Lap Swimmer Etiquette – Is it Time to Send Your Lap Swimmers to Finishing School?

lap-swimmersConsidering a Lap Swimmer Etiquette document? Good idea! When it comes to lap swimming, more isn’t always merrier. Some pool operators and aquatic directors find themselves consistently tasked with managing the crowd. Lap swimmers want their own lane. They hate to share and the REFUSE to circle swim. Slower swimmers feel pressured and faster swimmers can’t stand someone in their way. At some pools, lap swimming is anything but a community activity…

The good news? That’s not always the case. Around the country we often find pools that foster a sense of community around lap swimming. Swimmers leave open lanes to swim next to their friends. Casual coaching of stroke mechanics happens at the walls. Masters programs are developed. New swimmers are welcomed to the pool. Swimming and community seem to coexist around the lane lines.

So why the split? What’s happening at some pools that leads to a great lap swim culture, and what is that special component that is missing at the others? It all starts with a little etiquette – those conventional requirements of social behavior. The established properties of community conduct. Simply put, great pools define the way we interact with our fellow swimmers.

If your pool lacks that community feel, it may be time to steer the crowd. Don’t think of lap swim guidelines as rules, rather as a framework that leads to greater enjoyment of the pool for all. Ready to develop better lap etiquette at your pool? Here’s what your guidelines should cover:

Starting Your Swim – Let’s face it, joining someone else while they’re mid-workout isn’t an easy thing to do, especially when they have their head underwater. Here are some guidelines for joining a lap lane.

  • Take Your Pick – If there’s a free lane, take it. If not, pick a lane with a similar lap swimmer or consult the lifeguard for a recommendation on whose lane you should join.
  • Patience is a Virtue – Sit on the wall with your feet on the gutter and wait for the other swimmer to take a break. Most swimmers will stop and welcome you into the lane.
  • No Forced Entry – Drop into the lane while your fellow swimmer is in rest, or away from the wall. In other words, don’t jump in on top of a swimmer mid-flip turn.
  • Failure to Yeild – If your lap lane partner doesn’t stop, don’t take it as a personal jab – they’re probably mid-set. Follow the above guidelines to enter the lane. You’re now free to start your workout.

Lap Sharing Logistics – Now that you’ve joined the lane, remember that you’re going to be working out with someone. Some basic considerations should be given to support your peaceful coexistence.

  • One – Got the lap lane to yourself? That’s great. Now remember, be welcoming if someone decides to join you.
  • Two – Pairing up? You’ve got two options. Split the lane down the middle, or begin to circle swim. Discuss this with your fellow lapper.
  • Three and Over – With three or more swimmers it’s time to circle swim. Avoid standing on the “T” when resting, and stick close to the lane line so everyone can work their turns properly.

The Finishing Touches – Now that you’ve established protocols for entering the pool and using the lane, you’ve proactively reduced most of the issues associated with lap sharing. Here are just a few more things you may want to consider.

  • The Butterfly Effect – Making huge waves may have a negative impact on other people’s workouts. Communicate with the other swimmers sharing your lane before doing anything that will send them off course.
  • Hall Pass – Need to pass the swimmer ahead of you? That’s simple. A light tap on the toes is the international symbol that you’re ready to pass.
  • Here to Help? – The lifeguard on duty is not a pool concierge. Lifeguards can make suggestions on which lane to pick, but their primary responsibility is to ensure everyone’s safety, not to count your laps.
  • Not so Fast – Water walking, aqua jogging and slow swimming can all be great workouts, but should be done only in designated areas.
  • The Waiting Game – You’re welcome to wait for a lap lane to open so that you can have it all to yourself, but there’s no guarantee it will stay that way. Always be courteous to other swimmers looking to share your lane.