Getting Back In Shape After Being A Varsity Athlete

Looking to getting back in shape after being an athlete proves to be more of a hurdle than people imagine. There are mental, physical, and dietary challenges to overcome. But these steps can make getting back in shape an easier transition when you open your mind to all the possibilities. 

1. Accept You Are No Longer An Athlete

This is hard. You’re identity once revolved around the phrase “I’m a…. softball player, volleyball player, runner, hockey player… etc. Now you’re a former athlete. The transition between the two can be a huge mental hurdle that blocks your motivation to get back in shape. Athletes have a goal, a victory, a championship they are working towards. 

But you aren’t an athlete anymore so what are you working towards? Many athletes post varsity and collegiate level confront this question and answer nothing. So, they sit on the couch and one day realize the need to get back in shape. It’s more common than people think, in fact, athletes may be more susceptible to falling into the need to get back in shape than the average individual. With no schedule, structure, or coach to guide you, it’s daunting to face the reality of getting back in shape. 

Getting Back In Shape After Being A Varsity Athlete

2. Find Exercises That Work For You

Where exercising was once part of a bigger goal, sometimes look at as a necessary evil, that’s no longer the case. The exercise is your goal now. And that new goal will help you feel better, be healthier, and help with getting back in shape. However, your regimen won’t match the three-hour sessions you knew before. 

If you hated running sprints during practice, don’t do them in your workout. Getting back in shape should be an enjoyable journey for you. There’s plenty of exercises either alone or in a group that can get your heart racing and adrenaline pumping the way a game used to. 

Experts suggest individuals get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Running isn’t the only form of cardio, try boxing, spin classes, cardio yoga, etc. Expand your mind from what you knew as an exercise before and turn it into something fun that helps in getting you back in shape. 

Your workout regimen before was tailored to strengthen you for a specific sport and help you perform at your optimal level, but now you can figure out what you like outside the sport. It can be overwhelming at first so start with trying out everything. Most places offer a minimal expense or free one-time drop-in to try their classes, so take advantage. 

Getting Back In Shape After Being A Varsity Athlete

3. Know You Won’t Perform At The Same Level

When getting back in shape, especially after being a varsity or collegiate athlete, the performance standard you hold yourself to needs to be lowered. While it can serve as a great goal to work towards, you can’t expect to jump back into the gym and smash out the training workouts you used to do at the exact same level of fitness. 

In an article with ABC fitness, Nigel Stepto, associate professor in exercise physiology at Victoria University, said,  “you’ll likely lose half your fitness if you don’t train at all for a week.” Stepto explains cardiovascular health declines first, meaning you’ll start breathing heavier faster than you used to, and then muscle density declines, meaning you won’t be able to lift heavier weight. 

It’s important to keep this in mind when getting back in shape. Don’t expect to run a 7-minute mile with no problem or lift 50lb dumbells. Go into your workout regimen with low intensity so you are able to discover your new base level. 

Getting Back In Shape After Being A Varsity Athlete

4. Build Your Own Structure

You don’t have coaches and specialists laying out workouts and schedules for you anymore. You need to build your own structure. The easiest place to start getting back in shape is to dedicate one hour each day to working out. Before you didn’t have to think about the time to work out, because it was built in your daily schedule, now getting back in shape, you have to prioritize working out in your day. 

Kimatni Rawlins, 41, of Silver Spring, Maryland – a former football running back at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta shared his methods to embracing the getting back in shape lifestyle after he lost the 50lbs he gained after transitioning from the athlete life. He uses these questions to develop a getting back into shape action plane:

  • When will I exercise?
  • Where will I exercise?
  • What are some obstacles I may have to overcome?
  • What will I do to overcome those obstacles?
  • How can I make working out more enjoyable?

Once you get clear on all of these questions, getting back in shape becomes easier. You’ll have a set plan, a playbook if you will, for getting back into your optimal performance. 

Getting Back In Shape After Being A Varsity Athlete

5. Look At Your Eating Habits

If you’re still eating like you workout three hours a day but really you’re sitting on your couch for an extra three hours a day, you’re going to see some big changes. Calories in and calories out is the most basic formula for getting back into shape, but you have to consider what calories going in are giving you the best fuel. 

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If you glazed over and ignored those nutrition lessons during your sports season, now’s the time to recall the information. Incorporating improved nutrition into your exercise routine makes getting back into shape a long term habit and not a short term goal. Ignore the fad-diets “keto,” “paleo,” and the other buzz word diets on the market and just do right by your body. That means incorporating more vegetables and cutting back on some of the processed carbs. One thing, carbs aren’t bad for you vegetables are carbs and serve as your body’s primary fuel source.

The Department of Health and Human Services offers tricks of getting more veggies on your plate such as putting spinach in your pasta or adding grilled peppers to your tacos. Not only will you add more flavor to your meals, but you’ll also add more fuel for your gains as you work on getting back in shape. 

Getting Back In Shape After Being A Varsity Athlete

6. Find A Way To Compete Again Without The Same Pressure

Athletes compete and they love to compete. So if only working against your PR or others in a workout class isn’t enough stimulation, you can make getting back in shape more of a competition. There are marathons across the country that take place year-round. Sign up for one because paying the money will be excellent motivation to complete the challenge. The training required for a marathon will kick you into getting back in shape while providing you with a solid workout regimen. It takes the pressure off you to build your own schedule and stroke that competitive ego. 

Find a rec league to join. Odds are, there’s one for your sport in your area. While this helps you get back in shape, it also reignites the joy for your sport — without the pressure to excel the way you had to in school. A quick internet search will make getting back in shape more fun than you thought possible. 

Getting Back In Shape After Being A Varsity Athlete

7. Give Yourself Patience 

Getting back in shape doesn’t happen overnight, even though getting out of shape feels like it did. Just like in sports, your progress won’t be linear and on a constant rise. Be prepared for days when you feel like quitting and days you feel like you can’t progress any further. Knowing those days will come in your getting back in shape journey will make them easier to face when they arrive. 

You’re able to push yourself and listen to your body during this process you weren’t given the luxury of during your time as an athlete. Be kind to your body and it will give you back so much more than you imagined. 

Getting Back In Shape After Being A Varsity Athlete

What was the hardest part of getting back in shape for you after your athletic career ended? Share with below in the comments and connect with others!

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