Recently I finished the biography of Dara Torres, “Age is Just a Number”. I have to admit, I wouldn’t have normally picked it up, but I’ve started swimming again and also I had read a quote by Dara in a magazine that stuck with me – so the interest levels were piqued. Dara’s magazine quote was related to advice from her UCLA coach John Wooden,
“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”
Dara’s follow up words are evidence of how she interpreted that counsel,
“I did what I did best. I swam. I put everyone else’s opinions out of my head and focused on being fast in the water.”
The words are great advice, no matter which sport or activity you are involved with. But the really interesting part of the book to me was Dara’s mention of yoga. Key to the success of Dara’s swimming career in preparation for the 2008 Olympics as a 41 year old mother was a special stretching regime that used resistance stretching. This form of stretching works by simultaneously contracting and stretching the muscles.
As Dara writes,
“If you’ve ever done yoga, this should make a tiny bit of sense. In yoga, you press your feet down into the floor at the same time as you reach your arms overhead. You make the muscles work in opposition. As a result, you build strength and you stretch.”
Basically Dara’s body was going through an intense massage with the muscles working and then relaxing in a certain sequence, but without the effects of gravity. A team of specially trained ‘stretchers’, who knew exactly what they were doing, worked upon Dara’s body.
In Dara’s book she describes how it felt,
“It’s sort of like doing a yoga class where the teacher physically places you into lots of unusual poses.”
Dara remarks on the results of the stretching during the next swim practice,
“I felt incredible – full of energy, riding high…”
Of course, it doesn’t mean that if we all start doing yoga alongside our sporting activities we will become Olympic athletes, but I think it’s interesting to read about the effect that Dara was feeling, and the results of a stretching routine with close similarities to yoga. I am sure all the dedicated yoga practitioners out there are saying, HELLO?!, we’ve been trying to tell to that yoga is amazing!
The idea is how to integrate yoga, and yoga inspired stretching and some form of aerobic activity into our lives so that we too can feel the benefits. Yoga not only opens up the body, but also the mind. We may not all become Olympic athletes, but we can take up the same challenge – by having a go and working hard to achieve whatever it is we are striving towards.
Dara Torres is currently attempting to qualify for her sixth Olympic games. At the end of her biography, printed in 2009, Dara wrote,
“I’ll be 45 years old in the summer of 2012 when the next summer Olympic Games come around. Who knows if I’ll try to make the Olympic team, or if I’ll succeed. But wouldn’t it be sweet…”
It would indeed be sweet, and if we are inspired by any of the above, whether it’s stretching, yoga, or swimming then so be it! Go Dara!
Check out Dara’s website for further inspiration: DaraTorres.com
And tweet Dara to wish her speeding swimming!