Dara Torres has been one of our heroes here at FITNESS for years. She even appeared on the cover a couple times in the '90s! But this 44-year-old fit mom is out to prove that age is just a number and is training to compete in her sixth—yes, sixth—Olympic Games. We had to ask: Will there be seven? "This will be my last try at the Olympics, no matter what. Going back to 1984, I had always thought that would be my last swim, but I mean it this time," says Torres, who was in town as a BENGAY Brand Ambassador. As she prepares for her final quest for Olympic hardware (she already has twelve medals), we sat down with Torres to learn more about her training, her hobbies and the other swimmer in her house.
You recently had surgery—how are you feeling? I took a year off after the 2009 World Championships to have a cartilage transplant in my knee. It really helped with my quality of life—I can now walk without pain and train again. But I never completely stopped. I would do pull-ups with my crutches resting against a nearby bench! Being fit is so important to me. Exercises relieves stress, gives me energy and I like the way I look because of it.
Speaking of that training, what does a typical week look like for you? I train five days a week while my daughter is in school and take Thursdays and Sundays off. I swim for two hours, spend 60 to 90 minutes in the weight room and do 45 minutes of leg rehab, including Ki-Hara resistance stretching for recovery.
So the 2012 Olympics are in seven months! How do you feel? The trials are at the end of June and beginning of July. I'm training for that now, or as I like to say, "I've been training for this since I was eight!" My Olympic prep really began in August 2010. I'll be 45 by the Olympics, so tapering before trials is important, but I can't rest quite as much as I used to because I lose muscle quicker at my age. For Dara's pick for the next great swimmer and her favorite pool-free activities,
How is your training different this time around compared to your previous five Olympic Games? Yardage isn't as important as it was. My team and I are looking into the science of swimming more to find the most efficient times and methods to train. Recovery is such a big thing for me. I'm not as pliable as I was when I was younger, so I use BENGAY for long-lasting and quick pain relief.
If you could pick just one athlete who you think is going to leave her mark on the swimming world, who would that be? Missy Franklin is on top of the world right now. She's such a cool, cute girl!
What do you like to do when you're not in the pool or at the gym? My daughter is my highlight and biggest accomplishment, so I love spending time with her. I also like movies, shopping and sleep!
Is your daughter showing any interest in swimming? She's enrolled in tennis, dance and swimming, and loves ice skating. She loves the pool and recently swam in a meet, but I'd be OK with whatever she decides she wants to do. I think it's important to get kids active after school, even for 30 minutes or an hour.
What advice do you have for those who want to improve their swimming skills but feel they are too old for lessons? Join a masters swim team. Build each week distance-wise to ease into it. Outside of the pool, try strength moves that incorporate different parts of your body at the same time since you use all of your muscles in the water when swimming.