Lap Swimming

image If everyone else didn’t suck, life would be easier. Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh, but sometimes the interactions I have during morning lap swim (or lap swim at any time really) can put me in a bad mood. Here is a short list of things that annoy me at the pool: (if you disagree, or feel that you may fit nicely into one of these items, please leave a comment and help me understand.)


  1. Being told I’m too fast for lap swim, or that I should swim slower to accommodate other people who are in the fastest lane.
  2. People who don’t cut their toe nails and kick you as you pass.
  3. People who can’t swim butterfly, but try.
  4. People who can swim butterfly, but refuse to do a single-arm stroke when they see you passing somebody in the other direction.
  5. Breaststrokers in the fast lane.
  6. Slow centerline swimmers.
  7. Slow swimmers with bad form in the fast lane. (slow swimmers with good form are WAY easier to deal with).
  8. People who swim sort of fast, but do it with such outrageously bad form that it’s impossible to get by them in a crowded lane.
  9. Knee kickers (These are people who kick from the knee, rather than the hip, it doesn’t actually propel them forward, but it does increase the likelihood of me getting kicked in a way that will draw blood (see number two).)
  10. Antisocial swimmers who won’t talk to you for two seconds to negotiate some lane etiquette.
  11. People who know you’re doing a sprint set, but don’t ask when you’re leaving before pushing off in front of you.
  12. People who ask when you’re leaving and then push off three seconds before you anyway.


That’s about all I can think of right now. What spurred this on was Saturday morning’s workout. I went to the Greenlake pool, where Brian Davis and I used to swim almost every morning. I haven’t been there to swim in months, but I slept through the 7am lap swim I normally go to on Saturday. I brought a set that was planned to the minute, so that I would have only about 120 seconds to spare in the 90 minute lap swim session. I was in the lane marked “very fast”, and flowing through my set when a few people tried to stop me and see if I could change the sendoffs to accommodate them. In December and January I probably would have agreed, but slowing from a 1:15 base sendoff to a 1:25 or 1:30 base sendoff would eat up my 120 seconds in no time, and take away from the purpose of the set. It’s October, and the season’s almost over, so I really can’t stray too far from my plan right now. So I said “no” and kept going. I guess the misunderstanding was that the group wanted the whole lane to do a workout together, and nobody wanted to do my workout. I didn’t really mind, I’m used to staying out of people’s way (or trying to) and going five seconds early or five seconds late every few intervals isn’t the end of the world. I just don’t understand why a group of seven swimmers wouldn’t just go to the masters workout held at the same pool, where 20 other swimmers of similar ability are doing workouts that are similar to what they write for themselves. If the masters group had a lane of people going my pace and doing workouts similar to mine, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Bottom line is, however, everyone that pays admission has the same right to be in the pool. I just don’t want to hear somebody tell me I need to leave because I’m going to fast for the “very fast” lane.

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

Join the Conversation


  1. I’m inspired by faster swimmers – mostly so I don’t get run over, so when a faster swimmer goes – I go right on their feet and hope that I can get down and back without getting lapped. Stick to your guns and flex your pecs a bit.

  2. You said it all spot-on. And I’m not even a super fast lap swimmer, but those things still apply. They pretty much apply to anybody who is trying to basically do a planned set and wants to stick to it (and I’m the same – willing to leave a little early or a few seconds late if it means I’ll stay out of people’s way).

    It is so annoying. It’s why I can’t go to lap swim anymore if I can help it because people suck so much and annoy the crap out of me. I’d just rather be with masters and people who understand pool etiquette and don’t get their speedos in a bunch at the slightest thing.

