Lane Etiquette

It’s a strange fact that guidelines for lane etiquette are often not written or well communicated to members of Masters swim clubs.  It makes life easier when we’re all aware of what’s expected and what constitutes ‘good manners’ in Masters swimming.  To assist members, we’ve decided to add an article on lane etiquette.

OMSC has anywhere from 15 to 40 swimmers swimming at workouts. With 2 to 8 lanes this means up to 5 swimmers per SC (25m lane) and up to 9 swimmers per LC (50 m lane). There must be some order to how people swim together. Usually the developmental or slower swimmers are in the lanes with the lower numbers (1,2,3 or 4) and gradually progress to the faster lanes with improved technique. If you are not sure where you should swim or have not swum for a while, talk with the coach, who will assist you to select a lane compatible with your speed and fitness level.

Remember: we were all beginners at some point. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you start in a slower lane or have to ask questions.  Our coaches are there to help get you to your prime again, and your fellow swimmers will be happy to help a new member of the family.

Many of the rules of swimming etiquette are unwritten, which can be really awkward, especially if you’re unknowingly breaking any of the important ones.  You’ve heard of ‘road rage’, well there’s also something called ‘lane rage’, and you can avoid it by following some important guidelines and rules.

1.     When you enter the water, never dive, jump, or push off into oncoming swimmers.

  • Wait until they have made the turn and pushed off the wall;

2.     Introduce yourself to the people in your lane.

  • This is the social part of our club. People in your lane become your friends, can help you decipher the workout and encourage you along your fitness track.

3.     Lane directions

  • If there are two swimmers in a lane, you can agree whether one keeps to one side of the lane and the other to the opposite side, or whether you want to circle swim.
  • If there are three or more swimmers in a lane, they must circle swim, and the custom is to stay to the right, that is to swim counter-clockwise (Australians think differently, but we’re in Canada).
  • If one lane is swimming counter-clockwise, the next lane should swim in the opposite direction.  This will help reduce the incidence of “colliding” arms.

4.     Make sure everyone understands the section of the workout before you start out.

  • Each lane develops its own leaders, usually determined by the speed of the individual swimmers. Each person has their own stroke strengths and weaknesses. It will take you a few sessions to figure out where everyone belongs. Don’t get discouraged, you will work it out.

5.     If you arrive late at workout it is up to you to determine where your swim mates are in the workout and join in at that point.

  • It is disruptive for someone to show up late and break the rhythm of the swim already in progress.  It’s also discourteous to the coach and fellow swimmers to arrive late, or to leave early, so try to avoid doing it if you can.

6.     If you do arrive late, wait until the swimmers are resting at the wall to announce your arrival.

  • Do not surprise them by just hopping in and swimming behind them. This often leads to collisions.

7.     If you need to pass a swimmer, pass on the left.

  • Preferably tap the foot of the person in front of you before passing. If you are being overtaken at the turn, stop, and wait until the other swimmer has pushed off.  It is best to make the pass at the wall rather than in the middle of the laps, as follows:
  • Passer: Gently taps feet of Passee;
  • Passee: At the next turn, pulls over to the Right Corner and stops;
  • Passer: Makes flip turn at Left Corner of wall;
  • Passee: Starts swimming again, behind the Passer.

8.     If you need to stop for a rest / clear your goggles / adjust your fins / gasp for air etc, squeeze into the corner to the right of incoming swimmers, so they will have sufficient room to turn on the left.

9.     Don’t leave early from the wall.

  • If the lane is going 5 seconds or 10 seconds apart, do not leave 3 seconds back.  In no time at all, you will be on the feet of the swimmer in front, and that is annoying.

10. Allow others to finish their set by moving to the corner of the lane.

  • Usually the way this works is at the end of a set the first person touches in on the far left side of the lane. The second person touches in the centre, and remains there. The third person touches to the far right, and then immediately moves away from the wall to the centre of the lane. Now the fourth person can touch in on the far right. It seems complicated, but it works if everyone plays along. With more than four swimmers, each additional person needs to move to the centre of the lane after they touch in on the right.  NB: it is annoying for a swimmer coming in to finish, if there is no space for him/her to touch the wall. Touching the wall is part of the finish.

11. At all times be aware of what is going on within your lane. Try not to kick or swing your arms into another lane or across your own lane especially when near to another swimmer.

12. Keep your toenails and fingernails trimmed.

13. Do not stand in front of the pace clock when others are still doing the swim set.

OK! That’s enough to keep you busy for a while.