What Does Your Favorite Swim Lane Say About You?

Photo Courtesy: Nicholas McMillan

By Claire Russell, a Swimming World Intern.

Most swimmers know that rush of energy that exhilarates you upon hearing the words: “Heat sheets are out!” You have the urgent pounding need to know exactly which lane you’re in. This thrill of rushing over to the heat sheet to see which heat and lane you’re racing in has never seemed to fade throughout your years. The simple number can automatically answer the questions: Am I the fastest? Am I the slowest? Am I in the middle of the pack? Even though a lane placement does not have any impact on the outcome of the race, somehow, it seems like a huge deal. We all secretly hope to be assigned to our favorite swim lane, which can be the middle for some and the outside for others.

After years of discussion and debate on the topic of the “best lane” with teammates, friends and coaches, we have come to the realization that you can tell a lot about someone’s personality by their favorite lane. Here is what we claim to be true based on an eight-lane pool. Which lane suits your personality?

Lane Four

BEIJING, CHINA AUGUST 11TH, 2008--USA' Garrett Weber-Gale, left, and Michael Phelps celebrate with Jason Lezak, in the pool, the gold medal in the 4x100 Freestyle Relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Photo Courtesy: Wally Skalij

Lane four is the fastest seed, and the swimmers who choose lane four live and perform for the spotlight. They typically have a lot of confidence and aren’t afraid to be the fasted seed. The expectation to win and perform well doesn’t hinder or stress their pre-race mental state – in fact, it kicks their energy into full gear. The pressure to win is what makes them ready to race, and being in lane four puts them in the best mindset to race at their fastest potential to finish first. In a race, lane four can be compared to the halftime show of the Super Bowl. Everyone is watching it and expects greatness.

Best qualities: Competitive, Confident, and Powerful.

Lane Five

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Lane five is the second-fastest seed: the top seeded underdog of the race. This lane still provides the same advantage of being one of the fastest inside lanes while also giving the swimmer full view of the competition as they breathe to each side. The swimmers in lane five tend to enjoy the spotlight a little, but not to be the main attraction. They would want to play lead guitar in a rock band but not be the featured singer on stage. These swimmers still have a strong chance to win, but the heat isn’t counting on them to finish first. A little pressure drives their competitive edge, but they prefer not to go into a race with the cards of winning slightly in their favor.

Best qualities: Driven, Confident, and Eager.

Lanes Three and Six


Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

Lanes three and six are technically the third and fourth seeds of the heat. They are expected to finish somewhere in the the middle and are positioned next to the top two seeds in their heat. These swimmers don’t want the main spotlight, but don’t want to be on the outskirts either. We would consider these lanes to be like the middle children in a family. Lanes three and six are still in the top four seeds of the heat, so don’t count these lanes out of giving the top seeds a little challenge. They do enjoy the pressure of being in the middle of the pool, and these swimmers have a passion to hang with the top.

Best qualities: Diligent, Committed and Strong.

Lanes Two and Seven

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Lanes two and seven are on the slower end of the heat; however, they aren’t the slowest seeds. Lanes two and seven don’t thrive on the pressure to win their heat and prefer to be the underdogs. They still have someone to race on either side, revealing how competitive these swimmers are. These swimmers love to be the long-shot in the heat and aren’t afraid to give the top seeds a run for their money. They’re confident in their swimming ability and don’t need a middle lane to win.

Best qualities: Persevering, Hardworking, and Fun.

Lanes Eight and One

Adrian, Nathan-62

Photo Courtesy: David Farr

Lanes eight and one are on the outside – the two slowest seeds of the heat. The swimmers in these lanes are the absolute underdogs of the race. Lanes eight and one in swimming are like the fifteenth and sixteenth seeded teams selected for March Madness in college basketball. As you all know, we should never count out those teams, as there are always upsets. These swimmers love a good challenge and prefer to be the slowest going into the race. They race at their best with the mentality of nothing to lose and everything to gain. The opportunities are endless to move up in the heat.

Best qualities: Competitive, Passionate, and Resilient.

