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Dara Torres has mastered the art of training her own body. But it didnt happen overnight.

Everyone seems amazed by Dara Torres and her olympic journey.

And rightfully so. She is an amazing woman with an amazing story to tell.

Daras daughter looks forward to competing against her mother in the 2020 olympics.

Daras daughter looks forward to competing against her mother in the 2020 Olympics.

But before you wonder if there is truth in all the ‘performance enhancing’ headlines, take a moment to ponder this:

what if her training and recovery routine is just that much better than the current system all the other athletes are using?

When I was in Australia I had the opportunity to work at the Australian Institute of Sport (a developmental center for Olympic and developmental athletes). Something I was constantly amazed at was the hours of training the AIS swimmers put in every morning. They would swim for hours and hours, perfecting their technique so they could carve through the water all the more effortlessly.

What I didn’t realize at the time (and what many coaches at high level competition also fail to realize) was the amount of overtraining that was happening. In fact, many swimmers are chronically overtrained.

Dara used to train like that. But not anymore.

Dara is now training 5 times a week in the pool – breaking world records and swimming half as much as her Olympic teammates.

How does she do it?

Swimming records depend on flawless technique in the pool. Once that technique has been learned, is it necessary to put in the same hours? Dara might be living proof that once perfected, training need not be so rigorous and focus can shift to other areas of performance.

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Dara is also an example of an athlete who has taken the initiative and chosen her own training routines. If she keeps bringing home the gold, who is to blame her for finding her own path to excellence?

Thankful to her moms and pops

The Dara Torres genetics, limb lengths and mental toughness all play a role in her natural affinity to gold medals – but lets also note the perfect swimming form her coaches constantly praise her for.

Dara Torres is one tough bitch

Wanna know how tough she is?

Dara Torres gave birth… but made sure she found time to lift weights and swim laps the very same day

Mental and physical gifts aside, perhaps the real reason Dara is getting her great numbers at such an age is the great support network she has built around herself.

Let’s take a closer look:

Dara Torres support team

  1. Chris Jackson: Sprint coach
  2. Andy O’Brien: Strength and Conditioning coach
  3. Steve Sierra and Anne Tierney: Two full-time personal stretchers (these people work together to stretch Dara in ways a single person cannot. Might this be a key secret?)[youtube=]
  4. Electro-physiotherapy – not sure of the science on this one, but a lot of the research points towards muscle rehabilitation rather than performance-based outcomes
  5. Nanny to help look after her young ones
  6. Nutritionist and meal plan program
  7. doctor (her boyfriend) to ensure she stays in perfect health

Thankfully Because of the status she is, she receives assistance from sponsors to help pay for this team of (non-olympic funded) experts.

(Spare a thought for the other non-sponsored athletes who must work at Home Depot and live off of the ‘all-you-can-eat-pizza-bar’ to keep their training up with the hope for an olympic dream.)

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However, sponsorship/lack of sponsorship aside:

Daras workout may be a key:

holding weights while on a fitball makes for strong posture in the water

Daras workout believes that machines are built to help people get better at using machines, not swimming.

She often works out without sitting down in a single machine.

Her constantly changing regimen encompasses Swiss balls, medicine balls, bands and resistance cables in innovative and functional methods.

The compound workout she is driven through is designed to teach her muscles to be stronger together – not stronger apart. The finely tuned neuromuscular network she constantly builds upon means her body works together in all the right places.

Daras recovery may be even more important:

Dara receives daily attention from a couple of experts that stretch and massage her in innovative and brutally painful ways. The result? A body that regenerates quickly and moves smoothly come next workout.

Her workouts make sure the same muscles get worked out differently each time. Her massage/stretch team make sure her muscles get the maximal recovery. Her reduced swim load means she gets to practice her technique but not reach a point where she is overtraining. Which is where the majority of professional athletes are right now.

