10 Public Pool Etiquette Tips for Triathletes

man swimming laps

Every pool has posted signs with various regulations to follow, but the unwritten rules of shared swimming areas are sometimes not as intuitive as you'd expect—especially for new swimmers or triathletes. 

Instead of letting you jump in and making a flounder of yourself, we have you covered. Note that all pools have their own "cultures" and "rules," so if you're unsure, sit down and observe trends (or ask someone who looks like a regular) before jumping in.  

From rinsing off before getting in the pool to swimming in a circular pattern, if more than two people are sharing a lane, here are our top 10 lap swim etiquette tips for triathletes. 

Rinse Off

This is the top of our etiquette list for good reason. Sure, there might be enough chlorine in the pool to leave you smelling like chemicals for days, but don't use the pool water to rinse off the day's grime. This holds especially true for triathletes who are swimming as their second workout of the day.

Know Your Pace

Don't try to be a hero here—if you're a slow-and-steady type of swimmer, stick to that side of the pool (or find a lane with swimmers averaging your pace) and vice versa. Also, if you find yourself sharing a lane with someone faster than you, don't push off in front of them. Not only does it disrupt their workout, but it's dangerous once flip turns are involved. 

Pick an Empty Lane

Nobody likes a crowd, so if there's an open lane, head for it before opting to split a lane with someone else. This rule can be broken if you're at a pool where the lanes are designated by speed and you belong on the faster or slower end of the pool (or if you're meeting someone to share a lane, of course).

Did You Touch My Foot?

Triathletes are no strangers to contact in the water—after all, rubbing is racing. But if your feet are touched while swimming in the pool, it's a sign that the swimmer who is sharing the lane with you would like to pass. Set your ego aside, pull over, stop in the corner and allow them to do so. 

Rest Properly

You won't have the same prescribed workout as your lane mates, so naturally each of you will be resting at different times in the water. Instead of resting smack in the middle of the wall, rest in the corners out of the way of incoming swimmers (and flip turns).


Splitting a lane works the best when all parties are swimming at a similar pace. Because of the way these workouts are structured, intervals can disrupt the natural flow of a lane and are best left for days when you have the lane to yourself, or you're splitting a lane with faster swimmers. 

Three's Company

If there are only two people in the lane, each swimmer can stick to either side of the line. If a third person is introduced, it's now time to swim in an either clockwise or counterclockwise fashion. Like we mentioned above, each pool is different, so look for trends or discuss with your lane mates before pushing off. 

Keep It Simple

If you're not sharing your lane, butterfly to your heart's content. If there's someone else in the water with you, keep your strokes simple as not to accidently collide with the other swimmer or take up more than your half. This usually isn't an issue for triathletes, as we mostly focus on freestyle and the occasional kicking drill.

No Surprises

The guy or girl who currently occupies the lane might be 20 laps into their workout, and the last thing they'd expect is to see another person in their lane as they head toward the wall. Sit on the edge of the pool so they see your feet in the water to alert them you'll be sharing their lane—they'll likely start to swim toward one side or the other to acknowledge you and give you space. 

Be Friendly

This should go without saying, but even if you forget all these previous rules (besides showering), being nice to fellow swimmers goes a long way. Introduce yourself, describe the workout you're about to start and even apologize for throwing off the clockwise pattern or getting in the way. This is swimming, not boxing, after all.

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