Adjusting to Life As A Former College Athlete
It’s never as cliché as waking up in the morning and staring at your out of shape body in the morning, or as wistful as stopping on your commute back from work and seeing a team practicing. The feeling of being a washed-up has-been is much more subtle and pervasive, echoing in the footsteps of morning joggers and resting in cracking of bones during an errant stretch.
I stopped playing sports and severely cut down on my workout schedule after I graduated from college and began transitioning into the working world. Moving away from my active lifestyle wasn’t a sudden change; it began with earnest, practical reasoning—“I really need to get up early to avoid traffic” turned into “I had a hard week and I just want to lay down.” Besides, no one in my workplace of 30- and 40-somethings was particularly fit and being physically athletic wasn’t exactly going to help me when it came to job performance reviews.
That is, until I went to a regular check-up at the doctor’s office and puzzled over being told I was prehypertensive. Not only had my physical prowess slipped, I’d allowed my health to slip. In the gradual abandonment of a more rigid athletic lifestyle, I’d embraced the bad nutritional habits that’d befallen my older colleagues. I also adopted the work-centric attitude too many of my fellow newcomers to the workforce felt necessary in order to survive in pressurized and sometimes isolating office environment.
I had never really made a “Plan B” for my athletic life and activities. I didn’t look for places to live because of the nearby sports clubs or the number of parks within walking distance, nor was that the consideration I had in mind now. While recreational sports are fun, I myself wasn’t ready to make a real commitment like that, even on an infrequent basis. Not only did I have to consider the time I would need to devote to the workouts, practices, and team-building activities, there was also my own physical health to consider. After years of traveling in cramped seats, repeated tackles, injuries, and strains, my body just wasn’t up to the demands I know I would want to impose, not to mention the fact that my getting injured and possibly needing time away from work to recover would be a real work obstacle for myself and my team, posing a real threat to my career success.
Still, I needed to break out of my post-collegiate sports rut, and with no one else to hold me accountable or compete with, challenging myself became the best option. But challenging myself wasn’t about getting back into shape or just regaining my former physical status; challenging myself meant building a new body through new workouts, new emphasis, and priorities.
Since I no longer had to play a particular position and concentrate on bulking up or slimming down, I could craft new goals. If I wanted to max out my cardio, no one would chastise me for not focusing on strength. If I just wanted to lift and only do a minimum amount of cardio, that was an option as well.
I started experimenting with different gyms and workout programs to find what would work best for my lifestyle and my body goals. I enrolled in everything from yoga and online workout videos to home workout equipment and CrossFit. I was able to try a variety of gyms and styles of fitness through deal sites. This way I was able to pay less than the normal rate for a short trial session. Some worked better than others, others opened me up to things I hadn’t considered before.
Transition to life without a routine, group workouts, practices, skirmishes, and tournaments wasn’t a comforting move, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t relapsed a few times. The fact is, it’s difficult to stay fit when you’re just starting an office job and you’re looking to impress your bosses with Excel charts and email chains. That’s why it’s important to take stock of your time schedule, whether you have particular goals in mind, carve out time to workout, and find something that keeps you engaged and coming back every week. You can even try to capitalize on your routine by inviting work colleagues to join you. If they don’t want to join, I found MeetUp helpful for connecting with individuals who wanted to make fitness more of a priority.
Being a former college athlete doesn’t have to mean you’re forever a former athlete. Now is the time to live in your best body and turn “former” into “current,” whether your goal is as small as climbing a flight of stairs and putting your mile time back until nine minutes, or as ambitious as enlisting in the Marine Corps and running in the city’s next marathon.
Remember, the fitness you’re looking to regain won’t come overnight. It’s going to require an embedded routine and some experimentation, so if one particular class or program isn’t working for you, just take different ones until you find the one that’s right for you.
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