lane swimming
COACH,  EXTRA,  FEATURES,  February 2023,  Top Tips

How to have a happy public lane swim

Jonathan Cowie shares his advice for how to make your training sessions in public pools happy and effective

If you have open water events planned for the summer, and you don’t regularly swim with a training club, then chances are you are braving the public lane sessions at your local leisure centre. This can be challenging! Other swimmers, both faster and slower, can put paid to your best laid session plans.

As a regular public lane swimmer, here are my tips to make your sessions happy and effective.

Firstly, go to the pool with the right mental attitude. The more zen you are, the more likely you are to have a meaningful swim.

Secondly, have a session plan but be prepared to throw it out the window. Remember that it is a public session – everyone is there to enjoy the water in their own way. Yes, it may be very important to you to do a certain session to keep to your training schedule, but it is also important to the person doing slow breaststroke to do their number of lengths.

Technique, not speed

If it is a busy session and there are lots of swimmers slower than you, switch instead to usefully spending your time working on technique.

For example, practise drills that help your stroke (but don’t just randomly do drills without knowing why you are doing them). Or switch up your strokes – a cheeky breaststroke session while other swimmers are swimming slow front crawl can be a good way to match your pace to the rest of the lane.

If you are used to swimming in masters clubs, don’t get frustrated if swimmers in a public lane don’t know lane etiquette. It may be frustrating when someone really slow pushes off in front of you, but there is no point getting angry about it. Lane rage is not a good look. Use that energy instead to adapt your session so that everyone is happy.

Work on endurance

If it is a busy lane then match your distances to the lane – it might not be appropriate to be doing 50s or 100s and overtaking everyone every couple of minutes. Not everyone understands interval training and the pace clock, and sprinting like mad then stopping at the end of the lane to rest can confuse and frustrate other swimmers. Save your sprints for when it is quieter, or do longer intervals and work on your endurance training.

If there are faster swimmers in your lane, you could practise drafting off them (just try not to tap their toes while you are doing it!). Or if there are a few swimmers all doing different sessions, why not group together and do the same session?

Share the space

Busy public lanes can be frustrating, but if you swim often enough at your local pool then you will soon work out which sessions are quieter. Nothing is better than having a whole lane to yourself! But if you are stuck in a busy lane, remember that everyone is there for the same reason as you. Instead of getting frustrated, speak to your fellow swimmers.

Last week at the pool we set up a lane so that one fast swimmer swam up and down the right-hand side of the lane and myself and two other swimmers used the rest of the lane as a normal but narrower lane. The lifeguard was a bit confused but we were all happy!

This article is from the February issue of Outdoor Swimmer. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.