Swimming Lane Rage


The Problem

I am pretty sure I am not alone in getting irritated when trying to swim lengths in the “swimming lane” to encounter slow swimmers. I am no athlete in the water but I can swim a reasonable pace, so why do people insist on swimming an incredibly slow breast stroke or even worse find someone even slower and try to overtake like two lorries going up a steep hill! Let’s not get started with backstroke and a lack of spacial awareness…

Too Scared to Solve

Years ago I worked a lifeguard for the summer and this was a common complaint amongst our regulars. However it is amazing how insulted people get if you suggest they move out of the swimming lane due to their lack of speed. I recall one Sunday morning a lady looked up from the swimming lane and motioned me down from the lifeguard’s chair. She complained that another swimmer was causing mayhem by not swimming at anything like the pace of the others (she was completely correct, I’d been thinking the same for the previous quarter of an hour). I spoke to the offending swimmer who couldn’t have cared less. The complaining swimmer tolerated the situation for a further five minutes and left the pool via my chair again expressing her dissatisfaction, commenting that it would not happen at the other local pool. In a comrade comment to her I said I’d swim there, then. As the swimmer left she had complained to reception and backed up her case with my supporting comments. Five minutes later i was in the manager’s office being told never to tell a customer to go to another pool..

What’s the Solution?

Most pools only have a limited amount of lanes so more than one swim lane can be difficult. With people so touchy about criticism (or fact) that their swimming would be more suitable in the general swim area it would appear that a polite word to the wise is not appropriate either. To be fair the general swimming area is normally pretty full of people standing and playing with their kids so moving out of the swim lane can mean the end of the swim (albeit slow swim). Should we have lifeguards who can turf slow swimmers out of the lane, surely that then creates a new slowest swimmer in the lane and so on? During my hour’s swim I have often pondered this conundrum but never come up with a workable solution.

However there is a solution! A few years back I was in Hamburg, Germany and went to the local pool as my hotel didn’t have one and the children wanted a play. The pool complex was no bigger than our average pool complex, but there was one fundamental difference. A fun pool and a swimming pool. The swimming pool was 6 lanes each for different speeds¬† or styles of swimming. Being Germany it worked very efficiently and I soon figured out my lane speed. So the solution is simple. Swimming pool for swimming, fun pool for messing around.

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Swimming and fitness journalist and enthusiast. Nick writes about the latest trends, advice, news and opinions for Simply Swim. Feel free to join me over at

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  • http://www.enjoy-swimming.com Christophe Keller

    We often have the same problem at our local pool. However the lifeguards are often lazy and only open one swimming lane, while the rest of the pool is kept for very slow swimmers and playing.

    Yet sometimes there is such a crowd that they finally decide to open a second lane. Slower swimmers then happily switch to the second slower lane and leave us faster swimmers the fast lane.

    So sometimes the problem can be alleviated by simply opening enough lanes for swimmers.

    Sure a second swimming pool reserved for fun and games is the best solution but not always possible due to costs…