what rules have been posted.

What makes things so bad is that so many people think they are “fast” simply because they are faster than the other old/sick/drowning/dying people who show up at pools. Fast means consistent speeds averaging under 20minutes per kilometer. That’s 1min per lap. If you cannot swim at that pace, or dont plan on swimming that far, stay away from the fast lanes.


3. K - July 31, 2008

Anne, I think Rabbit sums it up nicely. Mostly it’s about being aware of your speed and getting in the lane that fits your speed. For example, I don’t mind splitting a lane with a swimmer much slower than myself if it’s just the two of us and the pool is relatively empty. But the minute a third person shows up and wants to circle, it’s best if the slower person recognizes their speed and moves into a slower lane without being told. Just be aware and observant. You’d be surprised at how many lap swimmers are totally oblivious which is what really pisses me off.

And yeah, NEVER stop in the middle of the lane and for reals, DO NOT push off the wall right in front of a faster swimmer when they’re coming into the wall.

4. webber - March 15, 2009

Geez – it certainly sounds as if the pool is a welcoming place for newcomers … not.

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