My interview with Dara Torres: her new book, training smarter, and the 2012 Olympics

She's been to the Olympics five times, won twelve medals, and at age 43, Dara Torres says she's in the best shape of her life. In her new book, Gold Medal Fitness: A Revolutionary 5-Week Program, Torres writes about how she became a faster and stronger swimmer as she got older and how you can get in your best shape . She spoke to FatFighterTV recently about Gold Medal Fitness, training smarter, and whether she'll compete in the next Olympic Games.

FatFighterTV: How much harder is it to be in shape in your 40's?

Dara Torres: I think I'm probably in the best shape of my life now. It's harder in the sense that you may not see results as quickly and your body may hurt more and you may need more recovery, but I've never looked this way before in my life and I'm 43 now. You have to listen to your body more when you're a little bit older.

FFTV: How achievable is it for the average person - non-athletes - to get fit after age 40, and how can your new book help them?

DT: I wrote this book, Gold Medal Fitness, really gearing it towards everyone. It's a health and exercise book that can be for the person who maybe hasn't worked out in a long time or has never worked out before. It can be for a teenager who wants to get in shape and it can be for someone who maybe works out three days a week. It's sort of like a guideline of how to get in shape to make you look the best that you can. People have to understand that when they see this book and they see me on the cover and it's like, 'Wow, look at the abs she's got,' you have to remember also that this is my life - what I do is this working out stuff. The book is really supposed to help you be in the best shape you can be in. It really is for everyone; it's not just for an elite athlete.

FFTV: What can people expect if they follow your five-week plan?

DT: I think they'll start to see changes on the inside and outside of their body. It changes how you feel. I have a nutritional plan for five weeks and it's very simplistic. I have a five week program for strength training in the gym. I have Ki-Hara, which is resistance stretching. If you can really stick to the five weeks, I think you'll really start to see changes. And when you see changes, it motivates you to keep going.

FFTV: What makes your five-week plan unique from what we have already heard about diet and exercise?

DT: It's so innovative in the exercises that I do compared to what's so old school with going to the gym and doing squats or doing chest presses or whatever you see everyone doing when you go to the gym. It's just much different. People want to know, 'How do you get those abs? What do you put in your body? What are you doing?' I pretty much reveal the secrets of what made me be in the best shape of my life and help me achieve my Olympic dreams, yet the book is geared towards everyone.

FFTV: You mentioned Ki-Hara. Tell me more about that.

DT: Ki-Hara is resistance stretching and it's really bringing energy to the core. You don't have to have trainers to do this; you can do this yourself. It's resistance stretching which is also strength training. The more you resist, the more of a stretch you'll get while you're doing the stretches, so it sort of kills two birds with one stone. You're resisting against yourself basically.

FFTV: In your book, you write about how important rest and recovery time is for you. What kind of a difference has it made?

DT: I think it's huge. When I started training again, I wanted to do what the 20 year-olds were doing - two workouts a day and be in the gym for hours on end, but there's just no way. I'm older and I can't do that. I went from nine workouts a week in the pool in 2000 to five workouts a week. I upped my strength training a little - I added one extra day to four days of strength training to get that muscle that I needed. I do the resistance stretching for recovery. And I also added two days of doing nothing - Thursdays and Sundays I take completely off . A long time ago, taking a day off would be, 'Well, I'm not swimming, I'll just go for a 45 minute run.' I actually take days off to allow my body to recover because the more it can recover, the more it can build lean muscle.

FFTV: Do you think we need more recovery time as we get older?

DT: Absolutely. I used to do six or seven days a week of working out. I can't do that. You have to listen to your body more when you're older. You might think, 'Well, if I'm not doing everything then I won't look the way I did, but I'm a perfect example - I look better than I looked doing half of what I used to do.

FFTV: Why do you think that is?

DT: I think when you're working out so much and you don't allow your body to recover, even when you're younger, you can't build muscle. You're just always tired.

FFTV: What does it feel like to compete with people so young?

DT: You know, it's kind of funny - you're sitting there and you're getting ready to compete and you're looking over and there's this 16 year old freckle-faced girl sitting next to you and you're like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm older than her parents!' But when you dive in the pool, you don't think about it. They're just your competitors, so I don't really think about it when I'm actually swimming.

FFTV: Are you going to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games?

DT: I don't know. I hope to. I haven't decided. I'm recovering from a major knee reconstructive surgery so I'm just waiting to see how this recovery goes and then I'll go from there. I'd like to.

FFTV: How are you feeling?

DT: I feel pretty good. My knee is recovering quickly, so we'll see...


Do you think Dara will compete in 2012?

Also see:
How Pink gets her buff bod
Fitness model, Jamie Eason: her workouts, wisdom, and wake-up call to get healthy
4 diet destroyers from Dr. Oz