Avoiding ‘Swim Rage’, or Basic Lane Swim Etiquette 101

Posted: February 7, 2012 in Swim
Tags: , ,

Imagine what life would be like driving on the road in your car if there were no traffic rules to be observed by motorists. It would be complete and utter chaos.  Believe me, it would.  I have experienced this first hand while trying to drive in Manila, in the Philippines.  Motorists don’t drive – they engage in vehicular combat, akin to the Hanna-Barbara cartoon classic ‘Wacky Races’.  You half expect to see the Slag Brothers go whooshing past with Dick Dastardly and Muttley giving chase in their ‘Mean Machine’.  It’s that bloody crazy!

In this same regard, lane swimming is very similar in that it too requires a strict code of rules and etiquette to adhere to in order to coexist peacefully and safely, and not have your local pool erupt into Waterworld-like madness.  Having to spend a significant amount of time in the pool this training season, I have become very sensitive, if not outright irritable, at some other swimmers for not making (or understanding) the ‘let’s just try and get along’  attitude in their respective lanes leading so some rather awkward moments which I refer to as “Swim Rage”.

Where I’ll admit that I’m more a ‘one lane/one swimmer’  kind of guy, I also understand that expecting this to actually happen would be to live in a complete Fantasy World.  So without further ado, I am offering these commonly accepted lane swimming etiquette pointers in an attempt to have everyone on the same page so we can all have an effective and enjoyable workout without having to go all ‘Mortal Kombat’  on another.

1.        Choose the correct lane.

Usually, each lane has been marked as either ‘Fast’, ‘Medium’ or ‘Slow’ and are marked accordingly for a reason.  So, decide on which lane best suits your swim speed…no ‘if’s’, ‘and’s’  or ‘but’s’  about it.  Just because when you swam there yesterday and were able to swim in the fastest lane, it doesn’t mean that will be the case the next day, so assess who is already there and position yourself correctly.  Sure we all want to feel like Michael Phelps sprinting it out in the ‘Fast’ lane but, if there are other faster swimmers already there, so suck it up and take it to the appropriate ‘Medium’ lane instead, Popeye.

There is nothing more aggravating than having your sprint intervals interrupted by some jackass who decides that he would rather breast stroke his way down the ‘Fast’ lane rather than share the ‘Slow’ lane with the old lady.  Seriously, dude?  We’re not going to think any differently about you; hell, I work out with the old birds myself from time to time when I’m just warming down or stretching out after a workout.   Besides, maybe grandma would appreciate the added push to her own workout.

2.        Always swim on the right.

Just as you would on the road in your car, always swim down the lane on the right hand side.  We do not live in the U.K. or Australia, so leave the left hand lane open for either oncoming traffic – this is called ‘Circular Swim’  and is intended to avoid unnecessary collisions while swimming.  It’s not rocket science.

3.       Pass at the wall

This is a touchy subject and will definitely warrant a lot of discussion at your next post-workout coffee get-together as there are a lot of differing opinions on how and when to pass slower swimmers during a lane swim as passing is simply inevitable, particularly during long distance sets.   One popular belief is that you pass in the center of the lane when you have the “opportunity” to do so, making sure to speed up in order to pass as fast as possible before pulling over in front of the passee.  Likewise, the passee in this scenario slows down slightly to enable the passer to get by as quick as possible. Yeah, I don’t like this practice very much as if the lane is full, then there will always be oncoming traffic; then it’s more like trying to pass a large truck on a busy throughway and that’s pretty nerve-wracking.  So I personally subscribe to another method where passing is to be done at the wall.  Here’s how it works:

  • Passer: Gently taps feet of Passee. (Passer may tap twice just to verify his intention and not an accidental collision)
  • Passee: At the next turn (wall), pulls over to the Right Corner and stops.
  • Passer: Makes flip turn at Left Corner of wall.
  • Passee: Starts swimming again, behind the Passer.

That sounds pretty easy right? That way you don’t have to deal with on-coming traffic at all and we can all co-exist peacefully in tandem to one another.

