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Which NYC pool gets the gold for Olympian Dara Torres?

Dara Torres Swimming
Dara Torres stretches her range as a book author

Last week Dara Torres, the 43-year-old swimming dynamo and five time Olympian, and I stretched our quads and calves together. For the briefest of moments, it felt like we were Olympic teammates taking a break in Beijing, our yoga mats not three feet from each other.

Torres was in town, dressed head-to-toe in Lululemon, to promote her new book Gold Medal Fitness: A Revolutionary 5-Week Program. It includes an eating plan, an exercise regimen, and a resistance stretching program Torres call Ki-Hara, which the swimmer credits with elongating her muscles and improving her pool performance. It combines strength and flexibility training; during the exercises, muscles are contracted and lengthened at the same time.

Alexia Brue gets tips from Torres

But it was mostly girl talk with us. We chatted about conquering the straw-like texture and greenish hue that afflicts blonde swimmer’s hair. Torres recommends running conditioner through your hair before donning a cap. “You just need a little to do the trick. Any more will make your bathing cap slide off,” she warned. And of course, Well + Good was especially interested in where Torres swims when she’s in NYC.

Here are her top three picks for NYC swimming pools:

Gold medal: Asphalt Green
“For a serious swim I head to Asphalt Green where there’s a 50-meter pool,” says Torres. “But I find the water a little nippy.” Luckily, the 5.5-acre sports and fitness center also has a warm-water exercise pool to splash around in. The skylights and East River views don’t hurt either. Cost per non-member dip: $35 for a day pass; or $99 for an anytime swim monthly membership.
555 East 90th Street (btwn. York & East End), Upper East Side, 212-369-8890;

Asphalt Green's Aquatic Center

Silver medal: New York Athletic Club
Torres likes the cool layout and that it’s above ground. “But the old guys here hate when I get in their lane and young guys try to race me!” she says. No surprise given the athletic roots and pedigree of this club. Good luck getting in without a gold medal; it’s an exclusive membership club.
180 Central Park South, Midtown; 212-247-5100;

Bronze medal: Reebok Sports Club/NY
“If I just want to paddle around I head over to the Reebok Sports Club,” says Torres. The cavernous and pricey members-only fitness club has a 25-yard pool, plus plenty of space for Torres to unfurl a mat and do her Ki-Hara stretching post-workout. They keep a tight lid on day passes, unless you know a member who will “sponsor” you for the day. You can try to finagle a trial membership before signing up for the $215 a month membership with a $1200 initiation fee.
160 Columbus Avenue, Upper West Side; 212-362-6800;

Ironically, Torres’ top pick is also the most accessible and affordable. And soonish Asphalt Green will be even more accessible with a second campus opening in north Battery Park City in January 2012.

Got a pool to recommend that’s a little more financially accessible? Please tell us, here!