INTERVIEW: Swimmer Dara Torres on the Power of Positivity

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One of the most riveting and inspirational stories of last summer's Olympic Games in Beijing was the comeback of swimmer Dara Torres, then 41. Torres, who had retired after winning five medals at the Sydney Games in 2000, returned to the pool seven years later, shortly after the birth of her daughter, Tessa. With her perseverance, positive attitude, and, oh yeah, those washboard abs, Torres captivated audiences worldwide long after the closing ceremonies.

Torres recently took some time between swimming in the National and World Championships to answer some of our questions!

dailySpark: You're facing serious knee surgery after this summer, which while treatable, is certainly a setback in your training. Our members often face their own hurdles in their journeys to healthy living and weight loss. How do recover from a setback such as this, and how do you stay motivated mentally when your body doesn't cooperate?
Dara Torres: I concentrate on the end result and how the surgery will make my life more productive. Now, my knee hurts sometimes when I’m climbing stairs and after training and I know that the surgery is going to take away that pain. I like to look at the positive side of things, but I also look at reality, too. I know my body isn't going to heal as fast as it would have when I was younger, but all I can do is work hard, keep a positive outlook and go with the flow.

dailySpark: Before and during your remarkable comeback at last year's Olympics, your age was a common talking point. While women are incessantly pressured to embrace youth, you dispel stereotypes and serve as a phenomenal role model for females of all ages. Now you're helping BP promote its "Younger for Longer Challenge." What sort of positive message are you trying to convey, and what type of shift in attitude do you hope to inspire?
Dara Torres: I want to debunk the myths about age and its limitations, what can and can't be done based solely upon stereotypes. I'd like to convey that Age is Just a Number and that's why I’ve teamed up with BP to launch the BP Younger for Longer Challenge, a national contest that asks Americans to share personal stories for how they maintain their youth and vitality.

For me, swimming and my daughter, Tessa, help keep me running younger for longer, but there are other great stories out there too. (To enter, log on to grand prize winner will win $10,000 in BP gasoline with Invigorate, plus a trip to come hang out with me!)

dailySpark: Do you hope that someday, age will no longer be a headline-grabbing detail?
Dara Torres: Hopefully not. If you look at Tom Watson's recent performance at the British Open, and then look further back at how well Jack Nicklaus performed at an older age and even Nolan Ryan throwing a no-hitter at the age of 44, athletes in every sport are continuing to disprove the thought that you can't perform at an older age.

dailySpark: Even as a professional swimmer with an enviable physique, you probably have days when you don't feel like giving 100%. When your mind or body (or both) doesn't want to cooperate, where do you find the mental and physical strength to persevere and reach your goals?
Dara Torres: I'm very big on setting goals in life and when I'm tired or don't really feel like training I think about my goals. At this stage in my career, I can't set goals too far down the road, so my personal short term goals motivate me to work hard and push through pain or fatigue.

dailySpark: SparkPeople encourages its members to surround themselves with people who will support them in reaching their goals and recognizes that going it alone makes any journey seem insurmountable. Who are the people you turn to for support, and what do they do to help keep you believing in yourself?
Dara Torres: Definitely my family and a few close friends. They help to keep me motivated by being honest and just telling me the truth but at the same time they always remain positive. I don't enjoy or think it's beneficial to be around people who are very negative.

dailySpark: In addition to being an Olympic champion swimmer, you're an author, a public speaker, and a mother. Outside the pool, where do you find passion in life and how do you find time to pursue those passions?
Dara Torres: My passion is my daughter; I would do anything for her and will always make time for her no matter the circumstances. There should always be time for family.

Since winning three silver medals last summer, Torres has stayed busy, both in the pool and out. She took home the gold at Nationals and came in eighth place at the World Championships in Rome, which she says made her quite happy! She is now part of BP's Team Invigorate, along with ultra marathoner Linda Quirk (whose story you read on the dailySpark!) and pro surfer Ryan Helm.

BP has a new gasoline that helps your vehicles run younger for longer, and now BP and Torres have kicked off the Younger for Longer Challenge. BP will award one lucky grand prize winner $10,000 in BP gasoline, plus a trip to meet Torres, an athlete who truly embodies running “younger for longer.”

About the Younger for Longer Challenge: BP will award one lucky grand prize winner $10,000 in BP gasoline, plus a trip to meet Torres. You have until midnight on November 1 to enter.

You can enter the BP Younger for Longer Challenge by logging on to and submitting a 300-word written essay answering the question, “What keeps you running younger for longer?” to explain how they personify the “younger for longer” benefits of BP gasoline with Invigorate.