    In fact, I was remarking the other evening to a pool employee “why is it that lap swimmers get so angry over the stupidest things and why are they so cranky in general?” They really seem to be some of the crankiest, unfriendly people I’ve ever met. Ugh. (oh and not to mention some of the crankiest ones are the ones who fit #s 7/9 – the ridiculously slow swimmers in the fast lane, or the ones with REALLY bad form, and my personal favorite, the ones who seem to be so freaking oblivious to THE OTHER PEOPLE IN THEIR LANE and, as you said, leave JUST as you’re coming to the wall and continuing in your set, thereby being right SMACK IN FRONT OF YOU and SLOWING YOU DOWN…and then they get mad at YOU for going around them. god. Yes, you really hit a nerve with this post.)

  3. Wow, I thought I was going to get a bunch of people calling me mean, but so far it’s just a normal nonsensical Loren comment, and two people that agree with me. Maybe everyone doesn’t suck. Thanks for the story Sarah, I can tell we share nerves on this.

  4. wow, i’m really missing swimming right now!

    Fortunately most people would just clear out my lane once they saw me, (being big and tall has its advantages) . Those who get in my way b/c of their own stupidity or lack of etiquette I will gently bump and make sure they get a big wave of water as I pass. If they continue to be stupid I will bump them a little harder and see if I can make them choke on all the water I’ll be sending their way. Ben, I’m probably meaner than you.

    Court is a good person to share a lane with, but if she thinks you are making fun of her breastroke (and you probably will if you see it) then you will probably get kicked.

  5. Okay, think about this Ben. I swam in that madness for 2.5 years straight! And during the afternoon/midday swims, there are only 3 lanes! So I feel your pain, and then some. Sometimes I would just swim in the “slow” lane, since there wouldn’t be anyone in it. I would get some pretty weird looks. The only people I was really with friends with at the pool was the lifeguards, who understood my problems. There was a masters swim at 8:30 PM monday and Wed. Those guys were pretty cool. They would just let me com eup with a workout and tag on as best they could. Those are the best training partners! One time, I think in 2005 (Is that before you started triathlon), Barrett, Salerno, and I actually each got a lane next too each other and were about to do a sprint set. That was a miracle!

    I forgot how bad the crowds at that pool can be, but you brought it all back. I can’t believe I dealt with that for that long.

    You need to move to Colorado, I haven’t even had to share a lane in months. Part of it, is that the pool is open to lap swimming all day 6AM-8PM. So they can spread it out.

    Send me your email again. I somehow deleted it, and have a picture or two for you. Do you have Sexton’s too?

  6. Unfortunately, I fit nicely into one of those items… “People who can’t swim butterfly, but try.” I do it because my coach makes me… and because honestly, how else am I supposed to learn? But I do it in the medium or slow lane.

    You know there are a lot of pools further north (i.e. close to LFP) that have relatively uncrowded lap swims… Especially if your schedule is flexible, I can think of at least one pool where you would almost always have a lane to yourself, or at worst have to split a lane.

  7. The faster you are the more right you have to be in the pool…that’s my opinion. Mostly because there are a lot of slow people at my pool. Except for the kids swim team.

    I also think I fit into the #3 offender group. People tell me I am not that bad, including my coach, but I think they are just being nice…

  8. I’m wondering if you’re hatred of annoying swimmers might be at odds with your hatred of fat people, since, after all, fat can make you a better swimmer.

  9. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I “hate” either group of people. I don’t really hate anyone, it’s more of a slight intolerance, really, and it probably reflects my own insecurities. Or that’s what my ex-girlfriend, the psychoanalyzing-of-others-yet-unable-to-see-her-own-issues MSW, would say. Not that I have anything against social workers.

    I’m also not sure there’s a strong correlation between body composition and ability to swim. Maybe you can do an observational study at the Berkeley pool, I’ll do one at UW, and we’ll publish the results on the pac-10 fitness challenge website.

  10. I love it when someone jumps in and immediately tries to do butterfly. The one that makes me rage the most is when I’m coming real fast into the wall and right before i do a flip turn they push off on top of the water. Not only does it create a huge wake but more importantly it cuts me off completely. That only makes me go faster.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *