Dara Torres's Secrets for a Healthier Life

As she goes for her sixth Olympics, the gorgeous gold medalist shares how she got these abs, how she gives herself a break, and what's inspiring her this time around.

There's so much pressure on you. How do you sleep the night before a big race?
It's called Ambien.

Do you really?
Oh, yeah. There are a lot of athletes who will take it if they need to fall asleep before they compete—because you're thinking about your race and you're tossing and turning. I'll take an Ambien if I'm having a really hard time going to sleep.
Matt Jones

But the next day is the Olympics—aren't you groggy?
No, I feel pretty good. It's not like I'm doing it all the time, but it definitely helps you to conk out.

How do you deal with jitters in general? Any tricks?
I always feel sick to my stomach before I swim. But the minute I'm on the block, everything is calm and I'm ready to go. The way I look at it is, "I've done everything I can at this point, I should just enjoy it." That takes the pressure off.

Let's talk about food. How much wiggle room do you have for splurges?
Women are going to hate hearing this, but I just have a really good metabolism. So did my mom. I used to take advantage of that and eat whatever I wanted. It's different now. This is my last Olympics and I need to give it 100 percent. But I told myself that this summer—when I'm done training for good—I'm going to go back to drinking Coke Slurpees.

Even with a fabulous metabolism, do you ever have days where you feel fat?
Oh yeah. And in my cycle, absolutely. I just got it a few days ago, and I was like "Why is my stomach so bloated? Oh, hello." Other people may not see it, but I do. That's the other thing that's interesting—working with a naturopathic doctor, I know that there are certain times in my cycle where my hormones are so low that if I train hard, it will take me forever to recover. So I actually have to let my nice 30-something male coach know so he doesn't train me hard during those times.

You've talked about battling bulimia during the early part of your career. Any regrets about coming clean?
No. I wrote about it in my book because I wanted people to know me and not just, "I'm first place." I had such a fear of food for so long, but I finally got over it.

What's your biggest energy sapper?
Probably being in the sun too much. I take my dog, Scarlett, to the beach on Sundays, and I'm in the sun every day anyway with my training. I never go outside before I'm going to swim in a meet.

You're very competitive—for you, second place is losing! But what about outside the world of swimming? Are you the type that says, 'Lady, I'm taking that parking space,' and jams on the gas?
Constantly! [Laughs] It's just in my makeup. It doesn't matter if it's in the pool or in a parking lot, I always have to be first—it's ridiculous. I have bets with friends all the time. I just have to win. I'm hoping when I hang up my suit to dry this summer that it will go away.

What's motivating you this time? Why keep proving yourself?
I don't think I have to prove anything anymore. It's just the fact that I love challenges, and this is a huge one I'm taking on—much more so than four years ago. My coach and I had spoken about taking on this challenge before he passed away, and I want to finish what we talked about. Plus, the fact that so many people come up to me and say I inspire them really gets me going. I want to still give people hope that they can do the things that they thought, maybe, they couldn't do.

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Jancee Dunn
Last Updated: May 09, 2012

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