Coping with Retirement: Finding Your Motivation Outside the Pool

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Coping with Retirement: Finding Your Motivation Outside the Pool

Let’s talk about it.

And by “it,” I mean the word that all chlorine dwellers dread. Retirement.

I mean, sure, I would be lying if I said that I had not fantasized about it once or twice in the middle of a grueling set or that I had not contemplated hanging up my tech suit for the last time after a bad race.

But I would also be lying if I said that my retirement from swimming was not one of the hardest or scariest things I have ever done.

While this probably sounds rather dramatic, before this experience, my life was simple and organized. I had clear goals, and I knew what I had to do to achieve them. I had a purpose.

But without swimming, I suddenly lacked these things.

It felt as if this major part of my life had been carved out by a dull butter knife, only to be replaced with uncertainty.

But that feeling did not last forever, and I have since found solace in my decision to leave competitive swimming.

So, I am here to tell you that it does get better.

But not without hard work.

And not without redefining what motivates you to succeed beyond the pool.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

There was once a point in my life where all that mattered was getting to practice, strengthening my mental game, and above all else – getting that next cut for a championship meet.

And then one morning, it all changed.

Suddenly, I woke up and did not have to go to the pool.

There was no coach telling me to rub the sleep out of my eyes, suit up, and, for-the-love-of-God, hop in that freezing water for an 800 freestyle warmup already.

Even though I once dreaded those 5:30 a.m. practices before school, I realized that I suddenly missed them.

I missed the long sets, and I missed showing up every day just to stare at that unwavering black line alongside my teammates.

I missed working toward a goal.

But mostly, I missed the grind.

But just because I was no longer a competitive swimmer, and it had been weeks since I had put on my practice suit, that did not mean I no longer thought of myself as an athlete.

In fact, it was quite the opposite.

In reality, I still ate, trained, and tried my best to look like the athlete I envisioned.

No matter how hard I tried, I knew that I could not shake the invisible force that pushed me to do these things. I mean, who could blame me? After all, I had been an athlete for as long as I could remember.

But I also knew that if I wanted to successfully transition away from swimming, something was going to have to change.

I had to shift what motivated me to be an athlete.

While I know this sounds silly, especially since I was no longer an athlete in any literal sense, it was true.

As soon as I began to look at exercise as a way of maintaining my health, rather than an evil sidekick to competitions, I regained my motivation to work out.

Suddenly, I no longer dreaded going to the gym.

Instead, I looked forward to working out.

After months of avoiding it, I found myself wanting to jog on the treadmill because I knew it was going to make me feel good and help maintain my health.

Although I no longer train in a pool every day with the hopes of dropping time or getting another cut, that does not mean I have forgotten about the importance of exercise or maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Instead, it has showed me the power that regaining my motivation can have, which goes beyond just finding the desire to work out in the absence of competitive swimming.

So, I suggest that you find what motivates you to succeed beyond the pool, because that knowledge will make you unstoppable.

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

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David Fatzinger
David Fatzinger
1 year ago

This was the hardest part for me. The Question of what now and who are you without the 24/7 obsession. I think USA Swimming should focus on this. What do you do with that competitive urge?

hossam mohamed amin
hossam mohamed amin
1 year ago

my name is Hossam Mohamed amin
I ask you to do a cohabitation period inside your club in the swimming activity because I hope to gain experience in the field of education, training, and club management
for 3 months

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