Lap swimming is a wonderful alternative method of exercise for all different kinds of people, from the beginning swimmer to the individual who has swum every day for the past twenty years. I’ve been a lifeguard since the summer of 2000, and a great deal of my time has been spent watching people jumping into the pool to swim a few laps in favor of spending some time on the treadmill. Unfortunately, a great deal of that time has also been spent watching beginning lap swimmers get themselves in trouble with the more established swimmers simply because they weren’t aware of the etiquette that is expected. All to often this results in the beginner becoming discouraged, never to return to the lap lanes again.
1. You should always attempt to join a lane that has people swimming at around the same pace as yourself. This is important to avoid potential confrontations with other swimmers who are swimming at a faster pace than yourself and don’t want a slower swimmer slowing them down. Many pools have their lanes marked with signs informing you of the general rate of speed that is expected in each lane. Having a comparable speed to the rest of the swimmers in your lane is also important because even if you join a lane in which there are people who are willing to work around you without any complaints, you are going to feel the need to try to swim at a comparable rate to the rest of the swimmers in your lane. Pushing your limits during exercise is a good thing, but not when it causes you to over work your body.
2. If there is only one swimmer in the lane, you should make sure to let them know that you would like to join their lane. Remember to work out how you will divide the lane. Will you circle swim or split it down the middle? At this point it is less of a worry how fast the other person is swimming because neither one of you will be in a position to slow the other down. As soon as a third person joins your lane you should reevaluate the swimming speed of the other people in your lane to make sure that you are all swimming at a comparable rate. If not you should probably move to a lane that is more your speed instead of staying in a lane full of people who are much faster or slower than you are.
3. If there are already multiple people in the lane you are joining make sure to note whether or not they are circle swimming. If they are circle swimming, make sure to let at least one of them know that you are hopping in. At this point you can join the circle without worrying about colliding with any of the other swimmers.
4. If you are joining a lane that already have two swimmers in it then it is even more important to note if they are circle swimming or if they have split the lane and each swimmer is remaining on their own side of the lane. If they have split the lane, do not enter the water until you have been able to let both persons know that you would like to join their lane and that you will all have to begin circle swimming. If both people are not aware that you are joining the lane you risk a collision in the pool. Not only is this painful and dangerous, it is also a great way to have a more experienced swimmer give you an angry earful. Beginning a lap swimming routine at a new pool is nerve wracking enough without having the attention of the entire pool centered on your mistake.
5. Finally, if you have a question ask the lifeguard. We are knowledgeable about the pools we work at and how things are done there, and if you have a question that we cannot answer we can at least tell you where you can find someone who does know that answer.