Life Without Swimming: Reflections after Week 1 of Retirement

About the author: Kristen Murslack is a senior captain for Auburn University. She is a student rep and a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee at Auburn. She is also on the SEC Academic Honor Roll. 

Broken goggles, snapped caps, power racks, 5:30 am morning practices, lifting, underwaters, 5+ hours a day, the tears during practice. All of these things have been my life the last 17 years, especially the last 4, until last week.

College swimming is no joke. The alarm clock going off at 5 am never got easier as my time as a swimmer. I always had to set 2-3 of them to finally get up and drag myself to practice. The worst part about my morning? Jumping into the cold pool. You can ask any swimmer what they dread the most in the morning and I guarantee you it will be getting into the pool. I was always one of the last ones in the water (which seemed to have ticked my coaches off as time went on, oops).

2 hours of staring at the black line pass and I feel accomplished knowing most college students are still in bed. That is just the start of my day. Classes on classes follow morning practice and before I know it, I’m back at the pool again for practice #2 of the day. After barely surviving most afternoon practices and feeling like I am drowning, my day is finally over. Then I hit the books for the rest of the night and do it all over again the next day. This was my life every single day during my time as a Division 1 swimmer at Auburn University. I never had the regular college life as a majority of students do, but I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.

Swimming was my biggest blessing in disguise. During high school, I lost many close friends and missed out on different school events for my sport. I always used the excuse “I have swim practice,” but it wasn’t just an excuse. It was true. I was always at the pool. And whether I realized it or not, it kept me out of trouble.

Swimming has given me the opportunity to meet the most amazing people from all across the world. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a swimmer is that you will always have a hard working attitude outside of the pool. Balancing sports and academics is one of the most challenging things as a student-athlete. Thankfully, I was able to divide my attention between swimming and school.

Swimming has also taught me about myself, like who I am and what I stand for. Once I became part of a team at Auburn, I learned that it wasn’t just about me. I wasn’t doing what I was doing for myself. I put in the work for my teammates to make them better and inspire them. I put myself second and my teammates first.

This sport was all I had ever known. Often I found myself getting caught up in the swimming world and forgetting everything else. But the biggest lesson that swimming didn’t teach me is that life goes on. I didn’t think there would be life once I was done with swimming to be honest. Nobody prepared me for when I would be done. All I knew was swimming, swimming, and swimming. That was my life. Now a senior and a week into the “retirement life”, I’ve quickly realized that there is more to life than my sport and that life actually does go on.

From the missed intervals during practice, to the 5 second add in a 200 during a meet, I have learned that those things will not be remembered a year from now. What I will remember is my teammates and the memories I made with them. I now have free time that I never had before. Is it fun? No. Do I wish I could swim forever? Probably. But I have learned that I am more than my sport. I am the wanna-be soccer player, the music listener. I am the ex-student athlete who is finding out who I am.

I will forever be thankful for never quitting on the sport and continuing the passion for my sport. Swimming will always be a love-hate relationship to me but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am thankful for my time as a swimmer my whole life, especially at Auburn University. Here’s to surviving week 1 of my retirement life!

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please [email protected].

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Sick of being out
7 years ago

I’m a swimmer who has been injured for a month and life without swimming is not fun in the least.

7 years ago

As someone who discovered swimming after college I often wonder what might have been had I joined my high school swim team and then swam in college. But for whatever reason I became a swimmer later in life and swimming became my constant friend. Through all of life’s upheavals it has kept me relatively sane. Sorry if this is contrary to the point of the article but I can’t imagine a life where swimming is not an integral part.

7 years ago

Nice article. Now graduate and get a job. Just kidding. Words cannot describe the pride the entire Murslack family has for you. You are such an excellent role model for EmJ despite her hanging up her goggles in favor of a bat and glove. I’d like to tell you that life is gravy now, but you will face challenges now like you never have before. The good news is that you will jump right in, give it your best, and come out a winner! Love you girl! U.M.

Lora Berry
7 years ago

Kristen, I am so proud of all of your accomplishments in & out of swimming and know that you will have so many more in your life!! You have grown into such a charismatic,eloquent & dynamic adult that I can’t wait to see what other successes you have.

ken hancock
7 years ago

A great reflective article written by a tremendous young lady. I have really enjoyed watching you enthusiastically perform these past two years, Kristen, as you took on the role of “team leader” and inspired your teammates, and yourself, to be the absolute BEST you all could be – both in and out of the pool. I look forward to hearing of your future achievements and successes as you freestyle your way through the next phases of your life.

7 years ago

Kristen, I really enjoyed reading your article. Thank you. I was an NCAA Division One All-American, OT Qualifier and dreaded the day my swimming career would end—but it never did end, even 30 years after my last college race. Not long after college I started US Masters Swimming and I found fitness, friends and high level meets with competitive National and World Championships meets.

Yes, the 5am alarm still rings and the water is still cold (for the first 500 yards), but if you choose to sleep in no one is upset with you and you could go to the second practice of the day at 5pm. Give yourself some time off; and if you miss swimming, we’ll welcome… Read more »

Reply to  Statty
7 years ago

Ditto this, just without the amazing list o’ accomplishments : ) Got back in @ 27 and have never looked back. I love swimming more than I ever have and now enjoy sharing it with others.

Go ahead, take a break. Do some rides/runs and other funs. You will be back and happier for it.

Reply to  Statty
7 years ago

Well said! Thank you! Statty I can safely say I am probably nowhere near the swimmer you are, but I find Masters swimming to be an equal blessing.