Swimming lanes, and their usage

Hello, I’m Gary, and I like to swim.

I like to swim a lot. I swim first thing in the day, 5.30 till 7. If I have to miss that, I swim 12.30 till 2. There’s a reason why it has to be these times - that’s when my local pool fences off half the pool into lanes. Lanes are a good thing, as they allow swimmers to zip along as fast as their tiring limbs will drive them without leaving behind a trail of poleaxed children, grannies and other casualties reminiscent of the last scenes of the titanic.

A little bit about the main municipal pool here - it’s a beauty. A nice Victorian affair, just under Olympic in size, and for an old slow design it’s not too choppy. They put three lanes across one half of it at these times, and they even helpfully put up some rather large signs by these lanes to give you an indicator of speed: slow, medium and fast. In all, you think this would be a fairly fool proof system, right?

Recent events however have made it apparent that this is still not clear enough for a surprisingly large number of swimmers. I would appreciate your feedback on a set of notes I’m preparing for people who still need further advice.

Lane Markers
These you will recognize as long ropes, supported by a set of bright orange floats all along their length. Please be aware of the following points

  1. The markers are not some form of mooring system, to be used to support you when you decide to have a gossip break with some of your similarly challenged companions. Stop trying to stand on them.

  2. Although seeking new physical challenges should always be encouraged, your attempt to swim right through them is unlikely to succeed. May I suggest you either turn around, or swim parallel to them
    Lane Rules
    When actually within a lane, there are some useful rules to follow.

  3. If you look at the rather large signs in front of each lane, you will notice the direction of that lane. However, should that be a tad beyond your reading abilities, you will notice that all the people currently within the lane are swimming in one direction - clockwise. While everyone recognizes you are a free spirit, who would go where you choose, may I suggest that should you swim in the opposite rotation, you will find yourself repeatedly crashing into oncoming swimmers, who may be somewhat vexed at you.

  4. Swim breaks. It is understandable that even a honed athlete such as yourself will need to take occasional breaks in their workout. This is best done by leaving the lane. It is worst done by inviting a group of ten of your friends to all stand in the shallow end of the lane, impeding other swimmers as you discuss why the local soccer team is so poor. Should you do so, please do not be surprised when I use your body as a good platform to tumble turn off, even though this will hurt you considerably.
    Choosing a lane

  5. We all understand that you are a person in peak physical condition, notwithstanding certain indications to the contra (your beer gut, the swimming trunks that appear not to have fitted you since you left school 20 years ago, and the way you were standing in front of the pool having a pre-workout smoke when I came in). However, swimming does rely heavily on technique, so perhaps just blithely assuming you’re a fast swimmer isn’t the best way to go.

  6. Generally you will know you’re in the right lane if you’re keeping up with most of the other swimmers. If the fellow swimmers in your lane have become so tired of being slowed down by you that they’ve now started using leg floats and swimming with arms only, and yet they still are overtaking you, this might be a good sign to move down one lane.
    General tips

  7. Even within the lane categories available, there will still be marked differences in speed. If you do sense that someone is catching up with you, it is usually best just to let them pass. Throwing all your energy into a short lived frenzy of almost epileptic fury doesn’t actually make you go any faster. It just makes you look very silly.

  8. Sometimes people will catch up with you, and occasionally you will even have someone’s hand contacting your foot. This is best viewed as a indicator to stop at the end of this lap and let someone pass. It is probably best not to view this as provocation, stop swimming and threaten to assault the person in question.

  9. The above guideline servers double if the person in question is a woman at least 20 years older than you. This is not because I’m sexist - it’s just the person you’re currently swearing at is a former triathlete and shotokan instructor, and I might well laugh so hard at what happens next that I drown.

I feel your pain; this has all happened to me too.

I’m so, so sorry. What can I say? I’m a crappy swimmer, find it quite impossible to swim parallel to anything and am too slow for even the slow lane. And now and then I must either stop or sink.

I do my best, honest guv. And if you’re in anything other than the slow lane, you’ll probably be safe (though you’re always at risk at a combination sink & swim-at-angle causing me to zoom right across your bow). But at the end of the day, I was almost failing to reach the full length in a swimming gala many years before anyone had heard of that Eel bloke in the Olympics.



The very fact that you do not claim to be a proficient swimmer already rules you out as being one of the culprits for the crimes I’ve seen.

As a general rule, we’re looking at guys who haven’t swum much since they left school (usually about ten plus years ago). However, this does not deter them from their belief that they must be a great swimmer, because they were really good at it (not) back then.

Usual give away signs:

  1. Very old, and far too tight speedos, usually starting to become translucent with age.

  2. Usually start off trying a bit of crawl for perhaps half a length, until the lung capacity only achieved through ten years of sloth and marlboro kicks in. They then shift to a half hearted breast stroke. Occasionally they will attempt back stroke. This usually results in casualties as innocent passersby get axed off the back of the head by a flailing hand. If the spectator is in real luck they’ll attempt butterfly, a site best described as watching an epileptic baboon trying to fuck water.

