With the cold weather settling in, many folks are starting to think about moving their workouts indoors. For me, when I think of indoor winter sports, I think of swimming. Odd, right? But swim season in high school was always in the winter. There’s a part of me that will always associate freezing cold winter mornings with swim practice.
Swimming is a great workout. Not only does it build cardiovascular fitness and lean muscle, it is a low impact exercise that’s a great complement to the high impact activities we do other times during the year like running. This can help aid in muscle recovery and injury prevention. Plus, I love the way I feel after a great swim workout.
But, I admit, getting in the pool during lap swim hours can be intimidating. It may seem like swimmers have their own code of conduct and rules. Well, we do.
Here are some basic etiquette tips for lap swimming.
1. Find a lane for you
When you first walk out on the pool deck, watch the pool for a few minutes. Are the lanes pre-assigned according to speed – Slow, Medium, Fast? Are there free lanes available? Who’s swimming fast? Who’s swimming slowly? Don’t be afraid to ask the lifeguard for advice as well. They are often familiar with the swimmers and can give you pointers as to who is just starting their workout and who’s close to finishing. Pick a lane with a swimmer who is swimming at a pace similar to your pace. If there’s an open lane, take it!
2. Getting into a lane
After you’ve picked a lane, sit at the wall towards one side of the lane and dangle your feet in the water. This lets the swimmer in the water know that you are there and are going to join them in the lane. Let the swimmer swim a lap or two to make sure that they’ve seen you. Most swimmers will stop and acknowledge that you are entering the lane, even if it’s a quick head nod, and discuss how you want to split the lane. Once the swimmer pushes off again, it’s OK to enter. When you do, make sure you give the swimmer ahead of you adequate space. You don’t want to push off right onto their heels. Also, don’t jump in and start swimming just as the swimmer in the water is approaching the wall. That’s just annoying.
3. Circle swim or split the lane?
If there are only two people in a lane, you have the option of splitting the lane down the middle or circle swimming. Discuss this with your lane partner. If you split the lane, you will swim up and down the lane on the same side of the black lane line.
If there are three or more people in a lane, you must circle swim, meaning that you swim in a counter-clockwise direction. As you swim, always stay to the right side of the black lane line. As you approach the wall, aim for the left side of the wall for your turn.
4. Passing and being passed
If you catch-up to the swimmer ahead of you, lightly tap their foot one or two times. That’s the signal that you would like to pass. The slower swimmer then stops when they reach the wall to let the faster swimmer turn and pass them. You could pass mid-lane but you need to be super careful of what’s going on around you. It’s like passing another car on a two-lane road. You don’t want to swim head on into another swimmer coming the other direction.
Everybody needs to stop and rest. Don’t do it in the middle of the pool (unless you absolutely have to) or hog the entire wall so that other swimmers have no place to turn. When you do stop at the wall, try to tuck yourself towards the corner of the lane line and the wall, preferably on the right side.
Finally, aqua-jogging and water walking are also great forms of exercise. However, please be mindful of doing either of these during lap swim hours unless there is a designated lane.
Do you have another etiquette tips to add? Do you have any lap swimming pet peeves?
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