4.       Turning at the wall

In general, when ‘circle swimming’; swimmers should make their turns at the Left Corner  of the lane. As soon as the swimmer ahead of you finishes his turn and goes by, you should swim towards the center of the lane, make your turn to the left of the cross on the wall, and push off on what is now the right-hand side of the lane.  If everyone does their turns this way, we will avoid crashing in to each other.

5.       Resting

With regards to resting in between sets on the wall in the middle of swims, swimmers should hang on the wall in the Right Corner  of the lane. This will allow the other swimmers to continue to make their turns in the Left Corner without interference.  Also, when finishing your swims, be sure to finish as far to the left as possible so that the swimmers behind you have some room to your right to finish as well and they don’t end up with their head up your ass.

There is nothing more annoying during my morning swims when the old dudes gather at the end of the wall to conduct their morning constitutionals* with one another.  Hey, that’s why there’s an ‘Open Swim’  area to do that kind of stuff where you can just bob around with your pool noodle and talk about last night’s hockey game, or the restoration on your bathroom suite, or whatever.  I’m trying to swim here fellas so I can get to work, so kindly move your ass out of my ‘Fast’ lane and let me do what I need to get done, will ya?

6.      Borrowing pool equipment

Fortunately, my local pool provided most things that I need to successfully complete 80%  of my workouts, namely a ‘pull buoy’ and kick board.  They are available to anyone and are located in a huge plastic box in the equipment area at the far end of the pool.  So why is it then that, every now again, after I’ve left these things at the end of my lane and I go to grab one of them to begin my next set, they’re suddenly gone?  Are their pool fairies around stealing and hiding my equipment or something? Of course not!  Most often, they have been taken by another swimmer who has picked them up instead of going to fetch their own from the designated boxes I mentioned.  Maybe they didn’t know they were there to begin with, or maybe they did and were just too lazy, whatever, but geez man, couldn’t you at least ask first?  After all, would you grab somebody’s running shoes or spin shorts had you the opportunity?  Shit no!  So how is ‘borrowing’ somebody’s pool equipment without asking any different?

Likewise, be a sport and return the equipment after you’ve finished your workout, huh?  No one likes to begin their swim workout with a scavenger hunt around the pool area to find the necessary equipment.

7.       Trim those goddamn toenails!

Yes, I know, I’m sure I’ve brought this up before.  This is a huge bee in my bonnet so to speak as this, for me, is absolutely crucial for a successful swim workout.  Besides providing you with a huge drag effect in the water (I jest, of course) no one looks forward to the risk of having their jugular vein severed by Grandpa Moses and his gnarly yellowed, Velociraptor-like toe nails when they happened to get too close when passing.  Lord knows I’ve had some close calls myself as I tried passing some breast-strokers; all the more reason to pass at the wall if you ask me.

Given the potential close proximity of your feet to someone else’s head why wouldn’t you want to exercise some sort of basic foot care?  I can’t swim in a suit of protective armor, so for fuck sakes, get out the nail clippers and trim those suckers back, Godzilla.

* I use this term to refer to an idle chit-chat, not taking a dump.  God knows that’s a whole other pool etiquette thing.

  1. Carolyn says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with the “pass at the wall” point; as I’m a fan of the “pass in the middle of the lane” method. I believe you slightly tap the foot, the slower swimmer moves over towards the right and the passee makes their move. This obviously means that there isn’t another swimmer coming down the other side of the lane mean that an unfair game of chicken has been started.

  2. Yeah, that’s the way I used to prefer it as well, except my lane swims have been increasingly busy in the winter and I can’t always take into account where the oncoming traffic is, or where they are in relation to their own path and I’ve had a few close calls and outright collisions, so I have found this method works the best in a busy lane. Problem is, not everybody knows why I’m tapping them and assume (rather begrudgingly and mistakenly) that I’m actually urging them to speed up.

  3. Carolyn says:

    Busy lanes suck. I’m so thankful that I almost always get my own lane when swimming laps at my Y. In Master Swim, it is 4-5 deep, but those folks normally can hang so it isn’t an issue.

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