In addition to the grand prize, BP and Dara Torres will award 20 of the top entrants with gas for a year, valued at more than $2,000. BP will announce the winners in December and feature their stories on a special section of

How does Torres' story inspire you? Did you tune in to watch her at the Beijing Games?

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It's good to know that the best part of my life is NOT over, but yet to come. I picked up snowboarding at 31, certainly not the age to PICK up such a sport, but with each passing year, I get better & do not let the number of years I have been alive have anything to do w/ what I accomplish.
Dara is a fine example of what a woman, athlete & person should be. She is inspiration & motivation & I hope others see her as a positive example so that they too can accomplish their goals at any age! Report
Good work Dara. We all believe in ourselves a little more because of what you accomplish.
Meantime, all the swimmers out there have to read about what's going on in the UK. For a peek at a unique trend in part of the world which has more people swimming outdoors, check out this cool feature called "Water's Transforming Power" on the Good4sports blog: / Report
I am truly inspired!!! Age is not a barrier!!! Report
An inspiring story indeed! Report
Everyone is pretty impressed about what Dara can do "at her age." But there comes a time, and I'm there now, when age is a real issue. Losing weight after 60 is next to impossible, no matter what you do, unless you get sick and the illness causes weight loss. I wish I'd had Spark 20 years ago! Report
I am a HUGE Olympics fan and have LOVED Dara for many years! She is even more inspirational at her age!! She ROCKS! Report
Dara Torres is a huge inspiration!! Whenever my workouts begin to feel too hard, I think about her and the amazing condition she's in. Then I remind myself that she had to work to get there, and that if she can do ti, so can I! Report
Dara is an inspiration. I think wow if she can compete in the Olympics with people half her age and still medal. Then I can achieve my goals. And it's great that she is another example, that women also get better with age ;-). Report
i competed at a few swim meets and got to see dara swim...but we're taking the early '80's...dara, when i saw your name at beijing, i thought, "it can't be!" but now i realize, "well, why the heck not?"...thanks for inspiring this old swimmer to get back into the water... Report
Hi I entered !! Heck I'm 50yrs young & lots better then I was when I was younger!.. I even look younger than I did. I stride to do better everyday!..WOOHOO I'm with ya Dara!!!.. WE older ones CAN DO IT!!!! Report
Hi I entered !! Heck I'm 50yrs young & lots better then I was when I was younger!.. I even look younger than I did. I stride to do better everyday!..WOOHOO I'm with ya Dara!!!.. WE older ones CAN DO IT!!!! Report
I so enjoyed watching you at the summer games!! You are a true inspiration. Thanks for sharing your story with Sparks!! Report
Thanks for sharing. As a 48 year old who has loved swimming her whole life, Torres is truly inspirational! Report
At any age we can strive to be our best and feel our best through activity. Not all of us, including myself, are Olympic competition material, but we can all make changes, and keep a positive and healthy outlook on life, and work to make our bodies and minds as good as they can be, at any age, and that is sure to lead to a better quality of life. Report
Super Motivational Lady. I needed to read this this morning. Report
Quite an inspiration! Report
Im 44 and a newer swimmer. I appreciate her endevours and am inspired. Report
I have always been a Summer Olympics watcher, so I remembered her name from previous Olympics. I am 45, and it amazed me how in shape she is! I think her story is very inspirational, and we should all strive to be in the best shape possible, just like Dara! Report
I watched Dara in the Olympic games. She is so inspiring. Report
Definitely watched at the Olympics. What an inspiring woman! She has made me realize that age is in your mind. You need to get out there and try new things and find out what you can do. You will always surprise yourself. Report
Heck yeah, I watched her! She's darn sexy! Report
I watched her in the Olympics. Great motivator. Report
I didn't become familiar with Dara Torres until after the olympics, I saw her picture in a magazine advertisment promoting milk. I was so impressed by the way she looked in the add at her age that I googled her name to find out who she was. Based on what I read, I purchased her book "Age is just a number", what an inspirational book, sure gives you insight into what it takes to be a world class athlete, there are no short cuts, and to do it at her age absolutely amazing. It opens your eyes to your own possibilities. Report
I didn't read her whole story, but I suppose if I didn't have a 40 hour per week job, plus all the stuff at home, I could put in the time and effort to look that good and be that successful. I do agree that age is just a number, and the older you get, the more you believe it, lol! Report
Very the attitude!
t Report
Great read! Report
Yes, I watched Dara swim in China. She is truly an inspiration to all women. Report
Yes i watched the Beijing Games and loved them. Torres was wonderful.
bj Report
Isnt Dara such an inspirtation and I so admire her !! Report
I would want to add to Dara's story, that no human should allow themselves to be limited to the decisions of others. An alarm should go off in your head when someone states, "You can't do that. You are too old, " etc. When someone does that they are making your decisions for you. That is not right. Each individual should take their talents and go as far as they want too! The world would be a better place if others were not trying to control other people than themselves! We should all concentrate on supporting everyone to go as far as they can! There are many champions! Report
I wish Dara the best of luck with her knee surgery. So often there's great success with that, too! Gee, her body looks exactly like mine...

