Motivation Articles

Dara Torres Took the Plunge at 41

Don't Let Age Keep You From Your Dreams

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During the 2008 Summer Olympics, we heard countless inspirational stories about the athletes who were there to compete. Every competitor was special and had an inspiring story of the determination, setbacks, and hard work that got them there. But I can't think of anyone more inspiring to me than Dara Torres. After winning her first Olympic gold medal 24 years prior, she had already come out of retirement twice, won nine Olympic medals, and became the first swimmer to quality for five Olympics games.

Age is Just a Number
Being in her 40’s also brought a new set of challenges for this Olympic athlete to contend with. As we age, our bodies need more recovery time after working out, and Torres is no different. She told Glamour magazine (where she was featured as one of "The 11 Greatest Bodies on Earth") that she has to keep her workouts shorter, which means they have to be very intense. And like the rest of us, she struggles with the workouts sometimes. She says there are days when she feels like she is swimming with a piano on her back.

Since I am just one year shy of 40 myself, it sounds younger all the time. But to be 41 and an Olympic athlete is very uncommon. The average age on the U.S. Swim team is 22.8 years—Torres had most of them beat by 18 years. In one TV interview, she talked about stepping onto the blocks to race. She looked at her teammates on her right and left and thought, "I am old enough to be their mom!"

And Torres is a mother. During her pregnancy with her daughter, who was two-years-old during the Beijing Olympics, she swam (non-competitively) for fun and to stay in shape. Although retired at the time, she was eager to get come out of retirement yet again. The moment after giving birth, Torres asked her doctor when she could start working out again! At the U.S. Olympic trials in July 2008, Torres told TIME magazine that she literally nursed her child before jumping on the blocks and racing. There, she set an American record in the 50-meter freestyle and won the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle race. She swam 2.47 seconds faster than her 1988 Olympic effort as a 20-year-old! Many people say that people get slower with age, and most female athletes reach their peaks before they're 25. Good thing Torres didn’t listen!
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About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.

Member Comments

  • Great article. - 5/24/2013 10:20:56 AM
  • I actually don't feel inspired by Dara. I read her book and walked away saying, she and I have nothing in common! Her story is inspirational on the surface, but I don't share her competitiveness or drive. - 12/29/2012 1:04:54 PM
  • Forgetting that she is an amazing fitness inspiration, she is also just an amazing person.

    I'm a self-professed Olympics junkie. The first and foremost memory for me from everything that happened at the Beijing Games in 2008 was right before the Women's 50m Freestyle Semifinal when the swimmers came out to head to the blocks, the suit of another swimmer (Sweden's Therese Alshammar) ripped and Dara stopped to help her attempt to get it together. When it ripped again, Dara flagged down the officials to stop the race so that Therese could get changed into another suit, which she did.

    Dara still managed to get focused and blistered the field in the semifinals enroute to a silver by 1/100th of a second setting an American record in the process (the 10th time she has set that record personally and still holds it today). 35 minutes later she was back in the pool winning a silver in the 4x100 medley with a Freestyle split that was more than a second faster than the individual American record in the 100 Freestyle at the time.

    Still, with all of the records and medals, it's that one act of helping another competitor so that she wouldn't miss the chance at a possible medal (Therese won 3 medals in Sydney) that stands out to me to show what kind of person she truly is.

    I seriously hope that if she does indeed make the team for 2012 in London that she is the flag-bearer during Opening Ceremonies. Team USA could certainly do a lot worse than to make that happen. - 5/16/2012 6:33:19 PM
  • Amazing story, She is truly an inspiration. - 8/14/2011 2:07:27 PM
  • AVERYSILLYGIRL
    Great motivation! I love Dara! - 5/10/2011 9:53:26 AM
  • I love that TIME cover. It's on my vision slideshow. http://tinyurl.co
    m/vision-collage
    (Like the collage, but electronic.)

    At 43 I finished losing 170-180 lbs and discovered white water kayaking. I took up snowboarding this past winter. It takes more effort to stay in shape - I really work at the cardio and strength training during the week to support my weekend activities.

    But as a result I'm keeping pace with my college-age friends, racing with them in pentathlons, running waterfalls, etc.

    It's totally worth it. - 5/10/2011 8:34:44 AM
  • Dara Torres is one of my inspirations! Thanks for the great article. - 5/10/2011 7:19:08 AM
  • This was an inspirational article, and one I could identify with. I used to be a competitive swimmer and I still love swimming. I took up running last year and am working on my 5K time.
    I was doing lots of trick dives into the pool with my daughters last week. I was a bit worried about doing a handstand dive. My younger daughter, 14, said 'Mum, be careful. You're too old.' My older daughter egged me on. I did it. My older daughter is 20. My sons are 26 and 29. I am 55.
    Get fit. Stay fit, and age really can be just a number! - 5/10/2011 4:05:00 AM
  • What a wonderful reminder to keep working towards one' dreams! - 3/21/2011 8:36:11 PM
  • This article is just what I needed today. My husband insists on reminding me that I am not 25, that I won't be able to compete with 20 year olds. I don't neccessarily want to compete. I want to be fit and healthy. You can bet I will show him this article. - 3/4/2011 11:08:15 AM
  • Who doesn't find Dara Torres inspirational? I really love that she acknowledges that at 40+ her workouts have changed, but she's still able to stay in shape and compete.

    One should respect one's age-but not use it as a limiting crutch.

    I'm 50, not 25, but I still like to get out there and stay active. My 87 year old father was recently told he needs to get out and be more physically and mentally active.

    It's important for everyone! - 3/4/2011 10:30:01 AM
  • I'm admittingly, a late bloomer. At 54, I'm just coming into my own, considering going back to college to become a teacher, and getting in the best shape of my life. BELIEVE! You can be YOUR BEST at any age! - 9/14/2010 5:21:49 AM
  • Absolutely inspirational! What a great way to start the week!!!! - 7/11/2010 11:54:22 PM
  • I loved this article - especially asking us what limits we impose on ourselves. Those seem to be the toughest to overcome. - 3/9/2010 11:35:58 PM
  • MOCHAMICHELLE1
    Great article. Great motivation for the over 40 crowd! - 1/9/2010 12:51:02 PM

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