Rules of the Pool: Etiquette for Aquatic Physical Therapy

If your doctor has referred you for aquatic therapy and you are inexperienced in a lap pool setting, you may feel both excited and apprehensive at the same time. You’re excited about the many benefits you can expect from aquatic therapy, such as a decrease of inflammation and pain and an increase in muscle strength. At the same time, you may feel intimidated the first time you get in the pool because of the more experienced swimmers doing laps around you. While you want to follow the rules of lap swimming etiquette, you’re not exactly sure what they are.

The Four Categories of Lap Swimming Etiquette

You can take much of the stress off yourself by keeping the following principles in mind when swimming laps in a busy pool.

General awareness requires you to be aware of the workout routine and pace of other swimmers in the pool so you can avoid doing anything to interrupt them. Some good examples here include:

  • If you’re a slower swimmer, wait to push off a wall until faster swimmers have passed you.
  • Faster swimmers should provide slower swimmers with as much space as possible before pushing off.
  • Allow swimmers doing faster strokes such as a breaststroke to move ahead.
  • Stay far to one side of a lane when resting or waiting near a wall. Don’t float or stand in the middle of a lane as this interferes with active swimmers.
  • Don’t stop in the middle of a length when circle swimming since it could cause swimmers behind you to run into you.
  • Pay attention to pool rules regarding crowded or open lanes.

When entering the pool, see if it has designated lanes for slow, medium, and fast swimmers. If you don’t see them, check with a lifeguard. Some other things to keep in mind include:

  • Take a few minutes to time the swimmers already in the pool to see how long it takes them to complete their laps.
  • Choose your lane based on how fast you realistically expect to swim during the entire workout.
  • Inform other swimmers in the lane if you intend to change formats, such as going from circle to split swimming.
  • Make sure that other swimmers in the lane see you before you start swimming.

Passing and being passed requires a set of rules just as it does when you drive a car. If you wish to overtake someone, gently tap on his or her feet two or three times to make your presence known. Here are some other passing etiquette tips to keep in mind:

  • If you’re behind a strong lead swimmer and don’t wish to pass, stay far enough back so that you don’t accidentally make contact.
  • Avoid swimming too wide past a slow swimmer since this could force swimmers coming in the other direction to also swim wide to avoid a collision. The one exception is when you’re passing the only other swimmer in the lane.
  • If you feel a light touch indicating someone wants to pass you, continue the lap until you reach the wall. Stop at this point to let the faster swimmer by you.
  • Don’t attempt to speed up or slow down if you have been tagged by another swimmer who wants to pass you. Simply abide by the request.

As for common sense, make sure that your toenails and fingernails are neatly trimmed since jagged edges could cut another swimmer. You may want to avoid wearing jewelry in the pool for the same reason. The following tips are useful as well:

  • Never take another swimmer’s kickboard, hand paddles, fins, or other equipment without permission even if you intend to give it right back.
  • Don’t run or jog in the lap lanes unless you have the entire lane to yourself.
  • Avoid diving, jumping into a lane in the middle, or entering a lane from underwater, as this puts you and other swimmers at risk of a collision.

Is Aquatic Therapy Right for You?

You may be considering aquatic therapy, but have yet to get a recommendation from your doctor. We encourage you to learn more about its numerous benefits and conditions it can help treat. Aquatic therapy can be an integral part of recovery for everything from strokes to arthritis to post-operative pain. Be sure to ask your doctor or physical therapist if it’s the right treatment for you.

Learn more about Bon Secours physical therapy expert services in your area. 


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