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Gym Swimming Pool Etiquette (8 Rules Everyone Should Follow)

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When you're at the gym, pool etiquette is important.

When you're at the gym, pool etiquette is important.

Know Your Pool Rules

As an athlete, I'm frequently at the gym pool—an average of two to three times per week. I swim at a YMCA and a Gold's Gym, and I've noticed that people don't have a clue about swimming pool rules in either of these gyms. This lack of swimming pool etiquette appears to be a universal problem!

I find it disturbing that most people have no concept of swimming pool etiquette. If you currently use your gym's water recreation facilities or plan on visiting a public pool, it is in your best interest to learn about the rules of the pool.

This article contains some friendly tips for you to apply next time you’re at the gym pool. Don't be part of the problem—be part of the solution with these public swimming pool etiquette tips!

8 Gym Pool Rules

  1. Shower before you enter the pool
  2. Don't pee in the pool
  3. Clothes are not allowed
  4. Don't lollygag
  5. Know how to share lanes
  6. Pool walkers: know where you fit in
  7. Mind your strokes
  8. Remember that lap time is not family time
Shower thoroughly before you enter the pool.

Shower thoroughly before you enter the pool.

1. Shower Before You Enter the Pool

Always shower before you get in the pool. Thoroughly rinse yourself off. I have seen way too many people simply enter the pool without showering. This is unhygienic and not fair to other swimmers.

Showering removes your hair product, sweat, deodorant, dust, dirt or grime, and anything else that may be on you. Getting in the pool without showering simply pollutes the water.

This Purdue study discovered DEET (the active ingredient in bug spray), flame retardant (?!), and caffeine in gym pools—obviously washed off the bodies of swimmers who didn't shower beforehand.

A funny poolside sign that also sends an important message.

A funny poolside sign that also sends an important message.

2. Don't Pee in the Pool

What are you, four years old? Don't pee in the pool. Not only is it gross and wildly inappropriate to think that other swimmers want to do laps in your urine, it's actually doing damage to the overworked chlorine balance in the pool.

Chlorine is already fighting a losing battle against all the hair, saliva, sweat, poop, and other disgusting microbes we bring into the pool. Urine is not only nasty in the pool, it's one of the great chlorine killers, so use the restroom facilities before you get in the pool—and if you feel the need to go while you're swimming, be an adult, get out of the pool, and head over to the bathroom.

Or next time we'll give you a time-out in the kiddie pool.

Who wears their clothes into a pool? Bathing suits only!

Who wears their clothes into a pool? Bathing suits only!

3. Clothes Are Not Allowed

Don’t wear your workout clothes into the pool, especially after you work out. The sweat and grime and colognes and deodorant in your clothes will simply rinse off into the pool.

Wear only swim trunks or other swim gear specifically designed for water and pool use.

(Pro tip: Shower while wearing your swimwear to clean it too!)

Lap lanes are not for lounging.

Lap lanes are not for lounging.

4. Don't Lollygag

If there are lap lanes in the pool, that means the pool is set up for people to swim laps. If you're lounging or chatting with friends or popping over from the hot tub to cool off, you're lollygagging and you're in everybody's way. This is not acceptable gym pool behavior.

A sign explaining lap lane etiquette. Seems pretty straightforward.

A sign explaining lap lane etiquette. Seems pretty straightforward.

5. Know How to Share Lanes

The general rule: If there are two swimmers in the lane, you each choose a side of the lane and stay on that side during your swim. If there are more than two people, everyone swims in a circle with the lane divider always on your left side (or whichever direction is preferred by your gym).

When power walking in the pool, know how to share lanes with swimmers.

When power walking in the pool, know how to share lanes with swimmers.

6. Pool Walkers: Know Where You Fit In

I’ve had a few altercations with pool "walkers." Last time I checked it was called a "swimming" pool…

...but anyway, I don’t have a problem with pool walkers. If, however, there are several lap lanes and several walkers, it is much easier for a walker to share a lane with another walker than with a swimmer doing laps.

I once had a walker refuse to share a lane with me. This is outrageous. Swimmers understand that part of the gym pool experience is sharing lanes with other swimmers. The same rules apply to walkers.