....just KIDDING!!!! ;) Report
i was transfixed to the tv last summer when the olympics were on and was incredibly impressed with dara's performance, perseverance, physique, and positive attitude! she's a winner all the way. i believe old and young, with age being no barrier, look up to her and admire her achievements. she is poetry in motion. Report
With a few creaks, my body is better at 44 than it ever was before. I admire Torres and find her very inspirational. Thanks for interviewing her. Report
I will be 60 in September, and I have been teaching fitness classes for over 35 years. I currently teach at three gyms, one of those being the YMCA where I have taught classes for 29+ years. I teach quite a few different types of classes including step aerobics, cardio kickboxing, hi/lo aerobics, and many different varieties of circuit and interval classes. My participants range in age from their 20's to their 70's. One day I may only be able to teach 'senior' classes, but probably by then I will be around 90...LOL. There really IS something to this healthy lifestyle thing. IT WORKS!!!!!!!! Report
This is such a motivational and inspirational blog. It just proves to anyone that age is just a number. You can achieve all the goals you set regardless of your age. Report
At the same moment I started reading this, Jon Stewart started interviewing her on Comedy Central. As I multi-task, she is so full of energy in her appearance and in the tone of her voice. I am motivated. She is an exciting lady, i bit younger than me but she seems to have the motivation and the attitude of one of my teenagers. Even her tone of voice and inflection is motivating. We need people like her for all of us. Report
This was a very inspirational blog. Report
I am 38 now and hope to enter my 40s the best I have ever been - it's good to think that age doesn't have to be a boundary. Report
Dara is very inspirational, and a great role model. Age is just a number, I just turned 73 years old and feel like 30. Since I made up my mind to change my lifestyle, I have lost 81 pounds. I have about 13 more to go. Last July, is when I started Water Aerobics I weighed 208 pounds and could hardly walk because my knees hurt so much. I am now 127 pounds and without pain. Since May I have increased my classes to four hours a day, two hours in the AM and two hours at night four days a week. Friday, two hours and Saturdays one hour and have more stamina and energy than I have had in many years. Keep up your good work Dara and I will continue to do the same! Report
JIBBIE: Torres is 5'11" Report
Dara is my inspiration. I have a picture of her body on my laptop! I am almost 48 and am in better shape than I was 41. So it's possible to stay in shape (even get in better shape) as we get older. Report
I will be 40 in 8 short months and I am just now learning and trying to implement healthy eating, exercise and nutrition into my life. So far so good. Torres lets me know that I can do and I will!!! Thank you for sharing your story Report
To bad in the interview you didn't ask her how much she weighs and how tall she is, as she looks like she is about at the right size for 41. Denise Austin is 52 and 5'4" and 112#, so Dana looks much taller. Report
Way to go. Report
I really admire her! I'm not a runner but I did see her in the Olympics, she is a wonderful athletic. Report
Okay I was going to skip the workout DVD today because I had a crappy run earlier and was feeling sorry for myself. After reading Dara's thoughts on training when you don't feel like it I feel reinspired to put in the extra time. Report
Dara Torres is very inspirational person. She is family oriented and steadfast in her goals. I admire Dana. I was not active until I was 29 and now I am 57 and still going strong I look forward to skiing free across the USA when I am 70. Jeff Galloway has the same mindset about running when you are getting old~er. Report
I am much stronger and all around healthier at 31 (almost 32) than I ever was as a teenager or even twenty something. I always tell my friends that if they had told me back in the day (when I couldn't even run a mile) that I would complete one triathlon, let alone 3, I would have laughed in your face. Now, granted I am not winning these triathlons, but I am doing them, and to me that is proving that I may be getting my gray hairs, but I could kick my younger self's butt! :)
And Dara is quite the inspiring lady! Definitely proves that age can just be a number! Report
I've definitely found that I'm stronger and capable of more now than when I was younger. I do have physical limitations that I didn't have then, but I've gotten past mental limitations that I used to put on myself. I walked my first half marathon in June and will do my second in November and a full marathon next June. Training properly is very important, but so is believing that you can do what you set out to do. Report
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