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23 March 2012 @ 01:48 pm
I have been swimming laps since I was 14, which is almost 30 years now. When I started on the swim team, I had no idea what I was doing. We'd had a swimming pool in the backyard when I was a kid, but I'd never had formal swimming lessons until a month before the swim team started. I only knew vaguely that there was more than one swimming stroke, or that you were supposed to dive into a pool in a particular way. I didn't know at all how to breathe while swimming, how to do a flip turn or circle swimming. The rules for swim team swimming are really useful to learn, but if you're not on a swim team, how do you learn them?

If there are more than two people swimming in a lane, you must circle swim. This is done by swimming up the right hand side of the lane, as if you are driving a car, then flipping or turning at the end, and continuing to swim on the right hand side. If you swim slowly, expect that the other swimmers in the pool will need to pass you. Try to be aware of where they are and stop at the side of the pool for them to pass you if they are coming close. If they are expert swimmers, they will not be willing to wait for a turn and will touch your foot when they need to pass. Your job then is not to stop (although you can if you choose to), but to move as far to the right as you can. Again, as in driving a car, the center section of the lane now becomes the passing section and the faster swimmer will move around you as quickly as possible. If this happens often, it can be annoying, but it's just the way that it is. You can try to find a lane that is designated "slow" swimming, but I must admit that I rarely see people pay attention to those signs. Often fast-ish swimmer are humble and seem to think they are slow. Compared to Michael Phelps, perhaps, and so they swim in the slow lane anyway. There is no need to apologize about being slow. You have as much right to be in the swim lane as anyone else. However, they also do not need to apologize to you for being fast. If you don't move over properly, they will feel within their rights to brush against you as they pass. They're not trying to hurt you, but they are probably trying to hit certain times and are watching the clock with every turn. They are serious about swimming.

If there are only two people in a lane or if you are swimming alone, I recommend side to side swimming. This allows two swimmers of varying abilities to swim in the same lane without ever bothering each other. If you are swimming on the left side of the lane, you flip and keep on that side, though now it will be on the right. Does this make sense? Just stay on your side, and you won't ever cross paths with the other swimmer. I will admit that I think it is rude if you are in a lane by yourself and decide to swim right down the middle on the black line. I may just get in the lane with you anyway and start swimming to one side and expect you to move over politely. There is no reason that one person should be allowed to hog a lane all by him or herself.

There are times when there are no lane lines up and therefore it can be difficult to tell where one lane begins and another ends. In this case, I know that most swimmers will take up a lane. I still find this inefficient. In this case, if I need to get in, I am not going to stand by the side of the pool waiting for an open lane, as I suppose you would if you were waiting for a treadmill to free up at the gym. I am just going to climb in and find a place for myself. I will try to swim either on top of the black stripe in this case (which otherwise I would never do) or to the side of the black stripe left or right. I keep an eye on the other swimmers to make sure I don't crash into them.

If you are feeling chatty at the swimming pool during a break, feel free to talk to any other swimmers who are resting at the side of the pool. I generally find that other swimmers are happy to give advice about swimming or gear or weight loss or whatever you are interested in. You'd be surprised at how many swimmers would love to give you advice about your stroke if you give them the least indication that you are interested. My husband is always itching to tell people how to be more efficient swimmers. It's like listening to someone play a violin off key to him. It just bothers him to see weird strokes. So if you see someone better than you taking a break, you can ask for advice. You can also probably ask the lifeguards at the pool. There is equipment at the pool that you can often use if you are interested in it while lap swimming, such as a kick board, a buoy to hold your legs up so you can focus on your arms, or paddles to add more resistance to your stroke. If you want to use a kick board, put it under your chest, not just holding it outstretched with your arms.

If you are into triathlon, there is no real reason for you to need to learn to do a flip turn. You will never use one in competition unless you get roped into a Master's swim meet. But they are not that hard to learn and they do make it so that you aren't stopping very minute to turn. All you need to do is practice doing a somersault by the wall of the pool and then kick off with your legs while you are still underwater. That's the basics, anyway.

I hope that's helpful and makes it a little less scary to go swim at the pool.
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