Did you know there is a set of (informal) rules of conduct known as “lap swimming etiquette”? You didn’t? Let me enlighten you. I would not want you to be scolded by a meanie who thinks they own the pool water. Yes, there are a few bullies at every pool.


15 Lap Swimming Etiquette Guidelines

  1. Check out the lanes before you get in the water. If your pool has signs that read “Slow,” “Medium,” or “Fast,” join the lane where the swimmers swim at your speed. Are there no signs where you swim? Watch and observe before you enter the water. Why? Do you drive your car in the fast lane at 25 mph?
  2. If you are alone in a lane, pray to the swim gods -you have reached Nirvana – swim down the middle of the black line.
  3. If there are two swimmers in the lane, it can be split into half and each swimmer swims in one half of the lane. Hence the black line that divides the swim lane. Ask the lap swimmer which side he or she prefers. When I am teaching, I teach my student, young or old, how to ask the lap swimmer if we can share the lane. This is part of my lesson and yes, I have to teach swim lessons in a shared lane. Such is life.
  4. If you are the third person in the lane, expect to “circle swim” in this lane. This is when life could get complicated. Everything you learned in kindergarten is sometimes forgotten. Circle swimming in the USA is done “counterclockwise.” If you need to pass a slower swimmer in this lane you “gently” tap them on the foot so that they know your intention- to pass them. He/she should stop at the end and move to the right corner so that you can pass. Do the same if you are the person being passed. On a personal note, I have had lap swimmers pass me while swimming. You can do this, but you must be careful and considerate. The swimmer coming the “other” way may crash into you. It is ugly and it hurts.  You have two choices. Kindly tell the person who passed you the rules of the road when he or she stops or find another lane. If you are at Masters Swim like I was, I told the coach (I guess you have three choices). That is why she gets the big bucks. Tip: If you are a newbie swimmer, this lane of “circle swimming” is not for you.
  5. When joining a lane, slowly enter the water, dangle your legs in the water- this lets the swimmer know you have arrived. Wait on the side of your lane until the swimmer notices you. Smile big.
  6. If you are going to do the Butterfly, Breaststroke, Elementary Backstroke or Side-Stroke, this takes a whole lane. No one wants to get whacked by your arms or kicked by your legs. This hurts and it’s just plain rude to even consider doing this while “sharing” a lane.  Your swim team days are over.
  7. Do not dive in. You will scare the swimmers and it is dangerous.
  8. Do not dive off the diving block when swimming laps. Why? The diving blocks belong to the swim team. You must have permission to use them.
  9. Do not push off the wall right in front of a faster swimmer. Let him/her pass first.
  10. Likewise, do not push off behind a slower swimmer to only then quickly pass him. Leave some room before pushing off.
  11. If you chat with a fellow swimmer, do it on the sides of the lane- if you must. It’s best to chat in the locker room.  There may be someone waiting to use your lane.
  12. Do the same, if you need to rest. Do not stop in the middle of the pool, or hang onto the lane line in the middle of the pool, unless it is an emergency. The lifeguard will be paying you a visit.
  13. Do not hover or put your swim equipment where you want to swim. This is like standing next to the booth in a restaurant where you want to sit.
  14. Do not ask the lifeguards to critique your swimming stroke. They are there for your safety.
  15. The pool manager at my pool is considerate of lap swimmers. He will help you find a lane suitable for you- if you ask him. He is not a mind reader. You must ask.

Public pools are just that. They are for the general public. The pool where I work, the Carson City Aquatic Facility, is shared by the swim team, deep water aqua-exercise classes, shallow water exercise classes, water polo, water walkers and swim lessons and general swimming.  The lanes must be shared. Reaching nirvana, and having your own lane, is not likely to happen. I must add that the Carson City Aquatic Facility is the biggest 50 meter pool in Northern Nevada. It is a privilege, not a right, to swim at public pools.