Nine Olympic metals, five knee surgeries, and an 18-month-old child; there’s no doubt Dara Torres pushes herself to the limit. At 41 Torres proves top physical condition can be achieved after 25, and she continues to come back and haunt new Olympic swimmers every four years, switching into and out of retirement in favor of “one more” Olympic experience. But, age does make a difference and Torres now responds to workouts and training differently than in the past. As Torres ages her body becomes less capable of recovering quickly, thus Torres and her coaches switched to shorter, more intense workouts. The change in training is not the only thing benefiting Torres, she has become an avid “resistance stretcher” and employs two massage therapists as well as a chiropractor.
Chiropractors are vital for intense athletes, and many Olympic swimming teams employ a chiropractor to come on the road with the team. Torres has worked with Dr. Barnathan to relive pains in her back, hips and shoulders. “When you need a quick fix and don’t have time to rehab something, I always found quick relief from chiropractors,” she says. So, Torres took on a chiropractor full time, and has two massage therapists to work out tight knots and muscle spasms that can come with a rough workout. Using massage Torres flushes waste materials that build up in the muscle and tissue during training, and getting rid of this material helps muscle to strengthen and recuperate faster.
“Mashing” is another technique commonly used by Torres’ staff, in this process the muscles are kneaded, resembling a deeper form of fascia release. Although it looks painful, Torres insists it feels great after an intense workout. Torres’ employees use their feet to apply even more pressure and go deeper into the tissues but massage therapists usually utilize foam rollers to get similar results.
Although massage and chiropractic work are vital for the recuperation of an athletes muscles, their benefits go beyond muscle relaxation. Massage relaxes the body and mind taking stressful situations, such as an Olympic trail race, and diminishing its importance to create a peaceful, less emotionally taxing way to look at a stressful situation. This no-stress approach to competition can greatly benefit athletes who suffer from “stage fright” or tank under high pressure. Torres used to experience this herself when she peeked around the corner at her first Olympic trial and saw 17,000 people waiting for her. But, since that time, over 20 years later, Torres has learned to deal with the pressure and relax, and massage has helped her get there. (Weil, New York times 6/29/08; Carswell, Women’s Health Magazine, 12/11/07; Watkins, USA Swimming, 1/17/08; Thornton, Cranberry Wave, 2/08/08)