Too Slow For Lane Swimming (And what to do about it)

Lane swimming can be a tough thing to master. From either feeling too slow to keep up, or being too fast to find a rhythm, it can be very tricky to navigate busy swimming lanes.

I have struggled with being too slow for lane swimming. When I first started swimming, not only was I slow, but I was nervous. I always felt under pressure to keep up, despite being in the slow lane.

Then I improved, and got much faster, but found I was then too fast for the slow lane, yet still too slow for the fast lane!

If you feel too slow for lane swimming, remember that you have the right to be there. Be conscious of other swimmers and allow them to overtake or wait at the wall until they pass. This keeps everyone happy and allows you to swim at your pace. 

I have shared lanes with very slow swimmers and very fast swimmers.

Any kind and generous person respects the space of others and accepts that we all swim at different paces. 

If you feel too slow for lane swimming, there are some things you can do to improve your speed, or strategies you can use to navigate the lanes and feel less under pressure

These strategies also work for swimmers who want to progress to a faster lane, but still feel too slow.

In this article, I will cover: 

  • How do beginners swim in lanes?
  • Should complete beginners swim in lanes?
  • What to do if you feel too slow for lane swimming
  • How fast is fast lane swimming?

How Do Beginners Swim In Lanes?

You must be able to swim a length of a pool in order to swim in lanes.

We typically do lane swimming for fitness and it is not a suitable tool or place to learn how to swim, as there will be a constant flow of swimming traffic.

1. Ensure You Can Swim A Length

Before you try a lane swim, it is important to ensure that you can swim a full length of the pool.

Lane swimming involves swimming up and down the pool, in a specific direction, so swimmers do not bump into each other.

When lane swimming, it is important to follow the flow of traffic.

Regardless of your speed, you must be able to swim a length of the pool to ensure you can swim up and down the pool, as this will be the swimming direction and path.

If you deviate from this, you will swim in front of others, which could be dangerous.

Using a public general swim time, where there is no lane swimming, practice swimming your lengths so you know you can swim up and down the pool.

2. Swim In The Slow Lane

Lane swimming is generally divided into lanes, each with a lane speed. How many lanes there are will depend on the size of the pool.

Most lane swims will have a slow, medium and fast lane. There is typically a sign at the end of the lane indicating the intended pool speed.

As a new swimmer, stick to the slow lane. Look around and read the signs.

3. Follow The Swim Direction

When lane swimming, swimmers swim in a specific direction to avoid swimmers bumping into each other.

Always check your local pool instructions and follow arrows telling you what direction you should swim in.

Although many swimmers will say you lane swim on the side you drive, for example, in the UK we drive on the left-hand side of the road, therefore we swim lengths on the left-hand side of the lane, this is not a set rule.

Look at the signs and posters at your local pool, which should tell you what speed the lane is, and what direction you should swim in.

4. Know Your Pool Depth

If you are new to lane swimming, you may find it hard at first to swim lengths continuously without stopping.

It is perfectly acceptable to take a rest at the pool wall. However, as a new swimmer, you may need to rest mid-way or just stop for a second.

If you swim in a deep pool, it will be very difficult for you to rest halfway through a length.

Although you can slow down and change your stroke, if you are in deep water, you will not be able to stand.

As a beginner, it can help to start swimming lengths in a shallow pool. Therefore, if you really run out of energy, it is perfectly acceptable to stand up and do a walk or jog to the pool wall.

Should Complete Beginners Swim In Lanes?

If you are an absolute beginner, and cannot swim one length of the pool, then you will find lane swimming very difficult.

If you find yourself in this situation, it is best to avoid lane swimming and stick to public pool times where a “general swim” is advertised until you can swim a length of the pool.

Times that are advertised as “public swim” or “general swim” often have an area of the pool open that is a general swim, with no lanes.

With a general swim that is not designated lane swimming, you can practice in comfort and work up to swimming a full length of the pool at your own pace.

If you want to be sure that your chosen swimming time is a general swim, without lanes, personally I would contact your local pool to check that there will be an area of the pool that is not lane swimming or roped off.

