For Fun

The Rules of Public Pools

At RideWriteRepeat, it’s not just about cycling. There’s always a bit of swimming and running going on – a little more so in the last couple of months.

One of the wonders both running and cycling have in common is that you needn’t share your training space with others (unless you want to road race).

In comparison, swimming means sharing the lane with whichever members of the public happened to fancy a swim that hour. With the Commonwealth Games in full swing and TV screens full of Speedo clad athletes in swanky 50m pools, the lane count has undoubtedly increased.

I am a bit of a people watcher, and over the years I’ve taken the time to observe the inhabitants of the watery world. Here are the rules you need to obey to get on with them..

The Rules of the Pool

#1 : Breast stroke is, in almost all cases, not acceptable in the fast lane (or medium lane should it be inappropriate for the flow of traffic). There are occasions this rule can be flouted:

A) When the breastroker is of notable talent and actually faster than those doing frontcrawl
B) When all inhabitants of the lane are clearly warming up, eg in the first 10 minutes of pool time on a weekday morning
C) When the breastroker sets off behind the last swimmer in the lane, leaving at least 25m of clear water between themselves and the next swimmer.

The above rules apply to backstroke, kick only and all other drills.

#2: Choose the appropriate lane. If you know you are a fast swimmer, don’t make a beginners life a misery by stealing their lane. If you know you can’t keep up with the fast lane, move over.


#3: Remember the speed of a lane is not based upon its geographical location in the pool, or the sign above it – but is based upon swimmers in it. The right lane for you may vary day to day or week to week depending upon who is there.

#4 : If the appropriate lane has become clogged, a swimmer may attempt to complete a session in the area designated for ‘general swim’. This is usually inhabited by older ladies who do not want to get their hair wet. Ideally, request admission from a friendly one, and swim close to the lane rope. Failing this, adopt a position adjacent to the lane rope, and play chicken until nobody dares take the spot. Do not splash too much and get their hair wet.

#5 : When not swimming, stand to the side of the lane

#6: Fiddling with goggles once: Fine. Fiddling with goggles twice: questionable. Fiddling with goggles three times: shirking the effort.

#7: Shower and pee before you get in the pool. If you find yourself needing to urinate mid session, get out, use the toilet, and come back – then refer to #8 for future.


#8: In the average 1-1.5 hour swim session, you do not need to take on a lot of fluid. Drinking between every rep is not the norm and it’s common practice to leave your drink in the changing room for later.

#9 : Choose your push off moment. This is not when a swimmer already proven to be generally faster than you is metres from the wall. Your moment is AFTER that person. Wait a few seconds so you don’t end up drafting them…

#10: If you find yourself nose to toes with another swimmer, you have either caught them up, or pushed off too close to them and ended up drafting. If the former, tap their toes, and move past them at the next lap. If the latter, slow down and leave them alone. Don’t sit on the toes and enjoy a free ride.

#11 : Do not push off directly after a slower swimmer and then hound them. Just wait 20 seconds and give them some space.

#12 : Do Not Dart Across Lanes Into Path Of Oncoming Swimmers. Would you cross the road right in front of a car? No. Well then… Equally dangerous. Obvs.

#13: Standing in the pool talking to friends is not swimming, Swimmers take priority.

#14: Walking up and down the pool is not swimming, Swimmers take priority.

#15: Aquaerobics is not swimming, However, in the case only half the pool is taken up by soggy body pumpers, choosing the lane next door to the sessions is classed as open water swim training.


#16: If you’ve accidently arrived for swimming in the ‘Fun Floats’ hour, it is likely your own fault. Try to swim around the children, but you do not have the right to smash through the floats.

#17: All bodily contact is to be avoided. Meeting of wrists/hands at passing moments particularly so. Should a wrist-smash occur, both swimmers are entitled to ignore the incident once, but a second meeting of hands implies someone is encroaching upon the other half of the lane.

#18 : Do not wear overpowering fragrances to the pool. It washes off. In the water. And seriously… perfume at 6.30am?

#19: Correct swimming attire:

Exhibit A:



Exhibit B:


#20: Beware the floating plaster..

#21: Shaving if bodily hair is not something that should be done in communal changing room showers.

#22: Removal of hard skin on bottom of feet using handheld accessories: ditto, as above (this one inspired this post).

#23: If there is only one mirror/hairdryer combination, don’t hog it – do what you need to do and move on.

#24: Be friendly and courteous to fellow swimmers – you are all her to swim (except those doing aquaerobics/walking up and down the pool).

Those are my rules. Do you have any to add? 


I'm an NCTJ Journalist and work at Cycling Weekly. Previous to this, I was the Editor at Total Women's Cycling. I've also dabbled in marketing and copywriting - having been Marketing Coordinator and Social Media/Content Editor at Evans Cycles. My first job was working on a local newspaper.  I've written for a variety of titles on a freelance basis, too. I got into cycling when I entered my first triathlon in 2010. I now race crits, road races, time trials, and do a lot of track training for not very much track racing.

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