If you are a high level athlete, chances are you are overtrained right now

If you want to be doing whatever it is you do at an older age, here are some tips for you:

Secrets to help make you a ‘Dara Torres’ at whatever you want to be best at:

  1. Get a massage on a regular basis. If you build up the waste in your muscles, you have to be able to remove the waste from your muscles. Simple equation, huh.
  2. Stop eating food that you know is not good for you. You are what you eat. That means your joints are made of that crappy fast food you choked down last week. Crappy fast-food joints don’t last that long (in case you didn’t know).
  3. Try things outside of your regular team protocol. If you want different results than everyone else, do things differently. Try relaxation. Try yoga. Try acupuncture. Try sleeping at a decent hour every night. If you look at the habits of the greats in any sport, they do the things that others don’t.
  4. Be a stickler for form. Good form means relaxed muscles, smooth joints and reduced injuries. It also means better performances now and tomorrow. Daras coaches know she has her form down pat. She ought to, given the years of practice she has had. But she didn’t get it without focus and conscientious effort.
  5. Make your next gym visit a functional training session. Your body will realize connections it never realized it had before. You will feel muscles that were previously dormant. You will curse me for giving you the idea for this workout but thank me later when your performance improves dramatically.
  6. Stretch. Focus on loosening the tight muscles first – think about what tighten as you sit. Your chest, lats and hip flexors are a great place to start.

If you haven’t been doing any of this, then start tomorrow. It is never too late for good health.

Last word of wisdom for everyone out there, athlete and non-athlete:

If you are working hard, you should be recovering even harder.

Triathlete or Track & Field athlete, money-maker or mother of four – if you are putting in the effort, make sure you give yourself the opportunity to recover.

This will give you the best chance to keep you on your game and keep doing the things you love with less burnout, doing it better, and doing it at a high level for many years to come.

Live in Denver?  Go to WWW.FITNESSBYATLAS.COM to get a free pass to one of our classes

Jamie Atlas

Quines mas macho?   Dara Torres es Michael Phelps?  Click here to read a post comparing the two

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  • […] Training Secrets of Olympian Dara Torres […]

  • Fit Bottomed Girl Aug 11, 2008 Reply

    I LOVE this post. I saw some on TV about her training program and was amazed with her stretching and workouts. Your points about most athletes overtraining is so dead on. Sometimes more really isn’t better!

  • Strong One Aug 11, 2008 Reply

    Recovery… recovery.. .recovery…
    She trains smarter now. She actually trains less than more.
    She concentrates on quality not quantity.
    A take home point for all those athletes and gym goer’s who spend hours upon hours a day training.. and not seeing the results.
    Dara’s proof is in the puddin’.
    Great article.

  • jamieatlas Aug 11, 2008 Reply

    StrongOne, Fitbottomed girl, ain’t that the truth! Without getting into the whole ‘cost of being an elite athlete’, the bottom line is that with a support team we can be free to perform at our best.

    What is cool is that we all have a support network we can access if we take the time to look and also put ourselves out there so people know what we are trying to do.

    Online networking tools like facebook are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this.

  • Yeni Aug 11, 2008 Reply

    Wonderful post. She’s definitely an inspiration to all. Now if only I had the mental toughness she does to get myself out of the rut ;). Great post! I’m coming here more often for workout tips :). Thanks for posting this!

  • […] Training Secrets of Dara Torres A great article with very practical tips for even the most modest athlete. […]

  • Jason Aug 12, 2008 Reply

    Great post! And what a great story of hard work and dedication from an “older” US athlete. I really hope all of the speculation of performance-enhancing drugs are false! I love the fact that she agreed to additional testing and agreed to have her blood stored and tested for the future (I believe that is what I heard?).

    It is so disappointing when you hear of some athletes claiming to be clean and later we find out they were in fact, using performance-enhancing drugs, i.e. Marion Jones, and several other MLB baseball players.

    Go Dara!

