A Day in the Life of... an Olympic Swimmer

Five-time Olympian, Dara Torres, talks food, fitness, and family fun.
Olympic SwimmerA Day in The Life of ...

With 12 Olympic medals, Dara Torres is by no means your average athlete. She’s the first US swimmer to have competed in five Olympic Games — and she’s planning her sixth in 2012. She's also a single mom and the author of Gold Medal Fitness: A Revolutionary 5-Week Program and Age Is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams at Any Stage in Your Life. Last year Dara took some time out to chat with WeightWatchers.com about her fitness routine, her packed schedule, and the importance of teaching her daughter healthy habits.

WeightWatchers.com: What’s a typical day’s schedule for you?

Dara: There’s not really a “typical” day for me, since I travel and have other projects that switch up my routine a lot. But when I’m home in Florida I get up at about 6:45 and walk my dog. Then I get my 5-year-old daughter up and feed her, then head off to practice. I start swimming at 8. I’ll swim anywhere from an hour to an hour and 45 minutes. Then I’ll do some weights and sometimes resistance [work] for a while followed by lunch. After that I do about two hours of Ki-Hara Stretching. I also try to fit in some rehab for my injured knee. Then I head home and pick up my daughter from school and we have dinner. I get to sleep at around 10.

WW.com: How does your workout change as you get closer to the Olympics?

D: My workouts don’t change as much as they get more intense. Weight training increases a little bit and then intensity level just increases.

WW.com: Talk us through your normal day’s meals.

D: For breakfast I usually have a protein shake. Lunch is either a sandwich or salad with chicken and fruit. Then in the afternoon I’ll have a snack like crackers with peanut butter or cheese, or another protein shake. I drink chocolate milk after I train so I get some carbs and protein. I keep a jar of macadamia nuts in my car so I can munch on those if I get hungry while driving. For dinner I really like steak or other protein to be the main course. Sometimes I have dessert, usually made with a sugar substitute (like Susta) because I don’t like to eat a ton of sugar. Just like anyone else, I have cravings and I don’t deprive myself.

WW.com: How are you teaching your daughter about healthy eating?

D: [Laughs] It’s hard because she’s the worst! She’s a typical kid who loves mac and cheese, noodles, chicken tenders. I try to incorporate healthy snacks like bananas with peanut butter and healthy cereals. She’s not a big milk person, so I buy organic strawberry milk, which she likes. I also give her lots of fruit. It’s funny because she wasn’t always like this. When she was little she would eat fish or anything really, but she’s gotten more picky.

WW.com: What will you teach her as she gets older?

D: Once she gets through this phase I’m going to teach her about portions, not to deprive herself, and just to be sensible about what she eats.

WW.com: You struggled with an eating disorder years ago. How has your relationship with food changed?

D: For a long time I had a horrible relationship with food. I had this huge fear of food and would obsess about everything I ate. Nowadays I don’t count calories or get on a scale or fixate on labels. I go off of how I feel so I don’t become obsessed. I used to think about it all the time: “What am I going to have for breakfast? What about lunch? What about dinner?” Now I just go with the flow. I use sensibility to choose what I eat.

WW.com: So many people look up to you. Who are some of your role models?

D: I see people doing incredibly inspiring things all the time, so it’s hard to say one in particular. Queen Rania of Jordan is just a great example for women and working moms. I really look up to her.

WW.com: What advice would you give someone just starting out in fitness and getting active?

D: Take it slow and ease into it. Add variety so you don’t plateau or become bored. And have fun! People dread working out sometimes, but it really can be a lot of fun.

WW.com: Do you cook a lot?

D: As a single mom, I don’t really cook a lot. It gets hard with my schedule. I get a lot of prepared foods at places like Whole Foods or Fresh Market to keep meals on the healthy side.

WW.com: What do you do with your “me time”?

D: My “me time” is when I go to sleep! [Laughs] Honestly, I don’t get a lot of “me time.” On Friday nights my daughter is with her dad so sometimes I’ll go to a movie or hang with friends.

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