Written and courtesy of Erin Seiler
No one really prepares you for the moment when you completely stop all you have ever known for the past 18 years. And not that they should, however, I feel like there should be some sort of guide out there for all the “new swammers”, something you can read a few weeks after you’ve have had your last championship meet. Although some retirements may be a bit different than others, you are not alone in this process. For me, I was happy to be ending my career. I ended on a high note and was ready to move on and conquer the next part of this wild journey called life. I had always dreamed of the day when I wouldn’t have anyone telling me what to do, especially at 5 am practice as I completely exhaust myself and then try to function in class before practice #2. Now that I have embraced the “swammer” life, I took a step back to reflect on how much has changed over the past few months. My hope is that these few tips will be a good read to those new retirees entering into the life without swimming.
1. Find a new hobby
I gave myself about a two-week break to do nothing. After that, I was ready to go again and wanted to start mastering something new. This may be the typical swimmer mentality as always having to be busy, however, I wanted to start doing the things I never got the chance to do while swimming. Whether that is traveling, picking up a new sport, meeting new people, find something you are passionate about and go all in. The new found energy you have will amaze you at what you can accomplish on a day to day basis all while not having to take a nap.
2. Cherish your old teammates
Yes, I realize spending thousands of hours with your teammates may have annoyed you occasionally, however, those will be your friends for the rest of your life. Not many people you meet throughout your life will have as many similarities or understand you as much as your old teammates did/do. People you meet and expect to have an interest in your accomplishments won’t. Rarely questions will be asked and you may feel like the person you have been the last 18 years is lost. That is OK. That is why tip #1 is important. Continue to better yourself in other aspects of your life that you may have missed out on during your swimming career and move on.
3. Continue to work out
You were in the best shape of your life. Most of that will be lost when you are done but, stay active. (Unless you continue to swim 20 hours a week) you will never be in that great of shape again, however, you can still be very athletic. Once you lose that, it’s hard to get back so always make time for exercise even during the busiest of days. It is a great stress reliever. You may even miss that good painful feeling during the hardest part of a set and trust me, workout classes will never get you to that level again.
4. Find yourself
I am still navigating my way through this one and I don’t have an answer on how long it will take. However, I do know that it is not a bad position to be in. Explore, do things you have never done before and put yourself out there. You will be amazed at what happens when you do. Change is a great thing, and without it, you will always be stuck in the same sour position of wondering why no one cares about your swimming career, it’s old news. Move on and support those still in the sport as they need it more than ever.
5. Most importantly, remember all the lessons swimming taught you
These will carry with you for the rest of your life and that is a great thing! Never being late, always wanting to stay busy and setting goals that may seem impossible to others are just a few of the great lessons swimming has taught everyone who has been through this grueling sport. It may have been hard in the moment, but those lessons and habits you adopted will only advance you in a positive direction throughout life. Be thankful for that. Take advantage and never lose those good habits.
So for those just starting their retirement or maybe those that have been long unattached, I think it is important to remind ourselves to be thankful of where swimming has gotten us. Most of us wouldn’t be where we are today without it. We sacrificed a lot at the time but now is when we reap the rewards of making it through this incredibly challenging sport that society doesn’t understand.
Erin Seiler‘s Bio:
I recently graduated from The University of Akron in May of 2016. I swam for them all four years and qualified for olympic trials in the 100 fly this past summer. I also won the 100 fly and 200 fly at the MACs my senior year. I am now in graduate school at Rutgers University majoring in Food Science. I will also be starting a co-op at Campbell’s in the fall alongside with my studies.