Coaching, Training, Camps.

Swim Etiquette for Triathletes

Many folks now participating in triathlon did not have the benefit of growing up as a swimmer. So we  thought we would touch on some basic rules of the pools. This way you can feel comfortable jumping in to a pool anywhere and feel like you know what you are doing.

Lane Selection

This is more of an art than a science, but here are a tips that may help you.

  • First and foremost, seed yourself correctly, and be honest about it. If you swim 100 yds on the 2:00, do not jump into a lane with the folks swimming 1:10/ 100yd Further, if the only way you can maintain the pace of the other swimmers in your lane is by wearing paddles or fins, it’s time to move over to a slower lane!
  • Typically in a lap pool setting, the center lanes are reserved for the faster swimmers.  As you move towards the outside lanes the  average pace of the swimmers in those lanes is typically slower. If you have ever watched a swim meet you will see that based on seed times, the fastest swimmers are usually in the middle lanes. This is the ideal setup. However, be aware that not all swimmers know this, nor do all swimmers adhere to these rules. This is the rule of thumb if you show up to an empty pool. Beyond this, you will have to use your best judgment.
  • To make matters even more confusing, sometime pools and masters programs have the fastest lane on one side of the pool progressing to slower lanes. i.e.; lane 1 is the fastest and lane 8 is the slowest. Basically, people should try to figure out what the pool policy is and adhere to that. When in doubt ask the coach or ask a lifeguard.
  • If there is an empty lane, jump in – don’t crowd a lane.  If there is a lane with 5 people in it next to a lane with 2 people in it, use common sense, i.e you should probably jump in the lane with 2 people. Again, it’s important to gauge the pace. If those two swimmers look faster than you, jump in behind them and then be courteous.
  • Finally, if you are having a hard time picking a lane, or maybe someone refuses to share a lane (yes-this happens!), talk to the lifeguards. They can help enforce some of these rules and can hopefully point you to in the right direction.

Group Swimming 

COLUMBIA, MO – FEBRUARY 16: Swimmers take laps in the warm-up/warm-down pool during day two of the Missouri Grand Prix on February 16, 2008 at the Mizzou Aquatic Center in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Let’s talk more specifically about courtesy in a crowded pool. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that aren’t ideal- perhaps the pool is too crowded and you have limited time to squeeze in a workout or maybe you find yourself in a lane of swimmers who are much faster or slower than you.

  • When joining a lane where swimmers are already present, try to get the swimmers attention so they are aware that someone is joining them. Often this can be done by dipping a kickboard into the water as the swimmer is approaching the wall. Alternatively, you can also wait until the other swimmers complete an interval.
  • Always circle swim (counterclockwise) unless there is only one other person in the lane and you have already made plans to “split” the lane. (Note that in some countries- Australia for example they actually swim clockwise, just like they drive . So if traveling abroad, make sure you know the local etiquette”). Otherwise always stay to the right unless you’re passing.
  • If you are done with a lap, move to the side of the lane. Do not sit in the middle of the lane! If you are being passed, the passing swimmer should tap your toes and then pass you on the left. Do not try to speed up or race them, let them pass. Always try to be aware of where the other swimmers are.
  • Do not jump in front of other swimmers! If you are waiting at the wall for your next interval and the timing of the other swimmers in your lane is not perfect – perhaps the other swimmers who are in the middle of their interval are coming towards you and are about to hit the wall, do not jump in front of them! Yes, you may miss your interval by 5 or 10 seconds, but your lane mates are going to be annoyed if you jump in front of them and they have to swim around you, especially if the lane is really crowded.
  • If you show up late to a workout, don’t disrupt the others in the lane. Yes, you may have missed part of the warm up- it happens -but do not start your “warm up” as the other swimmers are in their main set. The other swimmers could be trying to hit times on a threshold set, and having someone doing warm up drills in the lane may slow them down. The other option is to warm up in another lane and move over to the group when you are ready.
  • If you are swimming with a group, show up on time. If you missed something, skip it. If you are getting lapped over and over, maybe try cutting back part of the interval. For instance, if the group workout calls for 6 x 300m and you keep getting lapped, think about maybe cutting back one or two of those to a 200, or possibly skip a 300 and add it to the end of your work out. By modifying  your workout you may be able to more closely match the other swimmers.