Retired athlete; Active life
17 years ago I swam at the Olympics. I don't swim anymore. Not in the way I would define as "swimming" which would denote consistency, dedication, or focus. I will occasionally jump in and swim an easy 2km "warm-up". There is a sense of relief to be doing something I effortlessly do well (after a decade of practice). There also remains an edge of danger to it. I teeter on the precipice of falling back into that competitive realm every time I swim. It would be so easy. So familiar. Nothing like the struggles of learning a new skill and forging my way along an unknown career path.
I'm a naturally competitive person. In my last swim, a week ago, I dove off the side of the deck and did a 50-metre pace in 31 seconds. My first thought was, "With a little consistency I could bring that down to something decent." Followed quickly by, "I wonder where that would place me internationally for my age group in a Masters meet?" I went so far as to mention the idea of picking up only morning practices to my husband, also an ex-swimmer, who quickly disabused me of my misguided aspirations. He did it with a look.
Why travel a path for which I've already reached the conclusion?
There is a good reason I retired from my sport. My body could no longer handle the training load. My mindset of mind over matter could not carry me any further as the physical breakdown took its toll. I was 20 when I retired with chronic shoulder pain. I cannot swim leisurely for very long. Beyond the physical strain, I begin to mentally travel a path for which I've already reached the conclusion. To continue to grow responsibly, I have had to retire my identity as an athlete as I approach new training styles. This allows me the space to be terrible at something without disappointment.
Swimming helped define the edges of my personality; I know the effects of physical exhaustion in my body and the reservoirs of mental strength I can access in need. Ultimately, I'm happiest embarking on a fresh challenge. While it's a relief to revisit my strengths in times of struggle, I’m happy retiring my persona of athlete as I explore what an active life means to me.