At 41, former University of Florida swimmer Dara Torres has qualified for her fifth Olympics - despite taking several years off, giving birth just two years ago and undergoing two surgeries within the past eight months.
Many people are amazed at this feat (or screaming "performance enhancers"), but exercise experts say Dara's success at least partly reflects advances in training - and that many of us could come closer to similar achievements than we think.
Sure, we can't forget about genetics and other advantages such as opportunity, motivation and incentive to train hard. But besides genetics, those advantages are not impossible for anyone to achieve.
It shows us what we can do. It's just that most people won't push themselves to do what Dara has done. Instead, I hear people in their 30s, 40s, 50s (and some in their 20s) who make excuses for the fact that they've gained weight, lost strength or no longer have the athletic physique they once had in high school or college.
Rather than doing something about it, they act and respond in a way that is self-defeating and shows that they don't have the motivation, desire, dedication, discipline or work ethic to make changes (or they suffer from "paralysis by analysis" and spend more time thinking or debating rather than doing).
For athletes at any level, a gradual decline in endurance and speed occurs in the 30s and 40s, roughly half a percent a year, even with continued training. However, strength can be gained and maintained well beyond the 30s, 40s and 50s (look at Jack Lalanne!). Not everyone will make it to the Olympics, but with plenty of hard work, a proper nutritional plan and a few of the traits mentioned previously, a lot of improvement can take place. Healthy people can significantly improve their athletic performance with the kinds of exercises Dara does.
So how does Dara do it? Her training regimen includes a lot of resistance training. This includes free weights, bodyweight exercises, weight machines and other tools to strengthen her entire body in addition to skill specific training (swimming, in this case). Dara's intense resistance training program has helped her achieve the best shape of her life, allowing her to beat competitors half her age.
Resistance training works. The key is to follow a customized training program built for your individual needs while avoiding overtraining and taking time to warm-up and cool down.
So what are you waiting for?
Here's a good article about Dara's recent accomplishments - Click here!