My Fitness Journey after Playing Competitive Sports My Entire Life

As a child, I was very active, playing sports and exercising almost every day. My older brother and I were balls of energy we loved being outside and running around the neighborhood. We would spend hours outside playing basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, street hockey, and riding our bicycles until the sun went down and my mom would call us in. I remember one day during the summer, Sean, my brother came home from football practice, and I was so jealous because I wanted to play. So, he put me in his heavy and sweaty helmet and pads showing me how to play. I was so into it! We also played baseball a lot of the time because it was Sean’s favorite sport. We actually have a hilarious home video of Sean pitching the baseball to me. I had his helmet on and bat in hand and completely whiffed the ball every time because I had no hand-eye coordination! When we weren’t playing sports, we were watching it. Every morning before school, I would sit on the couch with my brother eating breakfast and watching ESPN. I absolutely hated it, I wanted to watch cartoons or the Disney channel, but looking back now, those mornings hold some of the best memories I have with my brother. Also, by watching ESPN, I learned the rules of almost every sport.

Finally, at five years old, my parents signed me up to play soccer and basketball at the YMCA. I didn’t know where I was running or what I was doing half of the time, but it always filled me with joy. Honestly, at that age, I think I just stuck around for the orange slices and juice after the games. Somewhere down the line, the snacks stopped, but my passion and love for sports grew, so I continued to play competitively until I graduated high school. It’s crazy to think that I spent 13 years of my life playing sports! I look back now and think about all of the good, the bad, and the ugly memories. Driving to away games, team chants, and running around the hotels at tournaments on the weekends were the good parts. The injuries, the sweat, the exhaustion from running sprints were the bad and ugly parts. I am so grateful for all the experiences I have gained from playing sports. It has taught me so much about myself. I am a better person because of my teammates and coaches who pushed me. It sounds silly to say, but as I reflect on my journey, I see how sports were always there for me, even when I felt like no one else was. It was my escape. There were numerous times where I would grab my basketball and shoot hoops outside in my driveway to clear my head. Sometimes I would even take my tennis racket and ball out to hit against the garage. My parents hated the loud banging noise it made, but it always made me feel better. Playing sports got me through so many tough times in life and taught me so many life lessons. I could write a whole book about the hundreds of life lessons I learned over the years. For example, don't quit when it seems hard, instead push through it. 

And now here I am, a junior in college who hasn’t played a competitive sport for three years. When I graduated high school, I was sad to let go of sports, but I never really let go of the passion, it’s still there. I have transferred that passion to fitness, health, and improving myself. Freshman year of college, I felt so lost and out of place without sports keeping me busy. I knew I wanted to start exercising again, but I was terrified to go to the gym alone. How would I motivate myself to keep running? The only reason I ever ran in soccer was that everyone else was running, and I had to keep up. After a few weeks into the semester, I finally worked up the courage to go to the Stonehill gym. Then, it clicked, and I continued to go day after day, making it part of my routine. I realized that I didn’t need other people to motivate and push me, that I could do it by myself. But then, after finding my groove again and exercising consistently for almost two years, I stopped, but not by choice.

All my hard work came to a screeching halt when gyms closed in March of 2020 due to the pandemic. Like most people, I struggled with adapting to the new life after COVID hit, and I still struggle. It was hard because I had created a routine and built confidence in going to the gym. But I did what everyone else did; I adapted. I struggled with finding the motivation to create my own workouts and staying consistent. I went from working out from five to six days a week to only one or two days a week. My friends and I would go on what we called “quarantine” walks when the weather allowed for it. Honestly, it was a nice change of scenery from the gym. These walks and talking to my friends kept me sane during crazy times. Eventually, gyms began to reopen, but I was hesitant to return because of COVID. As the weather got colder, it became harder to exercise outside. Also, for the first time ever, I felt physically weak, and I was not too fond of that feeling.

So, after a ten-month hiatus from the gym, I returned in January of this year. I’m not going to lie it was difficult at first to find the motivation and work up the endurance again, but I am so glad I did it! I don’t know how else to describe the feeling other than I feel the most like myself and in my element while exercising. Since then, I have been going consistently, and I am so proud of myself. I’ve also gained a gym buddy shoutout to Kyle for going with me and making sure I don’t get crushed by the weights. With spring approaching and the weather warming up, my next goal is to start running outside more. I went on a run/walk a week ago, which consisted of more walking than running because I couldn’t breathe, but it felt so good to be outside in nature! I love blasting my music and running to the beat, it really helps me.

I can’t believe I thought my life was over when I graduated high school and sports ended. I was completely wrong! Yes, sports gave me a purpose but going to the gym and exercising also gives me a purpose in life. Everyone’s fitness journey looks different. The most important part of my fitness journey has been improving my physical and mental wellbeing. It doesn’t matter how you look in the mirror or what the number on the scale reads, what matters is how you feel. If walking brings you joy, then do it! If squatting 100 pounds makes you feel empowered, then do it! If going to the gym reminds you of who you are, then go to the gym! My best piece of advice would be to focus on finding happiness in the process, not the destination. 

Person running Photo by Emma Simpson from Unsplash