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FITNESS | GUEST WORKOUT

Gold Medalist Staying in the Swim of Things

January 26, 1998|CANDACE A. WEDLAN

For years Donna de Varona had tucked away her two gold medals but never what it took to win them. "I bring so much from that early training as a kid, as a young swimmer, to whatever I do now," she said during a phone interview from her home in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband, John Pinto, and their two children. The 1964 Olympic alum (400-meter individual medley and women's 100-meter freestyle relay) added, "I don't think I could balance motherhood and work"--she's chairwoman of the Women's World Cup in 1999, which the U.S. Soccer Federation is hosting--"and marriage without exercise."

After dropping off Joanna, 8, and John David, 10, at school, De Varona swims a mile three or four times a week--freestyle, backstroke and butterfly--after a few warmup laps. Twice a week she spends 15 minutes with weights and another 15 on the HealthRider in her basement.

That doesn't include all the activities with the kids--they like to ski, hike and swim with their mom.

De Varona, who turns 51 in April, said she's better about getting in than getting down water. Her favorite drink is a spritzer--cranberry juice cut with soda water and lime. She has freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast along with boiled or poached eggs and dry wheat toast or cereal with skim milk. A piece of fruit takes care of lunch. "I can't resist a steak every now and then," De Varona said. "And every now and then, I really pig out and have a cheeseburger with avocado, tomato and bacon. But, mostly, I love salads with a little crumbled cheese, and I eat a lot of fruit."

Dinner is normally a salad, a lean meat such as lamb or chicken or fish with cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, eggplant or squash. Dessert is usually frozen yogurt or a decaf cappuccino. "I'm a real sucker for See's candy," De Varona said, but she has a way around that by going to an expensive health food store for strawberries that actually taste like strawberries.

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