Note: I wrote this book review 3 or 4 years ago and am only posting it now.
Gold Medal Fitness: A Revolutionary 5-Week Program by Dara Torres (A Review)
A book I picked up years ago is “Gold Medal Fitness: A Revolutionary 5-Week Program” by Dara Torres with Billie Fitzpatrick (Broadway Books, 2010). It promises to tighten your abs, trim your waistline, and tone your muscles at any age. One look at the author’s physique and you know that she knows what she’s talking about. What she has accomplished is no mean feat. Torres has twelve Olympic swimming medals and still competes professionally in her forties with women half her age. She details how she trains and takes care of herself in this book.
Dara Torres’s diet
Torres shares that she used to have an eating disorder (a mix of an exercise anorexic and bulimic). Through therapy, she was able to break the cycle of unhealthy eating. This revelation is empowering in the sense that it reminds everyone that fitness doesn’t come automatically even to professional athletes. You have to work for it if you want it.
Anyway, it’s great to read her mention that she doesn’t believe in diets. It is also heartening to note that her tips for healthy eating are doable. Her tips for healthy eating include:
Eating small meals and/or snacking regularly,
Exercising regularly because it also decreases your cravings for sugary foods, and
Treating yourself to avoid binges.
When it comes to daily portion sizes, meanwhile, she offers the following advice: limit protein intake to one piece of meat or fish about the size of one’s palm, have two handfuls of complex carbohydrates like whole grains and one fistful of simple carbohydrates like white bread and potatoes, and partake of just one to two tablespoons of unsaturated fats such as olive oil or peanut butter. She encourages her readers to stick to 1-cup portions of low-fat yogurt and 1/2-cup portions of low-fat milk or cheese for their daily dose of dairy. There are no restrictions when it comes to vegetables and fruits.
Snacks and desserts
It’s not particularly wise to go without eating for several hours on end. It just increases your changes of binging later on. Towards this end, a few snack suggestions are given in the book. Apart from fresh fruits and raw veggies, raw nuts and single-serve containers of low-fat yogurt are listed as good snack options to have on hand. In her 35-day meal plan, she also occasionally mentions having a fruit smoothie with 1 to 2 cups of fruit, 1 cup yogurt, ice, and a shot of wheatgrass or soy protein powder.
Some people can do without sweets; others can’t live without it. Torres belongs to the latter. It’s all really fine as long as you keep your indulgence to a minimum. Some of her post-dinner desserts include high-quality chocolate, ice cream bars (she was able to find one that’s only 100 calories), and popsicles.
To give you an idea of how and what she eats on a daily basis, here’s what she listed on day 4 of the aforementioned meal plan:
PB&J on whole-wheat or multigrain bread
Popcorn with Smart Balance butter spray and no added salt
Pita bread stuffed with hummus, raw or roasted peppers, and tomatoes and a green salad with a dressing of your choice
Chinese takeout: stir-fried veggies and chicken over rice
Dara Torres’s workouts
Of course, the distinct advantage of top-tier athletes and celebrities is that they have trainers and a coach solely dedicated to their physical development. For us regular folks, such an option does not exist. This is why books like these are useful because they give tips on how to attain fitness sans a dedicated team.
Strength, stretch, cardio, and recovery
Together with trainer Andy O’Brien, Torres formulated a strength training method composed of five groups of three exercises that will enable one to strengthen one’s core, legs, and arms. All the movements are described in the book with simple instructions and accompanied by photos of Torres doing them. This method is to be incorporated at least twice a week and alternated with stretching, cardio, and recovery sessions. The cardio sessions are basically any physical activity you enjoy. Swimming, biking, tennis, you name it. Pick a sport you enjoy and count that as a cardio session.
The resistance stretching portion of the book is a bit intriguing because it was the first time I heard of the Ki-Hara method of Steve Sierra and Anne Tierney. It is based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of ki, which refers to the circulating life energy inherent in all living things, and hara, which refers to the vital center of the self. The author asserts that practicing stretching techniques will help stabilize your joints as you lengthen, tone, and balance your muscles. This particular technique is the one she currently does and is based on the same principles of her strength training method. Again, for those who want to try it out, each of the sixteen movements are detailed with instructions and pictures.
She advises her readers to divide their weekly workouts to include one-third strength training, one-third stretching, one-third cardio, plus some time for recovery. The last part of the book is a five-week plan that offers workouts for three, four, or five days. This is so those who have more time spread out over the week can workout for five days, and those who can only work out for at most three days are also able to do so.
To follow the strength training part of her program though, you’ll need dumbbells, a Swiss ball, a BOSU trainer, a medicine ball, and gym machines like an elliptical, treadmill, and various weight machines. It will definitely not be possible for you to do this part if you don’t have these equipment or if you don’t have a gym membership. This is one of the limitations of her program, because not everybody has or is willing to invest in all these equipment.
Also, even though the five-week program can be done three, four, or five days a week, you’ll still need to invest between 30 to upwards of 60 minutes/day to follow it. A lot of people do not have that much time. That said, if you follow her five-week program to a tee, I have no doubt that you’ll soon be as fit as an Olympic goddess (or god). It really does seem to tackle everything you need to do to be optimally healthy and fit.
What I love about Gold Medal Fitness
I love it when Ms. Torres said she doesn’t believe in dieting. I also love it when she said she can’t live without sweet treats. As you can tell, these are things that resonate with me, hahaha. Her indulgences are tempered by her portion control and her discipline to follow her fitness routine though, and that’s what you really need to get her tip-top form! There’s just no way around it.
One other thing you’ll realize after reading this book is that health and fitness is a lifelong journey. You need an enduring commitment to be able to attain it. Just like everything that matters. 🙂
Have you read Gold Medal Fitness? What are your thoughts about it?
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Everything in this blog are my personal opinions.
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