Courtesy of Claire Forrest
Retiring from competitive swimming is a monumental life shift. Swammers experience so many ups and downs after ending their careers. Here are just a few:
The fact that swimming 2000 yards now qualifies as a “good day.”
Any time you leave the pool after swimming 2000 yards, you feel amazing and accomplished. And then it dawns on you that your entire workout was the same length as your old warm up routine.
You wouldn’t dare go to the pool at the same time a college team is practicing.
One of two things would happen: 1) you’d get lapped and silently think about how back in the day you would have destroyed whatever set they are doing, or 2) your super competitive side would come out and you would totally keep up with the college swimmers…for at least fifty yards.
Swimming alongside open lap swimmers is a confidence booster.
You’re suddenly the best swimmer in this pool! You’ve still got it! Never mind that the lap swimmers are just doing this for fun and exercise. You’re leaving them in the dust with your legal turns and actual stroke recovery, and it feels awesome.
You write yourself workouts that you almost never complete.
Who am I kidding; I was never actually going to swim 4000 yards. Plus, why did I even bother to write a set of 400 I.M.s in there? There’s a reason I retired…
Everyone around you is shocked when they find out you retired from swimming.
Wait, you retired? So, what do you do if you don’t go to the pool every day? Do you have other hobbies? It’s as if they don’t even know who you are anymore. The one exception is your hairdresser, who is totally stoked you did away with submerging your hair in chlorine twice a day.
The day you really want to swim hard is the day everyone else just wants to take it easy.
You’re really going to go after that workout today. You’ve got an interval set and you’re pumped. Why do my lane mates want to chat and do dolphin dives off every wall? Can’t you see I’m trying to prove my former glory over here?
When your last swim cap from your former team breaks, you get a little emotional.
Now all that’s left are the solid colored caps, and anyone can buy those! Goodbye, old friend.
You feel like you can relate to a swimmer better than anyone else, no matter how long it’s been since you competed.
If you see a swimmer carrying a swim bag in public, you have to hold yourself back from running over and asking them what events they swim. Because that would be weird, right?
Swimming is still the best part of your day.
Yes, retiring from the daily grind of competitive swimming allows you to focus on other aspects of your life that you enjoy and find fulfilling. But no matter where you go in life or what other paths you take, nothing calms you down, refocuses you, and brings you back to your core like a swim.
When someone asks you if you miss competitive swimming, it’s never a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
How does anyone expect you to fit all your emotions about your swimming career into one simple answer? Next time, simply smile and say, “It was time to move on, but I still love swimming. I’ll always love swimming.”
Claire Forrest is a recent graduate of Grinnell College with a degree in English. She is currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a freelance writer. The only competitive swimmer in her family, Claire went to her first swim meet at the age of eleven on a whim without even knowing what a swim cap was. She fell in love with the sport and never looked back. A S6 classified disabled swimmer for US Paralympics, Claire specialized in mid-distance freestyle and backstroke and made national and world rankings throughout her career. She was a 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Trials participant. Claire is passionate about integrating disability swimming into the larger swim community, having swam for able-bodied club teams and her college’s DIII team. She enjoyed both Paralympic and prominent integrated able-bodied meets equally for the many commonalities they share. Over 13 years after her first meet, she’s happy to report she now owns more swim caps than she can count.