Winded After a Flight of Stairs? Me Too. Rediscovering Fitness for Former High School Athletes
Were you an athlete in high school? Do you now find yourself winded after climbing one flight of stairs? Welcome to the club! We have ice packs and Advil.
A Little Background
I was a varsity tennis player in high school, training year round and playing competitively on my school’s team. When I started college, my life was immediately cluttered with classes and assignments. My fitness routine, you ask? Well, that flew out the window.
I graduated high school in 2011 and recently realized that it’s been about six years since I’ve played competitive sports. At the beginning of this summer, I made the decision to start exercising again. NO EXCUSES.
Self care was my main focus; not weight-loss or mile time. I knew about the positive effects fitness can have on productivity, energy, and stress levels. Plus, I missed sports. It was that simple. I truly loved training for tennis and hoped to rediscover the joy of a good workout.
Falling In Love Again
Here’s a quick rundown of my “remember when I was an athlete?” experience over the past three months. It’s been a smattering of fun, exhaustion, frustration, joy, and accomplishment.
1. Just Go On a Run
Don’t overthink it. You don’t need fancy athletic clothes or an expensive gym membership. Just pick a route near your house, throw on some sneakers, and RUN. At the beginning, I kept getting caught up in the logistics.
“How many miles am I going to run today?”
“Do I need to buy new workout clothes?”
“If I join a gym and use the elliptical three times a week, is it worth the membership fee?”
I was missing the point of the process. I used to love running at practice and that is what I needed to focus on – falling in love with fitness again. I decided my one splurge would be updated running shoes. Beyond that, an old t-shirt and any good running path would do the trick.
2. Accept Your Current Level
The biggest hurdle, for me, was realizing that I wasn’t going to have the same stamina I did at age sixteen. It was frustrating at first– really frustrating. But, I came to the conclusion that the only way to build up stamina and strength was to keep at it. So that’s exactly what I did.
Honestly, my first few weeks were a mixture of jogging and walking for about fifteen minutes. The important thing was to get out there and push forward. I didn’t set a daily routine or a mile goal. I just chose a long running path and thought “I’ll go as far as I can and, when it’s too much, I’ll just turn around”. NO BIG DEAL. Remember, this is about self care and the joy of fitness, not marathon training.
3. Buy Some Ice Packs
They say “time heals everything”, right? Well, not old sports injuries. At least not for me. I’d bet that I’m in the majority when I say high school athletics left me with far more injuries than a teenager should have. I’ve literally had doctors tell me my knees creak like a 65 year-old’s. Comforting…
Listen to your body but don’t let it discourage you. When I started this process, a lot of my high school injuries flared up. Take care of your body but get creative with ways to work around your injuries so you can continue on your self care fitness journey.
Note: I am by no means a health professional so ppllleeeaassseee consult a doctor if old injuries come back. Personally, I did about two months of physical therapy surrounding old tennis injuries before deciding to start this process. Dealing with injuries is one thing. But pushing through without the proper guidance could lead to long-term damage (yikes!).
4. Get Through Month One
I found that, after about three weeks of semi-consistent workouts, I was starting to love running again. I was feeling more energized, healthy, and care-free. My stress level declined; I started craving healthier foods; and my stamina was noticeably higher. My body was kicking back into gear!!
Now, three months later, these 30-45 minutes have become a highlight of my day. I’m starting to enjoy it so much that I’m working out about four to five times a week. I’m still not on a strict routine, but I find myself itching to run in the morning if I have a busy day ahead of me. It’s an amazingly refreshing start to the day (and that’s coming from someone who is definitely not a morning person).
Enjoying the Joy
Now that I’ve been running for a few months, I’ve decided to supplement with a little tennis. I’m only at the start of that rediscovery and the process has already been the same. There is frustration with skill level and old injuries. But it’s also a lot of fun. And, who knew muscle-memory was such a legitimate thing???
So get out there and go for it! Rediscover your athletic side!! Remember, it’s your personal journey back to the good old days when running a few miles wasn’t a ridiculously intimidating task. YOU CAN DO IT!! I mean, you did it once before, didn’t you? See? NO EXCUSES.