7 Things to Consider Before Quitting Swimming

Photo Courtesy: Abby Boone

By Niki Urquidi, Swimming World College Intern.

Many swimmers consider quitting at one time or another due to the intense demands of the sport. Waking up at 5 a.m. to be pushed to the limits day in and day out takes a toll on anyone’s psyche. Yet most swimmers only make empty threats rather than walk out on the sport that formed most of their identities.

Take some advice from someone who actually followed through and hung up her goggles at one point – please fully consider the weight of your decision. Swimming teaches you so much about yourself and may play a larger role in your life than imagined. To the young athlete on the precipice of walking away, consider these seven things before quitting swimming.

1. Time

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Photo Courtesy: Niki Urquidi

One of the biggest drives towards quitting swimming is the feeling that you will suddenly have so much time to study, hang out with friends, travel, draw – you name it. Many truly believe that they would dedicate more time to their studies and earning better grades, but I’m here to tell you that time can be a bully. It will make you feel confident and carefree at first, then suddenly and without warning, it will turn on you.

Two hours in the pool feels exactly like what it is: two hours. But two hours of binge-watching The Office on Netflix goes by in what feels like ten minutes, and suddenly it is midnight and your homework is still left untouched. Time doesn’t stop for you to take a nap, go on Facebook or sleep in.

Soon, you’ll find that instead of using time to your advantage, you can’t help but waste it. Before quitting, consider putting some time management strategies in place and a replacement activity to kick-start your motivation.

2. Mood

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Photo Courtesy: Aaron Doster of USA TODAY Sports

As a swimmer, you are taking part in arguably the hardest sport on Earth. That makes you among the most elite, hard-working athletes the world has to offer. With all of this hard work, your body has grown accustomed to having a surplus of endorphins.

Endorphins are a group of natural hormones that activate opioid receptors in your brain to reduce pain and elevate mood. They are most efficiently released through exercise, so adapting to “swammer” life’s lack of intense exercise can be tough. There are very few forms of exercise that amount to the work out swimming provides; consider whether you are mentally and emotionally prepared to take on the challenge of staying positive while your brain chemicals may be acting against you.

3. Diet

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Photo Courtesy: Maxpixel

Nutritional intake is one of the most obvious changes that a quitting swimmer can expect. Many swimmers and athletes in general focus on protein and carbohydrate intake for muscle building and performance; however, an ex-athlete may tend to over-consume these macronutrients, causing sluggishness and weight gain.

Without the calorie expenditure of swim practice, your body will be prone to changes that will require increased attention to proper fueling. You are already subjecting your brain to a lack of endorphins, and a poor diet can compound these issues. Talk to nutritionists to develop a post swimming plan. Quitting swimming is not a one-and-done kind of decision; rather, it’s an entire lifestyle change.

4. Team/friendships

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Photo Courtesy: Samm Rosenberg

There are no closer friends than teammates. They are the first people you see for morning practice and the last you say good-bye to at the end of the day. They’re with you for the fun sprint sets as well as the mentally challenging distance practices. But often times, quitting swimming can put a strain on these relationships.

Even if you all agree to stay in touch, you are now on very different schedules and it is easy to feel left out or isolated. You can take precautions to maintain relationships, but one of the best ways to prepare for this is to understand that your teammates are not intentionally losing touch or excluding you in any way. They’re just busy! Ask yourself: Are you ready to potentially lose these important people?

5. Doubt/regret

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Photo Courtesy: Pexels

No matter how sure you may feel in your decision to step away from the sport, it is difficult to meet a person who has not faced feelings of doubt or regret. Whether from idle time, poor mood, or loss of friendships, doubtful moments will come. The creeping questions of, “wait – did I make the right decision?” are virtually unavoidable and discouraging. Before quitting, really consider the most important parts of swimming that may haunt you in your post-swimming life. Are you ready to let those elements go?

6. Independence

Photo Courtesy: Lisa Minnis

You may not realize it, but the swimming world is like a bubble. Once inside that bubble, so many resources and tools lie at your disposal. Colleges dedicate countless resources to enhance student athletes’ physical, emotional, nutritional, and academic lives. Upon leaving the bubble, you will be faced with a lot more responsibilities apart from a strong support system. Ensure that you are ready to take on these added tasks to your already changing lifestyle.

7. Identity

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Photo Courtesy:Niki Urquidi

B.J. Neblett coined the expression, “We are the sum total of our experiences.” Our identities, with all their little nuances, are largely influenced by the sports to which we have dedicated so much time, energy and emotion – swimming. The weight of losing this massive part of your identity can take a toll on your self confidence and relationships.

After quitting swimming, I suddenly felt unsure of who I was without the sport. Friends, family, classmates, teachers – everyone I knew – saw me as a swimmer. Our conversations often began with, “So how’s swimming?”

Before you quit, ask yourself how important swimming is to your identity and confidence. We are all so much more than just swimmers, but that does not mean that the part of ourselves forged by this sport can be overlooked or taken for granted.

Explore every avenue of doubt and uncertainty that cross your mind, and really listen to what your closest people have to say. Most importantly, communicate. You may feel that you are the only athlete experiencing this inner conflict, but know that you are not alone. Voice your doubts, speak your regrets, and talk through your decisions; no tool is more powerful than your own voice.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

18 Comments

18 comments

  1. Chloe Kim

    Andie Quirke you’re not gojng to quit anytime soon but wow just tagging you in this Cz this is exactly how I felt

  2. Kyle Starling

    Take it from someone who went through with it, as well – worst decision of my life. Has taken me many years, almost a decade and a half to get over it. Living every day in the “what could have been / what should have been”. This article is spot on in every way.

  3. avatar
    Anonymous

    I HAVE A GREAT POTENTIAL IN MYSELF AND I KNOW IT.
    I HAVE NO ONE TO TRAIN ME THOUGH MY FATHER IS AN INTERNATIONAL SWIMMER , HE IS BUSY WITH HIS WORK IN ANOTHER PLACE.
    NO TEAMMATES.SO I GOT TO TRAIN MYSELF WITH MY OWN KNOWLEDGE AND ALONE. CRUTIAL PART IS THAT I GET SO DEMOTIVATED ALWays.
    I FEEL LIKE QUITTING.

  4. avatar
    Kurt Wienants

    Great article Niki!! Proud of ya!

  5. Glen Osborne

    If I could go back, I wouldn’t have quit swimming.

Author: Niki Urquidi

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Niki Urquidi is an Olympic Trial qualifier who swam from age 12 up to her freshman year of college. She competed for the University of Florida team her first year. Following this, she decided to take a year off from the sport, but is now excited and ready to restart her career under Coach Andy Kershaw of Hurricane Aquatics.

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