Dallas Aquatic Masters (DAM): Part II

My Experience
Five weeks ago I began swimming with the Dallas Aquatic Masters (DAM) as an official member. The month-long Swim Basics Freestyle Clinic I completed in October inspired me to join DAM so that I could continue to swim on a regular basis, be challenged and receive much needed coaching. My first practice was at SMU on Monday, November 10, 2008. Since then, I have attended six practices and one clinic. Two of the practices took place at SMU: one in the indoor 25 meter pool and one in the outdoor 50 meter pool. The other four practices took place at the Baylor indoor 25 meter pool. The freestyle clinic took place at St. Mark's. In total, I have swam roughly 9.5 miles over seven hours with DAM (excluding the Swim Basics Freestyle Clinic in October). With those numbers under my belt, I feel I can now write an adequate review of DAM as a newcomer to both the club and the sport. Below are the three facilities I have practiced at:
SMU Red Barr Pool: Outdoor / 8 Lanes / 50 Meters

Baylor Pool: Indoor / 6 Lanes / 25 Meters

St. Mark's School of Texas Pool: Indoor / 6 Lanes / 25 Yards

The transition from a non-member attending the Swim Basics Freestyle Clinic to a member attending regular practices was very challenging. During my clinic, I was very pleased with my progress and my enjoyment of the sport. The coaches moved me from beginner to intermediate level half way through the clinic. Thus, when I left the clinic and was ready to become a DAM member, I had completed the highest level a non-member could utilizing DAM's non-member options. However, the distance and level of intensity increased dramatically from clinic to actual practice. 

During the clinic, I never had to swim more than 100 meters continuously, and that did not come until the last two practices. When I attended my first practice, the warm-up was 400 meters. I couldn't believe it! If that's the warm-up, how long will the actual pieces be?! My lungs often felt like they were going to explode as I went to practice after practice. I was being asked to complete workouts that not only were far in away beyond my ability, but also were the same workouts being demanded of former Olympians. Yes, the caliber of swimmer at DAM runs quite high. I am definitely at the lowest end. So here's the bottom line of a DAM practice:

1. Coach at every practice
2. Assigned challenging workouts that push you and expand your ability
3. Practice in a team environment
4. Can choose from seven pools to swim from and a variety of practice times
5. Various clinics occur from time to time that are geared towards less proficient swimmers

1. Meant for experienced swimmers
2. Not every coach provides individual coaching
3. Very challenging workouts if you are not a strong swimmer
4. Limited to practice times as opposed to joining a gym with a pool and swimming on your time

Litmus Test
So how do you know if you're cut out for a DAM practice? I recommend being able to swim at least 400 meters continuously without feeling like you want to die. If you can keep an easy freestyle stroke going for that distance without your lungs imploding, you should be good to go.

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