Consistency is the key that unlocks the door to improvement when it comes to your fitness, especially when you're trying to develop better skills in a certain sport. When that sport is swimming, that means spending a lot of time in the pool. When you don't have access to a pool of your own at home, though, you must rely on publicly available spaces to fit in all your swimming for the week. Most of the time, that probably isn't an issue ? plus, you don't have to worry about the maintenance on the pool! Sometimes, though, the public nature of your swimming spot can cause trouble. What happens if you show up for your daily swim only to find that there is a crowd?

This scenario isn't too unlikely, especially if you live in a busy area with few options for public swimming. When you arrive and see that swimmers occupy every lane in the pool already, does that mean you should just pack it in for the day and skip the swim? Of course not! Those swimming lanes are wide, after all, and they can fit more than one swimmer comfortably. However, beware of jumping straight in and trying to proceed with your workout as usual. You won't make friends that way because there is important etiquette surrounding lane splitting. When you must share, it's important to know how to do so safely, courteously, and without frustration. Look at this quick and easy guide to observing proper etiquette in a busy pool.

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Look for swimmers practising at your pace

When faced with a lot of traffic in the pool, the most important rule is simple: don't panic. With the right approach and some patience, you can become a part of the rhythm that looks so foreign to you right now. Once you relax and realise that you can join the group in the water already, you can focus on how you should approach the situation. Finding a lane that matches your level of ability is the next step.

Observe the people in the pool for a while; how fast are they swimming? Is there one lane that seems at or a little slower than your typical workout pace? This is the lane you want to join. If you jump into a faster lane, not only will the other swimmers blow past you, but you could actually end up in their way. Since everyone deserves the ability to exercise without disruption, that's just what we don't want. Stick to lanes where you know you can keep up with everyone else's speed. It might take some more time to get your workout started, but being considerate starts here. Once you've picked out the lane you want to join, you should head over and introduce yourself.

Etiquette for entering a new lane

Chances are everyone in the lane will be busy swimming when you arrive, but if not, say hello and ask if there is room for you to join. If there is just one other person, you can simply jump in the water and stand off to the side. Wait for the other person to finish up, then explain what you intend to do during your workout for the day.

Whether it's backstroke day or time to practice on your turns, you should always let your fellow swimmers know what you plan. This way, they can adjust their own position in the lane accordingly, or even tweak their workout plans. Never interrupt someone else's set unless it is an emergency. Once everyone knows you're joining the rotation, you can begin swimming. There is no starting gun or referee to tell you when to push off, so you'll need to judge the right moment to go for yourself.Once you're out in the lane, you'll need to keep a few rules and tips in mind. First, we'll cover swimming with just one other individual; then we'll look at what it means to "circle swim" with three or four people in one lane.

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How to swim in a lane with other swimmers

If it's just the two of you, you can "split" the lane. Picture another imaginary line of lane markers going straight down the centre line of the lane. One side is yours, and the other is your partner's. You should both stay on your side of this invisible line no matter what. Do not cross into the other half of the lane; you should be able to keep to one side consistently. Otherwise, you run the risk of drifting too far into the other swimmer's path.

In a passing situation, this could lead to a painful collision in the middle of the pool. As long as you do not do anything else to disrupt the flow of the other swimmer, that is all there is to being polite in a split lane situation. Obviously, lane splitting won't work if you have more than three people trying to share the same space ? you would simply run into each other too often! That's where circle swimming comes into play. In fact, some pools require that even two swimmers "circle swim" rather than split lanes. What does that mean?

Communication is crucial for success

When in doubt, ask questions. That doesn't mean you should stop someone in the middle of their lap, or break up their rhythm in the middle of a tough set. Use your best judgement to determine when you can get a word in to ask your question. Don't worry about the need to take some longer rest breaks than you might normally.

It's worth waiting for an opportunity to jump into a circle swim or to get permission to try a particular workout series. It will always allow you to have a clear idea of what to expect once you start swimming, and it will keep you safer in the lane. If you're having trouble getting someone's attention, try waving your hands underwater. If that doesn't work, simply wait at the end of the lane for the swimmer to finish their set. Remember, though; no one has to hold your hand ? you're still the boss of your workout!

Choose what you want to do, communicate your plans, and then execute. After your first few group swims, you won't have nearly as much problem working out in a group. The experience comes on rapidly, and before you know it, you might be the one giving the newcomer some tips and tricks on how to fit into the lane.

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Nailing down the basics of circle swimming

Imagine you and the other swimmers are like traffic on the road. You must always keep to one side of the "road," or in this case, the swimming lane. Every swimmer proceeds from one end of the pool to the other down this side, "circling" around to come back. This way, everyone remains in a rough sequence. Once you see it in action, it is much easier to do ? however, there is some etiquette to keep in mind once again.

First, if you feel a tap on your feet, it means someone has caught up to you and wishes to pass. Give way as soon as you can so they can go in front of you. Meanwhile, leave space between you and other swimmers. Give at least a 5-second gap between starts to lessen the chance that you will catch up to someone. This process is a balancing act, but practice makes perfect. If everyone adheres to the rules and stays on the correct side of the "road" during every circuit, it is a safe and easy to group swim.

You'll swim circles with the best in no time

Is it intimidating when you first start sharing your lane with other swimmers? Yes ? just like trying anything for the first time, there will be an adjustment period! If you remember to communicate with your lane mates and do your best to observe the right etiquette, you won't come into conflict with your fellow swimmers. In fact, they may choose to help and give you pointers to help you acclimate to the process. While you can still schedule your swims to maximise the time you spend alone in the water, now you'll know how to handle those unusually busy days. With more practice, you could discover you prefer swimming in a group.