Championship season has come and gone, and with that comes a fresh wave of retired athletes. This new lifestyle, best known as “swammer life,” will be met with tears of bittersweet joy, a sense of pride, and an unparalleled appreciation for sleep. You have dreamt about this destination every time your alarm woke you at 5:30 AM and your arms felt anchored to your bed. But once you have finally caught up on sleep you may find yourself wondering: now what?
Not to sound dramatic, but becoming a swammer is like being reborn. For either the majority or a significant amount of your life, you identified as an athlete and your life was built around swimming. As delightfully freeing as it is to embark on the journey of retirement, it can also be utterly terrifying. So here is a list of advice from a few pioneers before you.
1.) Learn how you like to exercise
The campus recreation center or local gym is uncharted territory for a new swammer. The concept of a ‘casual workout’ doesn’t exist in collegiate athletics. Do I hop on the bike for 30 minutes? An hour? Will people stare if I do one of my old weights sets? You might just be so lost that you want to avoid the gym altogether. The absence of a coach is odd at first, but it also gives you the opportunity to explore different methods of working out.
"Take this opportunity to pick up a new sport that keeps you in shape and brings you joy. Maybe it’s tennis, racquetball, ultimate frisbee.…Whatever it is, you might have a hidden athletic talent you never knew about because you were always in the pool!" - Colleen Clay, Centre College Swimming Alum
"Figure out how you like to exercise. Do you like being coached? Take exercise classes. Do you like doing your own thing? Try running or biking. It’s easier to set up your routine while you are used to adhering to a schedule before getting into bad habits." - Blair Kuethe, Kentucky Swimming Alum
"Work out buddies are key. I work out by myself but it’s hard to hold myself accountable all the time….Get involved in recreation leagues and come up with a good workout plan." - Alec Morgan, Truman State Swimming Alum
2.) Make new friends, but stay close with your teammates
Making new friends leads to new experiences and opportunities. Use your extra time and energy to form new social circles, but don’t lose touch with your teammates.
There is no other bond like suffering fly-day Friday, test sets, and long bus rides together. As time goes on you and your old teammates may scatter across the country, but it is important to keep those relationships intact.
"Capitalize on the lessons and the relationships that swimming gave you. You may be graduating or spending a few less hours a day with your teammates, but really make the effort to stay in touch with the people who know the parts of you that nobody else does." - Robert Resch, Kentucky Swimming Alum
3.) Explore other passions
Do the things you always wished you had time for!
"It’s okay to feel lost. Transitioning from a life where every minute is planned for you to suddenly navigating your own day to day life is a little intimidating, but it is an opportunity to get creative. Plan a routine and set goals to keep yourself challenged and motivated." - Lindsay Hill, Kentucky Swimming Alum
"The competition doesn’t stop. Bring your competitive spirit into your life and constantly reach to be the best in your field." - Tina Bechtel, Kentucky Swimming Alum
4.) When you miss swimming…
Impossible, right? Wrong. Whether it’s six months or five years from now, you will miss “the good ole’ days.” The good news is there will always be friends to relive the memories and a pool to dive into. If you just miss the atmosphere, coaching and teaching swim lessons is a great way to stay involved in the sport and pass along everything you learned.
"Or you could just use this idea: If you start to miss swimming just set an alarm for 5:30 AM and imagine what it would feel like to jump in a pool." - Frida Jakobsson, Kentucky Swimming Alum
I could write a dissertation on the delights and struggles of retirement, but I will sum it up to this: you will always be a swimmer, regardless of whether or not you still get in the pool every day. Because of swimming, you can push yourself beyond your limits and get up on the days when you are exhausted. You are not afraid to pursue your goals or to overcome failure. You have accomplished a feat that most people will never understand, and that will define you for the rest of your life.
By Adrian Rudd