Lane Etiquette

Today I was back in the pool for a longer swim (70 minutes, 3.7km), which was a pleasure. I had a productive morning at work, ate an early lunch, and then headed to the pool a couple of hours later. After my low-volume week, I’m feeling physically fresher, but also markedly fresher mentally. This, I think, is one key to effective and enjoyable training – the breaks, in that sense, are as important as the training itself.

I thought that getting to the pool in the early afternoon would ensure a quiet lane, but soon discovered that this was not the case. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been doing most of my swimming in a small 25m pool, pictured above. As you can see, they only have one lane set aside in the middle of the pool for what they term (in German of course) ‘fast and practised swimmers’. Most people learning to swim, taking it slowly, or just getting in the water for a fun dip with the kids (all, incidentally, laudable pursuits) stay outside of the centre lane. But with only one actual lane available, it’s inevitable that what is thought to constitute a ‘fast and practised swimmer’ varies quite widely.

For the most part, variation in speed is not a problem (and of course something commonly found in any pool, even one with a lot of lanes available): swimmers of various speeds and following various workout plans want to swim lengths, there is only one lane available, so everyone agrees amicably to let faster swimmers pass towards the centre (and in saying this, I include myself amongst both those who pass and those who are passed – I’m far from the quickest one in the pool). There are few issues. Today, however, there seemed to descend upon the pool a host of people singularly unable to judge their own speed in relation to others, and too stubborn to move out of the lane (even when asked by other swimmers to leave: not by me, as I prefer to complain in a British fashion, that is to say indirectly to others). This made for a lot of passing and therefore a lot of turmoil (arrested strokes to avoid head-on collisions, kicks to the side, water in the face when breathing, etc.). Here is the rule I would suggest following: if one is passed by almost every other swimmer in the lane once every 50m, it is time to move out of the lane. I don’t think this is ungenerous.

All of this said, most people who get in the lane are very reasonable, and I should in fact probably be grateful for the exceptions encountered on a day like today, as I’m sure that the jostling will only be worse in an open-water race situation. It’s also generally good practice for developing patience and calmness with others, which hopefully extends beyond the microcosm of the pool into everyday life.


About philosophersrun

Not actually a philosopher.
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4 Responses to Lane Etiquette

  1. Kim says:

    I am finding similar challenges at the Y, but thankfully there are 3 lanes. What I find is that every single swimmer has a different interpretation of “slow” “medium” and “fast” swim lanes!
    In my tri class the etiquette is to touch the toe of the person you wish to pass then as you pull out to pass in the centre they move to the inside. I don’t think this would go over so well in the public lane swim!

  2. I sometimes think that they should be more descriptive about what is expected in a lane, such as giving average expected times for a 1000m or 2000m swim, rather than just saying ‘slow’, ‘medium’, and ‘fast’. I like the idea of the toe tap!

  3. Meara says:

    The toe tap is a “tried, tested and true” method for competitive swimmers as well, but in public I would NOT recommend touching someone in the pool. People get really uncomfortable if they are not familiar with the method.

  4. Pingback: The Itch is Back « fortytwothings

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