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Joanna Zeiger's top swim do's and dont's for triathletes who swim Masters

Posted May 12 2010 1:11pm


Editor's Note: Before Joanna Zeiger was a world-class professional triathlete she was a swimmer. So when Joanna came up with this list of swimming do's and don'ts as posted to her most excellent blog Fast at Forty we knew you'd appreciate her smart advice.

I have been a Masters swimmer for more than 15 years. I have joined workouts all over the world. I have interacted with all kinds of adult swimmers. The one common thread, the very thing I have witnessed time and again, is lane rage.

Swimmers unfamiliar with the etiquette of the pool frustrate those that have more knowledge of how to keep a proper flow. To be fair, though, I often see seasoned swimmers breaking cardinal rules rendering them pool pariahs. In an effort to allay tension and confusion, I have compiled a list of Do’s and Don’ts for those swimming in a Masters setting.


  • Be on time. I am appalled by the number of people that regularly show up late for scheduled workouts. Groups stroll in 10 minutes late like they are taking a class on a cruise ship. It is unfair to lane mates and disrespectful to the coach. Please, be on time. 
  • Place yourself in an appropriate lane. If you are in a lane that is too fast, move down a lane and lead. It is a much better workout to go first than to sit on the wall gasping for air.
  • Learn how to use the clock. Really? I am baffled that people cannot read the clock, even after years of swimming. If you are doing 6x50 on :45 and you leave the first one on the :05, your subsequent send-off are, :50, :35, :20, :05, :50. You have the entire repeat to figure out when you leave again; it is much better than staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool.
  • Know your times. This is a corollary to point 3. Once you learn how to use the clock, you will be able to figure out your times for all of your repeats. I cannot tell you how many times I hear a coach ask a swimmer what they did on their repeats and after counting on their fingers and toes they still have no idea, or they just say, “I did what she did”. It is important to know your times so you can gauge your improvement and have a handle on whether you nailed the workout.
  • Take the time to learn proper technique. This really does not apply to lane rage, but it will make you a better swimmer.


  • Don’t leave early. If the lane is going 5 seconds apart, do not leave 3 seconds back.  In no time at all, you will be on the feet of the swimmer in front, and that is annoying.
  • Don’t use your equipment unless the set calls for it. Triathletes notoriously love their pull buoy. In fact, there are some people that need it surgically removed. It is a crutch. Learn how to swim without it. And, don’t give the excuse that you only swim with a wetsuit, so it is ok. At today’s swim workout, Dave Scott yelled at a repeat offender to lose the buoy, and then he threw it out of reach.
  • Don’t turn around early. I see people stop at the flags, touch the bottom, and turn around. What is this? If you turn around early in a race you will be DQ-ed, so don’t do it in a workout. I will offer these stipulations: if your paddle comes off because you hit another swimmer or if you took a big gulp of water and need to catch your breath, it is acceptable to turn around to get back to your spot in the rotation.
  • Don’t jump in front of another swimmer if you sit out a 50. It’s distracting.
  • Don’t mess up the intervals. See point 3 in the Do section.
  • Don’t spread germs. If you are sick, stay home or swim alone.
  • Don’t wear a peek-a-boo swim suit.  When in doubt, throw it out.

Hopefully these insights will lead to a more harmonious swim workout.

Have you experienced lane rage? What are you Masters swimming pet peeves?

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