  3. As mentioned previously, the mark of the elite lapsed swimmer is the pre swim cigarrete. This helps to conditions the lungs.

  4. To show their ownership of the water they will usually enter with an attempted dive. This usually means in a bellyflop of dambusting proportions. Bonus points if they land on a child whilst doing it.

This really isn’t aimed at poor swimmers - there’s nothing wrong with being a poor swimmer. All of us are poor at some sport (my inability at tennis is almost impressive). There’s just something about water though that seems to convince some people they are not only great swimmers, but they also have right of way over anyone else in the pool.

This is why I believe swimmers should be armed. It would make the Olympics ALOT more interesting.

Now that Twisty is a great idea.

The only thing is edged weapons would make the water a bit messy, and electric stun guns would seem a bit dodgy too.

I was thinking more along the lines of tridents and nets. A kind of a roman swimming gladiators.

Except it wouldn’t have John Fashanu going “Awoooooga!”.

I think we’re all agreed on the John Fashanu issue.

Although at a push I suppose you could use him as a cudgel.

I hear you on the swimming bit, but I think we should go further. I believe bicyclists should be armed with lances, to better push rollerbladers and families biking 4 people wide out of their way on bike lanes.

Heh. I was on a swim team for about 4 years and although I was spectacularly mediocre at it, I was the anchor on my relay team for a few years and we did reasonably well for ourselves.

What I always loved was when I was swimming outside of practice in a lane and the yahoo in the next lane over would try to race me, which culminated in said yahoo attempting to claim triumph after a lap or two.

Never mind that I was there to do, y’know, however many lengths I could fit in an hour in a pyramid workout while said yahoo would be worn out after about ten minutes of “racing” me.

I feel like most of the has-beens are desparately insecure in their speedos and as such feel a need to overcompensate.

Now this is the sort of creative thinking I like.

And as both a cyclist and a skater, I think you could get some interesting contests going here - ok the cyclist has got more speed, but the skater’s got more manouvrability. This could make for some really cool contests (although it is beginning to sound a bit rollerball’esque)

Of course, the family bikers would be no challenge, but watching them tumble would make for great viewing.

Oh yeah! I forgot to include that one in the OP - what is that about.

You settle into a nice cruising speed, something you can maintain for ages, just exercising away in a little zen state. Then you notice someone frantically try to keep up, their breathing and stroke ragged as can be, flailing at the water.

Did you ever have an occasion when they pause when you do - I’ve found myself stopping to check my pulse rate, to find someone in the next lane pull up after me, but wait until I start again before they do. I’m sorry, but it’s creepy.

No contest Gary. A stick through the spokes will win every time.

I am one of those swimmers who hangs about in the slow lane doing that lame “must not get my hair wet” neck-craning breaststroke. It’s because I can’t get water in my ears, but it means that even people in the slow lane huff and puff and get cross and overtake me.

hangs head in shame

I wouldn’t overtake you Fran! Even be-spectacled eighty year old women overtake me.

We should go swimming sometime.


Francesca, might I suggest investing in a nice pair of earplugs? The clear putty ones work reasonably well, but if you don’t like them I would suggest investing in a custom-made one. I used the custom ones all through swim team and any problems I had with 'em were due to my own fault. I’ve used the clear putty ones in a pinch. You get a lot more out of the breaststroke by going through the full range of motion for it- you’re basically hobbling yourself at the moment.

The customs are cool. They stick a bit of cottony stuff on a string down in your canal and fill in your ear with soft putty, which is an amazingly odd sensation. Then you wait until it dries and get it in the mail a few weeks later.

And what do you suggest for a guy with less muscle than an anorexic oyster and entirely too much mass? Not to mention technique that makes the baby Goodhew cry. Are there any cottony bits of string that will aid me in my quest?

I wait in anticipation…

I just about started screaming last night. There were only 2 lanes open, 3 people in each lane. I grab my stuff and jump into the slower lane. At the other end is a woman hanging on to to the side (deep end). She isn’t moving off the wall. She is there 3 laps later. Surely she can’t be resting. Her hair is not wet, and she is wearing her glasses. Hmmm, not swimming, I dare say. At this point, the lifeguard tells her lanes are for swimming, and she should keep moving, or be somewhere else. She spent the next 30 minutes moving alright. Moving as slowly as possible, passive agressive behavior at it’s finest. As she says to me, " I usually tread water, but THEY’RE making me swim!" So get in the damn ‘rec’ area! Why take up the lane? She finally got out, right as I was finishing up, and I stretched out to finish up. I was going to get some uninterrupted laps in! On my first “free” lap, I get bonked on the head by the swim teacher. They want my lane. Can I move over, please? Arrgh. That was my clue to get out. So frustrating.

You could shove a tampon up your butt and see if sheer discomfort makes you move faster.

(hey, that’s the first cottony bit of string that came to mind.)

Thanks for the suggestion - I do wear earplugs and have worn both generic and custom-made, but neither keeps the water out properly. If even a little bit gets in it can hurt like hell because I have holes in my eardrums and I get ear infections at the drop of a hat. This is why I joined the gym instead of going swimming to get fitter :wink: