10 Confessions of a Washed Up Swimmer

10 Confessions of a Washed-Up Swimmer

Over the course of our swimming careers the time spent training up and down the black line molded us in more ways than we can count.

It gave us the avenues to build confidence, learn how to set goals and chase vigorously after them, and introduced us to some of our very best friends.

But now, with your swimming career behind you, there is that inevitable period of mourning mixed with excitement at what is to come. (“What am I going to do with all of this free time?”)

Here are 10 confessions of a washed-up swimmer:

1. We still keep abreast of swimming news.

Even though we don’t train for awesomeness anymore, the interest in the sport remains. Especially with respect to our teammates and the competition to see where we woulda or coulda been had we kept swimming. The level 10 remote control freakouts we have when swimming randomly appears on the television will never completely go away.

2. The first time we are winded from climbing a flight of stairs is a humbling experience.

Sure there were those times after a rugged week of training where we could barely lift our arms, let alone walk. But now, with no training to fall back on as an excuse, we have seen the depths to which our cardiovascular fitness has plummeted when we need to pause halfway up the stairs to take a couple breaths.

3. You realize that you might have mistaken discipline for obedience.

Sports teaches us a lot about responsibility and discipline. But to be fair, a lot of times having not only your teammates in the water to race against but a coach on deck screaming at you made sticking to the plan a lot easier. With our physical fitness and health needs now completely in our hands, we find that it can be difficult to find something that envelops us as fully as swimming. Rec leagues provide some stimulation, and working out on your own at the gym provides too much of that “Hey, I don’t actually have to be here if I don’t want to!” freedom that we were lacking over so many years.

4. Seeing the up-and-comers is a mix of nostalgia and awe.

Sure, you were that fast kid too at one point. But now they seem to be coming up a whole lot faster, making you wonder if you’d had better training how much faster you could have been.

5. You can’t get away with eating like a garbage truck anymore.

It was a bit ludicrous how much food you could eat and still have that robust set of abs. After all, you could eat a six-pack of cakes and know that you’d burn it off with one good session at the pool. Now, with that lack of activity that six-pack of cakes has turned into a couple tortured nibbles and bites here and there.

6. Your time management is slippin’.

Swimming provided a lot of things to us; it was where we met our friends, got into crazy shape, and pushed our boundaries on a nearly daily basis. But it also provided something else—a strong sense of structure. You had to manage your time effectively around it. Now, with all that extra time freeing up you find that an assignment that would have taken 45 minutes while you were swimming can now be leisurely stretched out over 2-3 hours.

7. We think about how we will guide our kids into being better swimmers than we were.

Having been through the years of training, the nerve-wracking competitions, and ostensibly smarter because of it, we will be able to show our own little tadpoles the fastest and most efficient way to swimming like a boss.

8. Catch yourself saying, “Yeah, well back in my day…”

Anytime someone brings up the topic of how hard a particular swim practice was that day, it launches you into a “In my day…” tirade that outlines the Hell Weeks, the kickboard-throwing coach, and repeating sets over and over again until everybody got it done exactly right.

9. That feeling of unease that you have something to do the next morning will take a while to pass.

Friday nights were always go-to-bed-early nights. And as you progressed up the ranks in your age group years and started accumulating more and more morning workouts there were progressively more of these types of nights. That nagging feeling—soon met by a thrilling realization that you have nothing to do the next morning—will last a while.

10. It’s hard to give up the athletic wear.

Soggy-bottomed sweats are the official pants of the competitive swimmer. It was something you could get away with, it signified your vocation as an amateur athlete. Unfortunately, in the real world sweatpants tend to elicit not feelings of wonder of athletic prowess, but of laziness. So you are saying that I can’t wear baggy sweatpants to work? But I’m an athle—nevermind.

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of YourSwimLog.com. He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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