The moment, I always knew would come, had finally arrived. After fifteen years of competitive swimming, including four years spent competing at the collegiate level, my time as an athlete came to a close. As with the majority of things in life when something ends there is always an opportunity for something new to begin. I saw my transition from being a student-athlete to normal life as an opportunity to rise to the challenge of staying fit and adjusting to a new lifestyle.
I had the time to reflect on everything I learned and gained from my swimming experience. For years, how much I slept each night or how many calories I ate in a day were crucial to my success in the pool. I had so many new questions:
- What do I eat?
- How am I going to stay in shape?
- How many calories do I need?
The most difficult part of transitioning from a student-athlete to normal life was the decrease in the amount of food I needed to fuel my body. My activity level was dramatically reduced. I went from swimming twice a day, lifting three times a week, and extra dryland workouts to simply walking to class with an occasional trip to the IM building for a quick workout. I actually ended up joining an IM basketball team with a few of my friends to stay active. Aside from that, I decided to take a step back from fitness and give my body something that was way overdue: a break.
This break allowed me to focus on my nutrition. I never ate super healthy to begin with so at first it was challenging to cut out my bad eating habits all at once. I found it easier to do it step by step. Each week I would attempt to add a healthier snack to my diet in substitute for something not so healthy. This was as simple as eating an apple or banana instead of a bag of Cheez Its (I do love my Cheez Its).
As time progressed, I have started to focus on clean eating and fueling my body the right way. I eat fresh, whole foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner with healthy snacks in between. Throughout my nutrition journey, I found I enjoy making different breakfast recipes when I have the time. My current favorite is banana waffles! I have included the recipe below.
In addition, I try to avoid anything processed as much as I can with the occasional cheating every once in a while (everything is good in moderation right?). Limiting my sugar intake and reading food labels has been extremely important throughout this adjustment. Also, I make sure I have adequate portion sizes to balance with the amount of physical activity I do in a day. But, the most important thing I make sure I do everyday is… DRINK ENOUGH WATER! A gallon a day keeps the doctor away, right? Water keeps you hydrated and is the cleanest beverage you can drink!
After improving my nutrition, I decided to try different types of exercise and see what I like the most. My favorite type of exercise is a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout with additional core exercises at the end. I believe this to be the most beneficial exercise for me and it can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour! It is easy to fit into my daily schedule and a great way to stay fit and healthy. I also make sure to go on a walk at least three times each week, which is easy for me to do because I have two doggies!
Life after college athletics hasn’t always been easy and it’s important to try new things to discover new ideas and passions. I have opened my mind to many things outside of athletics and so can you! This will make the transition easier to life after sports. My top four tips I can give to someone in my shoes or going through it soon are:
- Figure out what you are most passionate about other than your sport
- Don’t be afraid to try new things
- Maintain a healthy diet by being aware of portion sizes and always drinking enough water
- Have faith in yourself off the field/court/pool/ wherever it is that you belong!
Once an athlete, always an athlete! Don’t forget to check out my recipe for banana waffles below.
Healthy Banana Oat Waffles
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 2 medium bananas chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt (optional)
- Toppings (your choice)
- fresh fruit
- honey/maple syrup
- peanut/almond butter
- Place all the batter ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth
- Heat a waffle maker/iron and pour in a few table spoons
- Cook until the waffles are golden brown and cooked through
- Carefully remove the waffles and serve with toppings of your choice
These can be made like pancakes too!