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The High School Athlete to Confused College Student Pipeline

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Washington chapter.

TW // weight, body image, mental health

A lot of people played sports before coming to college, some seriously and some not. I played basketball for eight years competitively before saying goodbye to the sport when I entered into my first year at the University of Washington. Those years included practice for multiple days of the week (sometimes every day), frequent games, weight lifting, and Lord knows how much conditioning there was. It sounds horrible, I know, but through all of that, I had a team surrounding me, doing the same work. We all succeeded and suffered together. We won and lost together.

Having a team made pushing myself significantly easier, but also made me realize that once I no longer had that support system, holding myself accountable on many levels was much more difficult. Suddenly, the court didn’t feel like home anymore. The weight room was less familiar and more frightening. Running didn’t include a ball in my hands, it included cramping and monotonous steps. My environment, when it came to physical fitness, no longer featured camaraderie.

My conflicted feelings surrounding being “in shape” without a team was easy to ignore during my first quarter at UW. I was busy making friends, finding a job, figuring out classes, and settling into a new life 1,165 miles away from my home. Getting to the gym was honestly the last thing on my mind, and that was ok, because I felt good with where I was at physically. By the end of the quarter I still hadn’t established a routine, but I was more comfortable going to the gym to hit the treadmill or play pickup basketball (friends in tow, never on my own).

Winter quarter felt promising. I began reffing basketball, so I was at the IMA most days of the week for work, making cardio come much more naturally. I also joined two intramural basketball teams, which restored my sense of camaraderie surrounding staying in shape. Next thing I knew, I always had people to be with in the gym. I didn’t have to be scared of the weight room or playing with random people. I felt amazing with how much time I spent running around and I was having fun! I didn’t even think about how I looked because I felt good. I was really hopeful for my personal fitness after winter quarter.

All of that changed when I stepped on a scale while home for spring break.

Was it my brightest moment? No. Has it drastically changed the way I feel about my body? Yes.

To be clear, this is where my mind is at right now. I’m not the happiest with how I look and feel. I’m questioning how I got to this point when I felt so great previously. And, above it all, I’m wishing I could go back to those days spent with my basketball teams where everything was done together. Everything was easier.

Now, I have to fight my own lack of self-discipline. I have to fight my own thoughts. Everyday is a battle; my brain waging war on my body. It’s an extremely damaging mental state to be in. It doesn’t even matter what my closest friends say to try and make me feel better, my dispirited mindset persists.

Yeah, I’ve been down in the dumps. And though I associate working out with a team, I have to change my own mindset. I’m responsible for the change I want to see in my own life. Though I’m sure that I’m not the only “retired” high school athlete feeling this way and I could find someone to accompany me on my personal wellness journey, getting to the gym and finding confidence is something I have to do for myself. Independence (in the gym) isn’t my strong suit, but I need to work on it, especially as I continue life as a young adult.

I’ve made a few lifestyle changes to pursue being in better health, physically and mentally. These are little shifts that have helped me, but everyone is different, and the same reminders may not work for each individual. First, I remind myself constantly how important balance is. I’m not going to kill myself by being in the gym 24/7. I’m not going to feel guilty when I’m not working out. My body isn’t a machine–it needs rest, fun, and some junk food every once in a while.

Secondly, I remember how good I feel leaving the gym in order to get myself to the gym in the first place! Majority of the time what prevents me from going to the gym is laziness, so instead of focusing on how much I don’t want to work out, I remember the feeling of accomplishment I experience afterwards! It’s kind of a “yay I did it!” moment.

Next, I keep in mind that I am my own worst critic. No one is looking at me in the same harsh way that I judge myself.

Lastly, and arguably most importantly for myself, I don’t step on the scale anymore. I need to be satisfied with the way I feel, not a number on some dumb little machine.

So, if you’re in the same boat as me–high school athlete turned confused college student–keep your head up. High school sports were challenging, and this transition is just another challenge to be conquered, a skill to be mastered, like a jelly layup per se (I still can’t do one of those, someone help me).

My lovely roommate gave me this advice: when you are nearing the end of your life, you aren’t going to sit there and think ‘Wow. I wish I had been skinnier.’ You’re going to remember all the fun you had.

Happy gym-ing, Huskies!

Abby Heinicke

Washington '27

Abby Heinicke is a freshman writer at the Her Campus at University of Washington chapter. She enjoys writing about fashion, thrifting, food, and sustainability. Outside of Her Campus, Abby is working as an Intramural Referee for the University of Washington. She also was the Editor-in-Chief for the online publication The OLu Muse. While writing for the Muse, she wrote about many topics, some of which included the environment, conservation, and high school stress. Abby also worked for Panera Bread as an associate. She is currently a freshman at the University of Washington majoring in Journalism and Public Interest. In her free time, Abby enjoys playing basketball, thrifting, trying out new coffee shops, and going to the beach when she is home in Orange, California. She loves rewatching 10 Things I Hate About You, and binging TV shows, Sex in the City as of late. She also has five cats at home - Peggy, Pepper, Natasha, Thor, and Bucky - all named after Marvel characters!