As a retired athlete who had the privilege of competing professionally for twelve years, there are aspects of that lifestyle that I didn’t appreciate as much as I could’ve in the moment. And quite frankly, some aspects that I miss.
Not miss in a “let me come out of retirement” kind of way, but miss in a “I need to adjust my mindset & embrace these changes” kind of way.
1) Nothing can quite compare to the thrill of competing
And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. Practicing pharmacy knowing I genuinely love my job? Nope. Sports commentating/on field presenting at pro track meets? Nope. Growing your content creation business & getting paid to partner with cool brands? Nope. Brainstorming new real estate ventures to invest in? Nope.
While all of these things are incredible, and give me great joy, the excitement and anticipation surrounding track meets stand in a lane of their own. The pre race jitters, the adrenaline rush, the satisfaction after a well executed race, the constant desire to perfect technique, and the intangibles that are difficult to put into words all contribute to the thrill of competing.
And if I’m being honest, I haven’t found much else that can replicate that feeling so I’ve convinced myself to stop even trying. I’ve come to accept that I can get my dopamine fixes in different ways now that I’ve hung my spikes up.
2) The “fast money” aspect of it
I was very careful not to say “easy money” because anyone who has competed at the highest level in track knows it takes a lifestyle commitment & an insane level of focus to be successful. Nothing “easy” about that.
But when you think about it at a very basic level, I got paid to workout, travel the world, and run races while jumping over barriers. A race that took only 12 seconds to run could yield enough funds to take care of 5 months of expenses. It was a dream.
3) It forces you to be regimented on working out
Even though I am a very disciplined person by nature, there is a clear difference between “I want to keep this body cute for summer” and “I need to do every single thing in my power to push my body to it’s limits daily” serving as your workout motivation.
Although in hindsight, I don’t know if I actually loved working out, or if it was just was a means to position me for competitions, but the end result was the same. I got it done.
The fact that I don’t really enjoy or prioritize regular working out in retirement is an indication to myself that maybe it wasn’t the working out that I actually enjoyed in the first place. I’ve accepted that, and will have to find other workout motivators to keep me accountable: a healthy body, showing good example to my daughter, staying fine for my husband etc.
4) The platform/visibility to inspire others
Athletes are in a unique position where you naturally have thousands of eyes on you during competition so it gives you the ability to tell your story and speak to people on a large scale.
Although one could look at it as a responsibility or burden to be under a constant microscope as an athlete, I looked at it as an opportunity to show the person beyond the uniform.
I believe that every interaction you have during your day gives a chance to motivate, encourage, or inspire another person, and that sentiment hasn’t changed even though I’ve retired. But when I was an athlete, the possibility to reach many people simultaneously was built into the sport.
Despite reminiscing on all of these things that I took for granted while competing, I am still enjoying retirement more than I thought I would.
I can honestly say that I have zero regrets. I feel fortunate that I can reflect on my track career and be proud.
With that, however, I also must acknowledge that a paradigm shift had to be made in order for me to make the transition to retirement smoother.
Although I no longer get an adrenaline rush on the start line, I get a dopamine hit every time a patient in the pharmacy expresses gratitude for the care I give.
Although I no longer can make five figures from a single 12 second race, I am encouraged at how successful my content creation business has been in its infancy.
Although I no longer have championship races motivating me to workout regularly, I have been sucessful in using my diet to keep the pounds off. I am still figuring out the whole “workout for fun” thing.
Although I no longer have thousands of eyeballs on me during a competition, I now challenge myself to leave some sort of imprint on people I encounter daily.
Current pro athletes, aspiring pro athletes, college athletes, or wherever you lie on the spectrum, savor every moment of competition while you can. Yes, yes I know it’s a cliché to say these years will fly by. But believe me when I say that retirement is inevitable, and you want to make sure you look back on your career with a smile of satisfaction on your face.