Life in the permanent off-season and other musings from a former athlete


me and my shadow snowshoeing

Me and my shadow out in the snow…





Patterns long embedded follow wherever I go.  Whatever I do.  Somehow I thought after quitting sport life would be a little easier.  At least in ways.  But no, it seems, these patterns simply repeat.  Patterns of punishment that go on inside my head.  Thoughts of unrepeatable negativity scream out loud when I sit with myself too long.  And now, these shouts of abuse are beginning to follow me into time spent with others.


For some reason I thought these verbal cues were a result of trying to be better at something.  That something was sport.  Sport that consumed me for over two decades and is now gone.  Now it’s just me.  No pressure, no expectations, no need to be fast, good, strong or to even improve.  Yet I can’t let go of this idea that I always need to be more than I am.  And it is eating me alive.


It’s like what my neighbor said the other day, she being a former athlete as well, ‘it’s the permanent off-season’.  Yes, that’s exactly what it is.  The time of the year where three or four weeks allowed freedom and recovery from months of physical and emotional output.  I’d be easy on myself for about a week, maybe ten days.  Ultimately the guilt would creep in.  Words inside my head asking why I was tired and why not out on the bike, trail or ice.  Completely irrational words that prevented any kind of fun, let alone recovery.


And now life after sport is like a permanent off-season.  There is no training plan to begin from scratch on and allow me to focus on.  No daily goals that mean anything other than some personal satisfaction if I allow.  Getting outside to be active means an experience that remains just that.  Try as I might to enjoy these days and outings, I can no longer ignore these words in my head that beat like a tribal drum.  These words that are at war with the seed of peace and satisfaction that is trying to grow inside of me.  Trying to sprout so that I can feel at ease in life.


There is no racing to work towards and as difficult as this is, I don’t want it ever again.  That part of me is utterly exhausted and there’s no turning back.  Knowing I can’t go back to that part of me does not make it any easier.  All I want is to settle down and enjoy life as it comes to me.  The one constant is me and the person I cannot avoid is myself.

I suppose the only way to deal with the voices screaming inside is to do it like I did everything else.  To face it head on and work to make it better, however long it takes.  To work to improve myself in every way and then present these improvements to others.


As an athlete I rarely gave myself a break.  Perhaps this is why I was so good.  Rarely a moment of sitting back and enjoying the ride.  As much as I liked what I did, I don’t want to live my life this way.


It’s with these thoughts that I step not only into this new year, I step into each and every day of my life that is left.  Each day wake up there is a decision to be made as to how it’s lived.


In some ways life as a former athlete is like that of an addict.  The comparison is quite normal to make of life as it was before with big goals, big dreams and big focus.  In retrospect it seems easier but in reality it was torture.  Just like the thought of a drink, a hit or a bet must seem like it would sooth the void.  This comparison leads to melancholy because life will never be the same.


The goals I have now are small and most likely invisible to others.  Goals of changing the words inside my head to nicer sentiments.  Goals of simply enjoying what I do no matter how small the deed.  Even more than enjoyment, letting myself feel some sort of satisfaction and accomplishment with these small things.  Not simply moving forward like a freight train though all the beautiful moments, forgetting to stop and feel the wonder of it all.


That’s all I hope for and all I can think of doing to improve.  That’s life in the off-season.  I’m going to learn to enjoy it for the first time in my life.

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