Lap Swimming Series: The Art of Joining a Lap Lane


Lap Swimming.  A wonderful form of exercise.  A special experience in social aggravation.

The goal of this article and the other articles in the Lap Swimming series is to provide insight, humor and information on the wonderful world of adult lap swim.  I’m am going to highlight the un-spoken rules of sharing a lane and the actions that may cause a swimmer to become known as “That Guy”.  Trust me, you do not want to be “That Guy.”   To help prevent the acquisition of such a title, I will also provide hypothetical examples from real life situations that caused severe, momentary anger and un-godly miffed-ness.

If you know what I’m talking about then read on and feel free to add insight!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about then read on, ask questions and educate yourself.

Joining a Lane:  The Art of Splitting the Lane and Circle Swimming.

There are certain things to keep in mind when attending an Adult Lap Swim:

  1. Your bathing suit is tight enough to stay put.
  2. Make sure there is nothing stuck in your teeth.
  3. You are an adult and not an age group team swimmer sand-bagging the lane.

OK, You’ve got your speedo, your over 18 and you don’t have any spinach in your teeth.  Now what?  Now you have to join a lane.  

Follow these guidelines and avoid being “That Guy”:

  • # of People in Lane: 0 – Choose your lane and swim as you wish.  Take advantage of solo swimming time!  Go straight down the middle! Do a zig-zag down the lane!  This is a rare and wonderful opportunity.  BUT: Always make sure to stay aware of what is going on around you and keep an eye an out for a fellow swimmer in need of a lane. 

“That Guy” award: There are 3 total designated lap lanes and 2 lanes are completely empty.  “That Guy” jumps into the only lane with another swimmer.

  • # of People in Lane: 1 – Wait until the swimmer approaches the wall and attempt to get there attention.  You may get there attention by slightly waving your hand in the water or politely getting their attention in some other manner.  They should be aware of their surroundings and realize that someone is hoping to join their lane.  Once you have their attention, simply ask the swimmer if they would mind “splitting the lane” with you. This is defined below.  As a curtesy, allow the original swimmer should choose which side they will swim on and you take the other side.  Off you go!

“Splitting the Lane” – When 2 people share a lane and the lane is split down the middle.  The black line on the bottom of the pool is generally considered the line of demarcation.  One person swims completely on the right side of the lane and the 2nd person stays on the left side of the lane.

“That Guy” award:  “That guy” jumps right into the lane and starts circle swimming without any form of communication with the other swimmer.  S/he simply barrels down the lane on whatever side they want and inevitably frightens the %*&%# out of his fellow swimmer.  Bonus: run the other swimmer over with a flip-turn.

  • # of People in Lane: 2 – Attempt to get the attention of both swimmers.  Usually the 1st swimmer will assist in stopping the 2nd swimmers.  Once you have their attention, simply ask if you could join their lane and if they would mind “circle swimming.” Defined below.  Educate your fellow swimmers if necessary and thank them for allowing you to join their lane.
“Circle Swimming” – When 2 or more people share a lane and the lane traffic follows in a manner similar to the countries traffic pattern.  If you drive on the right side of the road, then swim on the right side.  If you drive on the left side of the road, then swim on the left side.  Stay close to lane line and try not to smack your fellow swimmer with your arm during your stroke (this is particularly tricky when swimming butterfly).

“That Guy” award:  Just go for it.  Make everyone else conform to your awesome-ness.  Run the other swimmers over and make them accept that your way of swimming is better.  They’ll eventually fall in line and get out of your way.  If not, they should get out of the lane!  Your more important anyway.

  • # of People in Lane:  3 +  – Simply wait for an opening in the swimming traffic and get started (Think: pulling into traffic on the highway).  Provide enough space between you and the other swimmer so that you are not swimming directly on top of them.  If you stop at either end of the lane, take care not to block the middle of the wall.  Simply move to the corner of the wall and the lane line.  This will allow the other swimmers to keep on swimming without flip-turning on you.
“That Guy” award:  Push off the wall right in front of another swimmer and….slow down or stop.  Thats right, go at your own pace and ignore what anyone else is doing.  This is a perfect way to make friends.

More swimming etiquette to come!


Keep on Swimming,


Coach Meg


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