Feeding the Athlete's Soul
By Colette Harris
Confession: I’m an avid Pinterest user. I use it for everything from gathering ideas for home design to discovering new recipes, but finding inspirational quotes is one of my favorite ways to use the site.
I’ve saved many words of wisdom, but this phrase in particualr stands out to me:
I wish I could find the person who first said this, give them a big hug, and tell them “thank you,” because it’s one of the most honest and mindful quotes about sports that I’ve heard.
Athletes can draw on their earliest memories of falling in love with their sport when training is stressful or the pressures of competition are overwhelming, but I find good memories can help just as much, if not more, when athletes retire from sport and are figuring out what their next steps in life should be.
When I first retired from competitive skating I thought I needed to find a career or hobbies that replaced the excitement of actually competing and performing in shows. I thought it was the actual act of competing – the rush, the nerves, and the thrill – that I longed for. While I still miss performing, when I really stopped and thought about what drew me to skating in the first place, competition definitely wasn’t it.
I fell in love with music first, interpreting music through movement second. Then, I fell in love with a healthy lifestyle and craved learning about nutrition, Pilates, yoga, sports medicine, psychology, and alternative healthcare practices. I also enjoyed the physical and mental challenge of training and creating new routines every season. I loved the friends and coaches I met while training, especially those I met at summer skating camps. Eventually I fell in love with travel, as I headed overseas often to compete. And finally, at the very bottom of the list, came a love of the competition or performance itself.
In reality, I didn’t need to find a replacement for the adrenaline rush associated with competition. Instead, I needed to find ways to incorporate the other parts of sport that I loved so much into my daily life. While competition isn’t an option anymore, keeping what I loved about sports alive most definitely is.
I still live a healthy lifestyle, even if staying in tip-top shape isn’t my job anymore. I’m always exploring new ways to workout (hiking and rock climbing are new favorites) and I cook nutritious foods on a regular basis. I still read up on sports medicine and psychology topics and one of the things I enjoy most is going to a class or training with a group of friends with similar interests. Those activities help me connect to the training part of skating I loved so much.
I’ve swapped the challenge of creating new programs every season for the challenge of writing new stories every week. It’s not physically demanding, but it sure is mentally stimulating.
I travel often and my husband and I make it a priority to experience new places. Traveling internationally is amazing, but I’ve learned that weekend trips to small lakeside towns or quick escapes to the desert are just as great.
When I don’t have music, healthy living, or travel in my life, I find myself missing skating and wondering what would have happened if I'd stayed competitive longer. Now I realize that when I feel this way it’s not competition that I miss at all, but all the other elements that feed my athlete’s soul. I think athletes forget that sports aren’t all about the competition itself. Sports are about everything that goes into preparing for an event. Pay attention to what you like about the preparation — the training, friendships, whatever it is — because those are things you will always want to keep in your life.
To get clear on what feeds your athlete’s soul, ask yourself the following:
1.) What are my earliest happy sports memories and why? Get specific here – what were you doing, who was there, why do these memories make you happy?
2.) What were my favorite parts of being an athlete outside of competing? Was it training, traveling, making friends, being active all day, etc? List as many points as possible.
3.) How am I incorporating those elements into my life today?
4.) How can I better incorporate them into my life?
5.) What is one step I can take this week to add one aspect of sports that I loved as a kid into my life today?