triathlon and family can mix

Swim Etiquette

I am not British, but some etiquette rules just have to be followed.

When it comes to swimming, I often have come across the average joe out for a Sunday afternoon slow swim, at Thursday lunch. In my opinion, the local pools don’t do enough to educate swimmers on the proper ettiquete which will allow everyone to have an enjoyable experience. I am not talking about hard rules that have to be followed or you are kicked out, like peeing in the pool, but just the little things that will help out your fellow swimmers.

I have wanted to write this blog post for a while now, but struggled with how to write it in a positive way, not just complain. So I decided to share some of the rules I have learnt over the years in the pool.

Fast, Medium, or Slow Lane
Pick the right lane for your ability, not for how many people are in it. There is a reason why the fast lane is always less crowded than the medium or slow lane; because to consistently swim sub 1:40/100m, you have to be good. By picking the right lane, you make the workout more enjoyable not only for yourself, but for the others in your lane. No one likes to be a speed bump.

There is not a specific time divider, but I have found that if you swim around 1:40/100m, the fast lane is for you. If you swim 2:00/100m, it isn’t.

Turn Baby, Turn
Coming from a swimming background, I flip turn. That doesn’t mean that you have to do it too; it is the one thing that intimidates most swimmers. Actually, I think that the wall period intimidates most swimmers. What do I do when someone is coming? Should I push off now?

There will always be times when you will be resting at the wall. Unless you are the only one, or part of a masters class, the rest of the lane will continue on without you. You should always be resting at the right side of the lane (see next point).

If you are turing for another length (or 10) and there is no one in front of you, in the last 5m, move to the left of the black line, turn, and push straight off. This will help avoid the occasional collision and a potential face full of fingers. When you feel someone tap your foot or are coming to the wall for a rest, stay to the right side and rest there.

Pass Properly
I am about to get country for a second, so stay with me. Consider each swim lane like a two-lane, non divided highway. You wouldn’t pass when another vehicle is approaching in the opposite lane straddling the center line. So why is it okay in a swim lane? It isn’t. First question, are you actually swimming faster or just drafting? Drafting will reduce your workload by 8-10%. If you are swimming faster, polietly tap his/her foot (signal light), look to see if the opposite side is clear, then pass on the left. If the lane is not clear, tap his/her foot, wait until the wall, then when they pause to let you go ahead, go ahead.

Oh, by the way, if you feel someone tap your foot, stop at the wall and let them pass. I am pretty sure you figured this out, but if not, there you go.

With a full lane, it can be tempting to push off right behind the swimmer in front of you. Please, resist that temptation. The rule of thumb is with 4 or less swimmers in the lane, leave 10 seconds between each swimmer. In a lane with 5 or more swimmers, leave a 5 second gap and try to stay on the toes of the swimmer in front of you.

Oh, and if you are grabbing a flutter board for a kick drill, good for you by the way, I hate kick drills, wait until all of the swimmers have left the wall. You are slow and you will become a speed bump.

Try some of these on your next workout if you don’t already. I am sure everyone will appreciate it.

Question: Any rules I missed?


16 responses

  1. I guess I am lucky as my gym only has individual lanes set up. IE: One person to a lane unless a water jogger decides to share. Guess I have it lucky.

    November 14, 2012 at 10:58 am

    • Lucky on one side. On the other hand, I have found that being able to swim (or bike and run) with faster athletes has made me faster as a result. Don’t be afraid to join a swim club to take advantage of your competitive spirit.

      November 14, 2012 at 11:14 am

      • That all boils down to time and money and right now I do not have much of either. Also, it will be easier now that my endurance base is getting stronger! It does help that we have allot of triathletes in our pool, I spend quite a bit of time watching and learning from their swims.

        November 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

  2. Good post and this will show the new swimmer in me. At masters we always swim circle within the lane. However when I swim at the Y this concept doesn’t apply and people always want to split the lane (even if there are more than 2 swimmers). I’ve had a couple of near collisions due to this. What is common practice or the “rule” for how multiple people swim in the same lane.

    November 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    • In my experience, if there is 2 swimmers and they both agree, swimming ‘side by side’ is acceptable. If a 3rd enters, then circle is the correct way. Don’t be afraid to speak up, most swimmers won’t mind.

      November 14, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      • I agree. I always hate when I interrupt two swimmers who are splitting the lane, but its better to make sure they see you so we can all get on the same page and start circle swimming than sneak in and hope they see you before colliding. Just wait until a silly American jumps in your lane and starts circle swimming counterclockwise 😉

        November 16, 2012 at 10:24 am

  3. Good one!
    Next in the series……how to combat people that break these rules?

    November 15, 2012 at 12:12 am

  4. You know what, now I’m not sure about my above comment. Do Canadians swim counterclockwise or clockwise???

    November 16, 2012 at 10:33 am

    • Typically counterclockwise. We do drive on the right side of the road as well 😉

      November 16, 2012 at 11:45 am

      • Lol – I knew I was wrong the second I posted the initial comment, having driven the ALCAN 3 times!!! I spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to delete or edit a comment on someone else’s blog (wordpress wouldn’t let me) so, I figured I may as well get a definite answer and be 100% sure about it. I’m from AK and love my Canadian neighbors. Destruction Bay and Muncho Lake are sooooo beautiful but I’ve never competed in any meets in Canada. I remember a U.S. Open in Texas where the Australian swimmers had two lanes for warming up in a few days before the meet started and they all swam the ‘wrong’ way. It was fun to see. Occasionally we’d switch up direction for fun at practice, but I’m actually slower that way and don’t like it.

        November 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm

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