How to Lead the Lane Like a Boss

How to Lead the Lane Like a Boss

In watching a local swim team train recently, it was comforting to see that many of the same rituals I experienced during my age group swimming days are still alive and well.

The swimmer who fiddles with their equipment for half the practice. The bathroom break specialist. And of course, the ones who keep the practice on track, the lane leaders.

The task of leading each lane of swimmers comes with its share of burdens.

You not only have the rest of the lane trying to chase you down for the rest of practice, but with great responsibility comes great pressure to remember the intervals, reps and distances.

Here are 6 tips for leading the lane like a boss:

1. Set the tone.

Not only are you leading the group through the maze of intervals and reps, but you are also setting the tone for the workout. Things always run more smoothly when the person leading the lane is determined to see the set through.

You can grumble about how hard the set is later, for now set the tone for a successful practice.

2. Know your limits.

There are going to be moments where other swimmers in the lane get to shine. Perhaps you have an absurdly fast kicker in the lane, or a breaststroker who puts yours to shame.

Leading goes beyond stubbornly being first all of the time. Have the humility to know when you should give up the throne.

How to Lead the Lane Like a Boss

3. Set the standard for accurate departures.

If you are leaving a few seconds early on each push-off it only pushes the swimmers behind you to do the same. The second and third swimmers in the lane don’t want that unnecessary distance that they now have to make up on you, particularly if there is a chance you are going to catch them over the course of the rep.

Leaving early just skews your results, and really, coach and your teammates know what you are up to. You’re only fooling yourself.

4. Figure out time between swimmers ahead of the set.

How far apart each swimmer is going should be addressed before the set starts, and will obviously vary according to lane conditions.

When swimming long course with just a couple swimmers in the lane you can easily decide to go :20 or even :30 seconds apart. In a short course yards pool, with 7-8 other swimmers in the water the time between swimmers gets real short.

Planning this out helps avoid situations where the lane leaders are returning to the wall before the rest of the lane’s swimmers have gone, or where swimmers are unnecessarily swimming all over each other.

5. Keep count.

I’ll freely admit that I have lost count more times during a set than I can possibly remember. Just the other day during a leisurely lap swim at the YMCA I lost count several times during a 500. I still don’t know if I ended up swimming 350 or 700m.

The point is, with the rest of the swimmers in the lane following you it’s critical to stay focused. Invariably over the course of a long set the swimmers behind you will ask, “How many is that?”

There are fewer worse things than coach having everyone redo the set because you lost count or didn’t complete it properly.

6. Wait till everyone is done.

I get the need to want to hurry into the next set. The slower moving swimmers in the back of the lane deserve a brief respite between sets as well.

Unless there is a serious premium on time allow the lane to complete the previous set before diving into the next one so that everyone can be on the same page.

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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