Kyla & Alex

Canadian Triathletes, Coaches, & Exercise Scientists

On Wandering… but not Being Lost

{oh the clichés hurt so good}

Retirement from elite sport is gradually becoming recognized for what it is – a sinkhole that suddenly emerges to suck you away from your identity and everything you’ve ever known about the world. Obviously it depends on your commitment to your sport, your years invested in the sport, what you did outside of sport etc., that will contribute to how far you fall, but no matter what, you will fall.

I was lucky in that when I quit triathlon two years ago, I quit because of a competing passion: graduate school. Upon retiring, all of my attention could go to my work. Further, as my research is in sports science, and I already was coaching, I didn’t have to stray too far from sport. Voila, a little safety net was in place for me as I fell.

That said, there is nothing, nothing, nothing, that replaces the commitment and singular focus of elite sport. Don’t get me wrong ­– I’m about as crazy about what I do now as I can safely be, but there is a certain amount of balance that comes with being a non-elite athlete that I am still grappling with. In my prior life, I knew what I needed to do to be the best athlete I could be, and rarely did I deviate from that. Those precious few weeks of off season were spent being a “normal person”. However, every triathlete will agree that while they appreciate (and require) that time away from sport, they feel a bit lost throughout it.

The down-time progression usually goes something like this:  

Week 1: “I’m so tired. I’m going to sleep for a week. Thank goodness I don’t have to train. ”

Week 2: “Yoga, and Hiking, and Adventures and Friends!!!”

Week 3: “Moderate depression… Who am I? What is my purpose here?”

Week 4: (Back to training) “I feel like myself again!!”.

So now take that progression following retirement, and exteeeennndddd ittttttt. My retirement so far has gone something like this: 1. Brief exhaustion period. 2. Denial: continue to “train” more than an active person ever would. 3. Exhaustion period #2, injury, and confusion: Who am I? What is my purpose here? 4. Where I am at now, which I will qualify as Wandering. Like I said previously, there is a certain amount of balance or space that I have in my life now, and I am unsure what to do with it. I feel like all moments of my day need to be productive… but that isn’t sustainable in my current situation, and so I struggle with the space. I even caught myself thinking the other day how nice it was being so busy and exhausted with training, that I never had to decide what to do. What a funny life that was.

Anyways, while this journey of climbing out of the sinkhole is not quite over (which becomes apparent when I have the urge to blog as I used to when I was an athlete), I have come up with a plan. 1. Accept my new identity 2. Find an external (read: non-academic) goal that I care about enough to fill some of the space.

I'd love to hear other people's retirement progressions so that we can commiserate with our shared-crazy. 

Stay Golden, 


ps. I’m not going to share my goals with ya’ll, because that’s not how I work (I like to work on them inside and let them unfold in action… but everyone is different, so you do you). 

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