By Taylor Padington, Swimming World College Intern
It has been approximately four months since my retirement from swimming and like so many others, I am unable to fill the void that swimming has left. Swimming had occupied my life for the past 17 years, and now I am drowning in all the spare time retirement has provided me with.
Like so many others, swimming is not just a sport, or hobby, but more of a lifestyle. Without the constant hours of practicing, I find myself wondering why I even decided to retire. Of course, when this thought passes through my mind, I remember how much swimming gave me. I also remember that it was my time to hang up the cap and goggles, for I simply gave all I could to the sport that I loved.
But what do I do now? Where do I exert my copious amount of energy? How can I fill that emptiness that swimming left me with? After a long 120 days of trying new sports, getting back into coaching swimming and even taking a break from the sport I love, I have found three key factors which helped ease my retirement process.
1. Take A Break!
It is easy to retire from swimming and want to jump into something else right away. I am not saying that getting involved in other sports as soon as you retire is a bad thing; however, after years of countless hours in the pool your body is going to want a break. I know that from my own experiences, my shoulders were barely hanging on by the end of my career and the smartest choice for me to do was to take a step back and let my body heal and rest. I still attended the occasional spin class at my university and went on hikes with my boyfriend, but I realized that my body finally had a chance to catch up on 17 years of much needed recovery.
2. Give Back
When I finished my last race of my swimming career, I almost had a mini panic attack. I thought to myself, “I am now done with swimming, where do I go from here?”. Little did I know that I was not done with swimming; in fact I don’t think that I will ever truly be “done” with the sport of swimming. It took me around two months to be able to step back onto the pool deck without feeling an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness of the sport that I was no longer competing in.
However, once those feelings dissipated into a sense of respect of the sport, I realized that I wanted to share my passion and love for the sport to other young swimmers. I am now a coach of a summer swim club in my home town and the joy that my swimmers give me when I see them master a new skill or achieve a new goal is unparalleled. Swimming is a sport that gives so much. For myself, swimming gave me friends, life skills and much more– to give back to a sport that has given me so much is the very least I can do.
3. Continue To Be Active
After your swimming career is completed, your body will still crave constant exercise. As I said earlier, it is important to give your muscles a break, but that shouldn’t mean that you just lay on your couch all day. It is an excruciatingly hard transition from being a swimmer to non-swimmer, and many times you will struggle to find the same kind of love you had for swimming.
I am still trying to find an activity that I love as much as swimming– the search is hard and long. But I firmly believe that if you continue to try new activities and sports, you will one day be lucky enough to find a sport that fills you with as much elation as swimming did.