I have turned up to advertised general swims in the past only to find that I have to lane swim. For a beginner, this can be very daunting and is not recommended.

What To Do If You Feel Too Slow For Lane Swimming

Perhaps you feel too slow for lane swimming, or you feel too slow to progress to the next swimming lane?

What I hate about lane-swimming is that I look around and compare myself to others. The superhumans in the fast lane can seem like they are swimming so fast!

Assuming that you do not have any injury, there are a few things that can help you feel better about your swimming speed and possibly progress.

1. Use Training Fins

If you feel too slow to keep up in your lane, yet you really want to be there, it can be a great idea to use training fins.

To my knowledge, most 25m pools do not have a problem with training fins, as they can be an excellent training aid. All elite swimmers will use training fins as part of their workout to build strength and ankle flexibility.

Training fins are short fins you wear on your feet. They can help develop your kick and will make you swim faster.

I recommend you get shorter training fins, such as the Finis Adult Zoomers.

The advantage of using shorter training fins is that they make the legs work hard, yet still give you an increase in speed. Longer training fins will not give your legs the same workout.

If your priority is to improve your speed and give your legs a workout, then opt for short training fins. If you just want speed, then opt for longer training fins, which will still work your legs but will not be as intense.

Be wary of injury while using training fins. Your ankles will not be accustomed to so much work, as you displace so much water, which can lead to over-exertion or injury.

Take your time and build your swimming stamina up slowly.

Check out this article for more information on training fins, “Is Swimming With Fins Cheating? (Here’s what to know)”

2. Learn To Glide

If you can assume a streamlined position in the water, and lie flat so your head is pushed down into the water and your legs are high, you will move faster through the water.

Remarkably, with a kick from the wall and a gliding position, you can gain a lot of ground and increase the speed of your lane swimming.

In addition, if you master this streamlined position and implement it as part of your stroke, you will start to swim faster.

Here is a drill you can try that will help you move effortlessly through the water, allowing the momentum of pushing off the wall and the water to do all the work. This balance drill is taken from the Total Immersion Swimming Method.

3. Stop At The Wall

If you feel too slow for lane swimming, it might be the result of other swimmers swimming too closely behind you and putting you under pressure.

Remember, if you are swimming full pool lengths, and are in the slow lane, following the rules and correct swim direction, then you have every right to be there.

If you feel under pressure from other swimmers to swim faster, once you get to the pool wall, just stop and let them overtake you.

A smile and a nod to let them know they can go ahead is all it takes to allow you to allow any faster swimmers to move ahead of you and for you to restart your length.

Granted, they will catch up with you again, but that is okay. Faster swimmers will greatly appreciate that you are taking the time to allow them to swim ahead.

How Fast Is Fast Lane Swimming?

Serious fitness swimmers usually occupy the fast swimming lane. These are swimmers who train regularly and can maintain a moderate to fast pace while swimming continuously.

The speed of the fast lane will vary between pools and swimmers. However, on average, swimming 25m in 30-35 seconds is a good pace for a fast swim lane. If you are swimming at this speed, you definitely qualify for the fast lane.

In order to maintain this speed, the front crawl is the dominant stroke used in the fast lane, however many swimmers, including amateur competitors, can maintain this pace with backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.

Final Thoughts

Just because you feel too slow for lane swimming, it does not mean you should stop.

If you stick to the slow swim lane and follow the pool rules, you have every right to be there. 

If you feel too slow for lane swimming, don’t despair. You can improve your swim speeds by using training fins, learning how to glide or simply stopping at the wall and letting other swimmers overtake you to help you navigate the lane more effectively.

Swimming with a streamlined position will also help you move faster through the water.

Don’t give up on your lane swimming just because you feel too slow. There are lots of tips you can follow to help you move faster in the pool.

To start with, I recommend you check out the Total Immersion Swim Method, as this greatly helped me to swim faster and progress in my lane swimming.

Happy swimming!

Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

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