The butterfly stroke takes up the entire lane, not allowing other swimmers to share.

The butterfly stroke takes up the entire lane, not allowing other swimmers to share.

7. Mind Your Strokes

If you're sharing a lane, swim freestyle or use a kickboard. If you want to swim the butterfly or breaststroke, wait until a free lane opens up. These strokes take up too much of the lane, and you will be constantly hitting other swimmers who are sharing your space.

Imagine trying to swim laps in this.

Imagine trying to swim laps in this.

8. Remember That Lap Time Is Not Family Time

If the entire pool is set up with lap lanes, it is not the time to bring your family into the pool with floaties and toys and water games. Please check the pool schedule for the “family” or “open” swim times. Lap lanes are for swimming laps…imagine that!


CalSailor on March 22, 2018:

If there are more than two people, everyone swims in a circle with the lane divider always on your right side.

Sean, this confused me, too, when I read it. I think she's referring to the floating rope lane divider, not the center line painted on the bottom. If you look at these drawings as omitting the floating lane markers, and seeing the bottom marker as shown, then you swim with the edge (and the missing float rope symbols) to your right. The bottom line is in the article for orientation to the swimmers. If you read it as having the floating divider (which is the only marker that can be seen in all strokes; backstrokers can't see the bottom marker when they swim. Having been one, I know about that all too well.) to your right, then the diagrams make sense (I think)

But, you are right, I think it would have been better had they put in the rope lane dividers it would have been clearer.

PR Chris

Sean Connery1 on March 21, 2018:

I'm confused about the lap lane usage since there's direct contradiction in this article... The diagram mentions to swim to the right of the divider but the author writes that the divider must be to the right of the swimmer. In other words, the diagram says to swim counter clockwise but the author says to swim clockwise. Which one is proper?

Dana Turek on August 24, 2017:

How can slower swimmers share the lane. Keep in mind that in order to be a fast and long swimmer you have to start off slow. What about older swimmers { good swimmers slowing down}. This is not team swimming.

sarah foz on November 02, 2016:

this guy is stupid! He obviously doesn't swim very much..that is his way, not the correct way!

Solorya from Oklahoma on April 30, 2013:

Thanks for the tips! I grew up just swimming in my backyard and the ocean, so joining a gym for the first time at 28 I had no clue what to expect when entering the pool. Simple and helpful--thanks!

DJ KJ on October 13, 2011:

Great! This is a well written article. Thank you. I still don't understand how many people can actually swim in pools like they have in LA fitness for example. There are three lane markers (long the floor) and two lane dividers, creating three lanes to swim. I am comfortable using one full lane because I use the bottom floor lane marker as a guide to be in my lane. But sometimes people ask whether they can share the lane with me and I am not comfortable with it. Since I cannot be rude, I accept it. But in such a pool, with 3 lanes, is the right etiquette/rule to have 3 people swim or 6? I am referring to swimming laps and not waling.

Chad on October 01, 2011:

I'd like to add a couple or questions to see how others feel? I've seen a number of people blowing out there nose up on the cap or spitting phlegm. I find this disgusting and will call any swimmer out on it. The other is people that don't thoroughly wash off makeup before getting in the pool. Those oils float on the surface which is where your water intake is.

test on October 01, 2011:


TroyM on August 02, 2011:

Nice Hub... Keep it up!

seb on October 21, 2010:

I like your article. Unfortunately at the pool I used to use it was the little kids who I am sure would pee in the pool. There was always a gang just before adult lap swim with several little boys giggling away at nothing in particular so I always wondered. I love swimming, but more people should read your article. Lane etiquette was a big problem and then I got a horrible rash. Until I can afford my own pool ( never) I'm back to just running.

VivekSri on June 24, 2010:

Good hub as usual, kea. Hang on there with more and creative pool ideas. Liked your hub.

Karen Reader on May 05, 2010:

I agree with Kenny, that is just absurd!

kea (author) on March 26, 2010:

@Kenny - in my experience, people need to be told a lot of things that the rest of us find common sense. Cheers.

Kenny on March 26, 2010:

Is it really necessary to tell people not to pee in the pool? I think this is common sense, at least I hope it is.