Q+A: How can I overtake in the pool?



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Q: When I’m in my local pool, other swimmers won’t let me overtake them – what can I do?

A: This question regularly tops triathletes’ list of swim-training grievances. In an ideal world, lanes would be categorised by speed (slow, medium and fast), which, in theory, would mean the swimmers in each lane moved at roughly the same speed.

Unfortunately, we live in an all-too-imperfect world, so you’ll often find a head-up breaststroker in the fast lane and/or a speedy freestyler in the slow lane. The lifeguards should police this and try to maintain some order, but more often than not, this is beyond their control and they are not inclined to become involved. Hence, if you’re stuck behind a dawdler in the fast lane, some form of lane etiquette needs to be employed:

  • Swim close behind the offending swimmer for a few lengths. This may be enough to communicate the message that it’s time to move over.

  •  Very lightly tap the feet of the swimmer in front of you, to let them know you are there and want to pass. Swimmers will usually move out of the way.

  •  Stop just before the end of the length and push off just in front of the offending swimmer. He may get the hint and move over more readily the next time you come around. This is easier to do in a quiet lane than in one filled with swimmers.

  •  Speak to them. Swimming can be quite trance-like and, lost in their own thoughts, swimmers can be  unaware of their surroundings and of others.

  • A polite reminder that they are sharing the pool with other people is usually enough.
  •  If speaking doesn’t do the trick, speak to the lifeguard, who may or may not be interested in helping you out.

If none of the above has helped and they still won’t budge, maybe today is the day to practise certain drills, which will reduce your speed anyway. Stay calm and don’t let discourtesy ruin your session.

Simon Murie

Simon Murie is the founder of SwimTrek, which offers open-water swimming and coaching camps, and holidays, in the UK and overseas. He is a qualified swim coach and an experienced swimmer, with a solo crossing of the English Channel to his name. He is passionate about introducing open-water swimming to the uninitiated, and finding new locations for experienced swimmers and triathletes.


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