How to be Passed by Faster Swimmers

What do you do when you feel that swirl of water at your feet as a faster swimmer approaches? Can you resist the temptation to speed up? What happens when the swimmer behind you attempts to go around you between the flags? If you’re like most, you think, “Race on!” And you speed up. No way are you going to get beaten to that wall.

While it’s not necessarily bad for your sprint training, that approach is bad lap-swimming etiquette. Here’s what you should do if you are in a lane with swimmers who are faster than you, even if they jumped in “your” lane. Help keep the lap swim peace by being a good-sport, and not letting anyone else’s swim determine whether you feel good about what you did in the pool on a given day.


Yield in Mid-Pool

If someone attempts to pass you between the flags, just keep doing whatever you were doing. You don’t need to slow down. You don’t need to speed up. You shouldn’t even have to move over. As the passing swimmer, it’s their responsibility to judge whether it is safe to make a pass, and any swimmer fast enough to pass you must be darn good and have a lot of lap swimming experience, right?

That said, if you can tell there’s someone coming the other way, consider easing up a little, to make it easier for the faster swimmer to pass you. Definitely do not speed up. The longer the other swimmer is on the “wrong side” of the lane, the greater the chances that they (and you) might collide with an oncoming swimmer. And while it’s true that most of the time no one’s really going to get that hurt (unless paddles are involved), there’s nothing more annoying or disruptive than mid-pool collisions.

Share the Wall

If you are sharing a lane and feel something brush your foot as you approach the next wall, that’s a signal that the person behind you is going to pass you at the wall. Assuming your lanemate is an experienced swimmer (or has read How to Pass a Slower Swimmer), they will move to the left and “go around” you during the turn at the wall. Just as when someone attempts to pass you in the middle of the pool, you don’t need to slow down. Just swim in a straight line, and be aware of what’s happening around you.

Provided everyone’s up on lap-swimming etiquette, here’s what should happen:

The faster swimmer will appear on your left as you approach the wall. They will use the left side of the wall for their turn. You will use the right side of the wall for your turn. (Aussie-style circle swimmers, the faster swimmer will appear on your right and use the right side of the lane for their turn!)

As you turn, take a quick peek and find the open part of the lane before you push off the wall. Ideally, you will be able to execute your turn (be it flip or open) and push off the wall immediately on the heels of the swimmer who just passed you. Getting a good look and following your fellow swimmer off the wall is tricky but still possible in a super-crowded lane.

Follow the Rules

Lap swimming is supposed to be a non-contact sport. Do your part by allowing faster swimmers to pass you when necessary. If you and they follow some basic lap swimming etiquette and guidelines, you can have a happy, focused swim even when sharing a lane with faster swimmers.

Not sure what lap swimming etiquette is? You should read the Dos and Don’ts of Lap Swimming or check out the Related Guides on the right.

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