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Pool Etiquette For Triathletes and Swimmers

Pool Etiquette Danielle Moore Run Tri Bike Magazine Contributor

The pool is meant to be a place where anyone can safely learn to swim, enjoy the water, and get a workout in. Like any other place, there are rules and expectations otherwise known as pool etiquette. Every pool is required to have a sign with rules on it on the pool deck, but there are also some unspoken rules and lingo that we don’t want you to have to learn the hard way.

First, and most important…..

Know The Rules At Your Pool

Nothing else really matters if you aren’t following guidelines specific to where you swim. For example, some pools have certain lanes set up for lap swim, or are closed off entirely for classes at specific times. Some have a lifeguard on deck and others don’t. Every pool has their rules written out on a board on the pool deck wall; it’s a large poster so it’s easy to find. Pool schedules are usually available on the club’s website, app, or at their front desk. If you’re swimming at a Master’s swim practice, the rules of the practice will be reviewed by the coach and other swimmers.

Once you’re familiar with how your pool functions, here’s some other helpful tips:

Maximum Number Of Swimmers In A Lane

Most pools will have a capacity limit for safety purposes, but per lane is for both safety and the ability for swimmers to comfortably complete their workout. For example, my Masters team limits practices to six people per lane since it is a smaller pool and we also need to be able to hear the coach and see the workout.

Circle Swimming Versus Lane Splitting

If you take one thing away from this article, I want this one to be it. When swimming in the pool with other people, there are two ways to make it happen. Circle swimming and lane splitting are what they sound like; circle swimming involves going up one side of the pool and back down on the other. Swimmers will be in a line based on speed, and lane splitting is where you stay on one side of the black line the entire time. This is only if more than one person is in the lane. If you’re alone, do what is best for you. The best way to know which to use is to ask the person if they would prefer to circle swim or split the lane. If they don’t know what that means, I’ve generally found they prefer to split the lane and will gesture to which side of the black line they would prefer to stay on.


If you are circle swimming, either at a Master’s swim practice or at an unstructured lap swim, there are two ways to politely pass a fellow swimmer. The first step is to gently touch their feet. This lets the swimmer know that you are at a pace that will be ahead of them.

Other options to pass are:

  • Going on the other side of the black line
  • When the swimmer being passed grabs the wall, you can turn and push off ahead of them.

At my Master’s practices, we generally pass at the wall, but every group is different so communication is key.

Where to Put Equipment

With multiple swimmers in a lane and people walking around, you want your equipment to be accessible to you. You also want to avoid them becoming a trip hazard for others. The best way to place your equipment is at the very edge of the pool. Have the tools slightly away from the gutters but close enough to reach. You want your hydration (water or sports drink) the closest, and please keep your equipment together in a bag. This makes it easy to identify whose items are whose and allows everyone to enjoy their workout.

Like any other etiquette, pool and swimming etiquette has a learning curve. Understanding the pool etiquette where you swim is absolutely necessary. This helps everyone to have a safe and effective workout. These tips are not only to be polite, but to keep everyone safe.


Danielle Moore Run Tri Bike Magazine Contributor

Danielle Moore is a swimmer and triathlete living outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her athletic journey picked up at 10 years old when she started swimming in the summers, and ended up as a butterflyer for both her high school and college teams. She ran track in middle and high school as well, but swimming is her true passion in sports. Danielle has also been teaching swim lessons since 2010 and received her US Masters Swimming Level 1 Coach certification in March 2022. She raced her first sprint triathlon in 2019 and has been hooked ever since- she will be racing her first half Ironman in September 2022.