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.
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; www.asphaltgreen.org
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; www.nyac.org
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; www.mpsportsclub.com
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!