I was the least athletic person before I went to high school. I rowed in middle school briefly, and was a competitive swimmer beginning at the age of 8, but other than that, my only real extra-curricular activities involved InDesign, writing bad “novels” that I never finished, and eating bags of raw carrots when I came home from school each day. I may have participated in rowing and swimming but I dreaded going to practice, and I would plot ways to get out of going as soon as I woke up each morning.
I don’t think 12-year-old me would believe it if I told her that she’d run and like it, or become so devoted to a sport that she’d be a founding member of her school’s team, or have a brief (VERY BRIEF) stint as a D1 coxswain. I began my freshman year of high school not being able to run a complete mile and ended my high school career feeling exhilarated after running 9 of them. I learned that swimming put me in better shape than any other type of exercise, and I discovered an inner peace I didn’t think existed in long runs sans technology.
Flash forward to 2015, and I am no longer a competitive athlete. In some ways, thank God. I have so much more free time throughout my day, and I really do love taking naps – I’m basically a professional snoozer. The amount of anxiety I experienced while glancing at the erg workout for the day or while waiting at the starting line for high school cross-country races or perched over my toes at the block for swimming probably took 5-10 years off my life, no joke. Most importantly, I was trained to compare myself to my fellow athletes and friends; in individual/team sports like cross-country and swimming, you’re constantly reminded of your speed or ability in comparison to others, and it serves as motivation. Each lane in a pool operates well only if there’s a perfect arrangement of athletic prowess, and a little tap on your feet from the swimmer behind you forces you to kick that much harder.
Lately I’ve been wondering: where does all of this go when you’re no longer a competitive athlete?
After years of running for speed or distance, I’m forcing myself to completely reevaluate why I’m running… why I’m lifting weights or why I’m strapping myself to the erg every day after work. Years ago, I may have told you that I run each day to be better than the day before, and perhaps that would have been true.
Today? Today I’m working to teach myself that it doesn’t matter when I go running and I don’t perform as well as I’d hoped. The fact of the matter is that I’m at a different time in my life, even though that period of time seems like it’s still in arm’s reach. At the end of the day, if I’m running and or walking Oliver or rowing for a half hour, it still counts. I’m still maintaining an active lifestyle and doing something good for my body, even if I may not be reaching for a certain goal or hoping to place in a 5k. Today, my answer to why (why run, why row, why gym) isn’t speed or winning (not that I did any of that ever, lets be real here)… it’s health of mind and health of body.
Quite frankly, getting up and moving every day became so much easier as soon as I stopped putting pressure on myself to be “good.”
I don’t have to be good… maybe, at almost-19, as an ex-athlete, all I have to do is be.