  • DR Aug 13, 2008 Reply

    Awesome post Jamie,

    I would like to add to the point you made about Dara’s experience in relation to her swimming technique.

    There is a lot of research that shows that athletes like Dara actually modify the structure and function of their brains by repeating their sporting activities over and over and over.

    The brain’s plasticity allows for it to become more efficient at that particular activity.

    So, it would stand to reason that she would require less “technique” training than a less experienced swimmer.

    p.s. That stretching regime is tough. Expensive too.

  • […] This one is about Dara Torres – not my best work, but interesting insights into what it takes to bec… […]

  • […] first collected Added 21 Oct 08 from Flag as inappropriate or […]

  • X Jan 2, 2009 Reply

    OK – gave birth and worked out on the same day!!! Dara is super human. 🙂 I want to be like her when I ‘grow up’ – she is an amazing example for us all, not just women. Thanks Jamie for motivating me even more!

    I wish I could have my own resistance massage team, it sounds awesome and we all know how important flexibility is. But my wallet only allows a deep tissue-like massage using a Yamuna Body Rolling ball [see what I do at It’s done wonders for my body and flexibility work is fun because of it.

  • ena Apr 21, 2009 Reply

    As a former 2 time Olympian for my country of origin ( Peru ) I can relate to Dara to a certain extent. I did not win Olympic medals but I do know that quality training does win over quantity. I had a best 5K time of 15:50 running in the 90’s and I still hold the record for 3, 5 and 10 K events for my former college FIU at the NCAA championships.
    I did get an offer at Syracuse U but the cold and icy conditions made me accept another offer at Florida International University – great weather and hot . I grew up in Ica – Peru (California weather conditions) sun dunes all over pacific ocean around the corner or high altitude 30 minutes away.
    During my attending college and after graduation (as an Exercise Physiologist I trained myself and did my own research.
    I always love to run track and I still do so. Speed is great to keep the fast twitch fibers fired-up. I competed in the 84 and 92 Olympic games in the marathon just because they did not have the 5k in 84. I actually was part of the inaugural women’s Olympic marathon – if you ever watch the video the athlete running the first 3 miles was me.
    Since I lived in Miami most of my running career I had to trained either very early or late in the afternoon due to the heat in the summer. So I decided to train in the water even at noon (pool in the backyard). I cross trained with the bike and the water resistance and I only run up to 45 miles/week on the road. I did 2 hours running twice a week approximately and worked on my plyometric exercises in the water as well. This helped me to actually qualify for the 92 Olympic Games in Boston. I did go for a warm down after this marathon – I wonder why. Got 10th place with 2:41 not a great time but I did enjoy it!!
    I had to save my legs for a tennis tournament that week- I played tennis in college as well.
    Ah by the way: if you have a massage school near your living headquarters call the school and inquiry about their student clinics. You will only pay 20 to maybe 40 dollars per hour massage with a student. It is a great way to take care of yourself. The same is for aesthetics school. You can get facials, peels, pedicure or manicure or hair cuts at a cosmetology school – very affordable price.

  • reed Jun 6, 2009 Reply

    dara is a SUPER HUMAN!!!!!! i know no one like her. i am 12, and when i “grow up” i want to be just like her! she is right there next to my mom,
    and is an inspiration to us all. i hope (and highly doubt) that she will NEVER take any pills to keep up with that bod. YOU ROCK DARA!!!!

  • sudipta chakraborty Oct 11, 2010 Reply

    I am a lover of her fitness and determination .

  • Swimmer9999 May 23, 2011 Reply

    Dara Torres is a sprinter so putting down less distance actually helps her. If she swam the distance events she would not be able to conquer her competition if she was getting half the base as everyone else.

  • sudipta chakraborty Jun 26, 2011 Reply

    I always have a great feeling about her training . If I come to know about it more it will be a great pleasure for country like us (INDIA), here we always about have fitness problem at the top level. At that age of her any one can be motivated. Thank you dara torres..

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