The Final Verdict

Although it is our philosophy that you can tell a lot about a person by their preferred lane, that doesn’t mean that one personality is more advantageous than the other. It’s true when coaches say that lane four is no shorter than lane eight. Every time that beep goes off and the swimmers dive in the water, every competitor has a chance of winning regardless of their lane assignment. We should never be discouraged by the lane we are in, because in the end, the will to win means more than the lane that you are in.  

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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  1. avatar
    Jackie smith

    I’ve noticed many similarities between my own children and the description of each lane. This has really helped my understanding as a swim mom!

  2. avatar
    Alyvia Beaudion

    I love lane 5 and this fits it perfectly!! I’m all for having the high probability of winning without feeling like I HAVE to win because I’m top seed. This explains it perfectly!!

    • avatar

      I completely agree!!! These are all the reasons I LOVE lane 5!!

  3. avatar
    Amanda T

    I completely agree with Lane 1 and Lane 8’s description. No one ever understood why Lane 8 was my favorite lane since I was the slowest, but now they know it’s because I love a good challenge.

  4. avatar
    Cole Hill

    It’s interesting that my personality is more Lane 4, but my favorite lane is actually Lane 2! Maybe I might have to switch

  5. avatar

    The Lane 5 explanation is PERFECT! Exactly why I like being in Lane 5 and explains me. All the rest are so true!

  6. avatar

    So well written! Claire knows what she’s talking about.

  7. avatar

    Wow my lane was pretty accurate!

  8. avatar
    Sara Gendron

    That’s my roommate💜

  9. avatar

    SO TRUE! My favorite lane is 7 but my sisters favorite lane is 4 and she’s way more competitive than me.

  10. avatar
    Linda Patterson

    I love how you said never to count out lanes 1 and 8 because my kids are always embarrassed when they find out they are in those lanes. But they should stay motivated because they can beat out lane 4!

    • avatar

      I watched Gabby Rose make the Olympic Team in 2000 from Lane 1. She missed making the team in the 200m free, her best event. Her coach, Dave Salo, gave her a pep talk. She got 15th in prelims to get to semi-finals. (this was the first time they had semis, had this been 1996 she would have been out). She got 7th (or something like that) in the semis. Then she got 2nd in the finals. Never count out Lane 1, Lane 8, the 16th seed, the 8th seed… you just never know. (And thanks to Steve West, for helping me with the details on this.)

  11. avatar
    Joy Maguire

    How insightful! After all these years of attending swim meets, I will be watching with different eyes next time! Good way to size up your opponent,too! Clever!! Thanks for the inside scoop!

  12. avatar

    So True! The pressure of lane 4 always gets to me. I can never win!

  13. avatar

    I love this article. Extremely creative and so true. I love knocking off #4!

  14. avatar

    I assume you can apply the same theory to track and field racing. And if you apply it to horse racing, as the horses come to the gate, it might provide a whole new basis for deciding which horse is most likely to win. Claire may have a future as a handicapper. Well done.

  15. avatar
    Bob M.

    Love lanes 1 and 8, they can always make the crowd cheer louder if they challenge lanes 4 and 5!!! Root for the underdog.

  16. avatar

    Lane 3/6 describes me perfectly! Love the challenge of being near the middle but also feeling like an underdog!

  17. avatar

    Lanes 3 and 6 are the best because you’re right in the middle; not all the spotlight is on you, and you’re not the slowest seed either.

  18. avatar
    Ann M

    Fun to read! Love the personality descriptions!

  19. avatar
    Tim R.

    I love lane 5 and 6, swim best when I know everyone else is trying to pass me!

  20. avatar

    Wow this is actually pretty accurate, Very funny!

  21. avatar
    Maddie Schlecht

    I love how you said lane 5 has qualities of driven confident and eager! Because I swim in lane 5 a lot of the time and I would consider myself to be driven as well!

  22. avatar

    Informative and entertaining article!!! For someone like me who loves to watch swim meets but doesn’t swim, these descriptions add a whole new perspective to consider!!

  23. avatar

    What an interesting article. Great insight!
    Now I feel like I’m a swimmer “insider”!!

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