By Anna Hoyman, Performance Health & Fitness 2021 Summer Intern, Personal Training + Strength & Conditioning

For a lot of us, sports seem to be a common first exposure to organized exercise. Games in PE lead to competitive high school events which (for some) lead to collegiate levels and beyond. The escalation happens quickly and oftentimes the end comes even more abruptly.

The last race is run, the last ball is thrown, the last point is scored and we are left asking “What now?

Throughout our athletic career, we trained (and lived) for optimal performance in competition. What we ate, how we trained, what we did in our free time, how much we slept and every other minor behavior we had was dictated by our sport. And suddenly, it’s all over.

In the past months, I competed in my last track meet of a 10-year career. I threw shot put and discus at my first meet in 7th grade at Indianola Middle School and threw the hammer (what Miss Trunchbull from Matilda does) in my last meet at the 2021 NCAA Division I West Regional Outdoor Track and Field Championships in College Station, Texas.

Life without sports will be different, but I am excited for a new journey. I’ve gotten a lot of advice from retired athletes and coaches about how to approach the process and I have narrowed it down to three important tasks: rest, reflect, and replicate.

Rest seems simple enough but it’s proving to be a big challenge. Letting go of the highly competitive mindset, rigid training schedule and rearranging my priorities looked way easier on paper. It will be a process, but I look forward to taking care of my body and mind better than I had during the season.

Recently, I have been reflecting on my entire athletic career and my favorite moments; team dinners, team lifts, solo sessions at the track, etc. They’ve been some of my favorite memories of all time! I’ve also been thinking about things that I didn’t like, and I won’t miss; late night bus rides, performance anxiety, broken toe nails (if you know, you know), etc.

Finally, I will replicate. I will do all of the things I loved and avoid things I didn’t.

My advice to current and future athletes is to understand and fall in love with the process. Life is so much more than sports, but sports can do a lot in your life.

I have met some of the most important characters in my life through sports. I have learned some of the most valuable lessons through sports.

Most importantly, I have found my passion for health and wellness through sports.

I’ve found rest-reflect-replicate is a good approach for life. Whether it be moving to a new city, changing majors, or starting a new job, we all have unique experiences and should use those to our advantage.

For example, I mentioned all of the things I will not miss from being a collegiate athlete. I dreaded late night bus rides, got anxious about sleeping in hotels, and would be worried about food options. I realized that my routine is something that is very sacred to me. “Be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” is something that I strived to live by for years. Mental toughness is a valuable skill, but showing compassion for yourself is arguably moreso. I prioritize my schedule now and I have a greater appreciation for it because of the experiences I had before that caused me so much stress.

On the other side of the coin, I’m convinced that I will be back squatting on my 100th birthday.

My track training included hours upon hours in the weight room and I absolutely loved it. I love chalking up, I love that eye-sweat-sting, I love the sound of bumper plates spinning on a barbell. I love being a strong woman in and out of the gym and will continue to be that for the rest of my days.

The experiences sports gave me showed me the greatest joys of my life, taught me what things I don’t enjoy, and ultimately empowered me to discover those truths. Sports are not the end, but a means to an end.

They built the person I am, but sports do not define me. 

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