Circle Swimming Etiquette

IMG_4710In an ideal world, my swim workouts would be in a 50 meter heated outdoor pool that is empty. Rain kept most swimmers away when I snapped this picture on a chilly and rainy early spring day before I jumped in feet first and started my swim. Light rain distorted the otherwise smooth surface and stung my skin with cold. A few leftover leaves waved from the bottom when I turned.

Since this never happens, and I mean never, here are some swimming etiquette tips for swimming and splashing nicely with others. Most pools have a few lanes for lap swimming, but may close lanes for swimming lessons, water aerobics, swim team, or private lessons. So, when you find yourself standing there on the pool deck with cap and goggles in hand, here are a few basic things to remember:

  1. Circle swimming is counter-clockwise, so keep to the right of the black line up and down the lane.
  2. Passing: tap the swimmer’s feet in front of you to pass. Once at the wall, the swimmer you are passing should move to the far right of the lane, you’ll do a flip turn or open turn on the left, and then the swimmer you passed will push off and start swimming behind you. It’s not a good idea to pass up the middle of the lane when circle swimming with others unless you want to collide head on. Lifeguards don’t like that. And, I don’t want to have to pull anyone out of the pool for a concussion. Just pass at the wall, please.
  3. When swimming in a masters group, talk to the coach and find out what the swimmers are doing, what the sets are, and where they are in the set. Take turns leading and give a few seconds in between swimmers to prevent swimming at their feet the whole time. The lead swimmer should know the sets, times to leave, etc. If you switch leaders in a lane, the new leader should understand all of this. When arriving late or leaving early, talk to the coach and the other swimmers in your lane so everyone knows what’s going on.
  4. Wall know-how: if turning or finishing at the wall, move over to the far left to leave room for other swimmers to turn and push off. Lead swimmers start on the right and enter the swimming lane on the right of the line. All other swimmers will follow the lead swimmer and enter from the right of the lane.
  5. If possible, swim with swimmers who are close to your speed, leave enough distance between you and other swimmers, and make sure you talk to everyone to ensure smooth swimming.

With these simple rules, circle swimming works well. I’ve had up to six swimmers per lane for my swim sessions at the Haverford Y, and everyone was able to get their workout completed even though none of my swimmers swim at the same speed, and they all vary in ability. Swimmers should be welcome to swim without waiting too long to start a workout. Swim happy, people! And share a lane with circle swimming.

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