my post-ncaa running experience

I’ve spent the past few weeks in quarantine going crazy, but also thinking of ways to really amplify this platform. I know I seriously haven’t been that consistent but I’m hoping with all this free time laying in bed I can stockpile some posts so if we ever get out of this (which we will, we have to, right?) I can keep rolling. 

Obviously, there are no wild experiences for me to document. No new lessons learned or landmarks seen or anything like that. Pretty much everything exciting I had in my foreseeable life got cancelled. I had a job interview in New York on the 17th that I was pumped for – that got postponed to an unknown date. As I’m writing this, my brother should have been with me in D.C. for a Rangers and Capitals hockey game that I bought the tickets for in October. The current situation is actually in Connecticut laying in bed, un-showered because a pipe burst and we can’t use the water in our house (talk about a quarantine, huh). Cherry blossom season was just beginning in D.C., and the annual festival got cancelled. The half marathon I had coming up in May is 95 percent likely to be cancelled, as the latest email said essentially to be prepared for a cancellation. I was starting to make friends and find a clique in D.C., and I was really enjoying my schedule and my routines and my life. I felt like things were coming together – I was starting to get job interviews and school was going well and I was enjoying where I was at.

And then, just like everyone else in the country (and the world, really), life stopped. I’m not the only one who had exciting things cancelled, and I’m not the only one that was affected by this. And as time has gone on and the positivity slowly drops off, the worries creep in. How much longer will I be unemployed? How will I pay my rent next month? So much fell out of my lap, out of my control and into this abyss that I’m just stuck dealing with.

Cross Country, Junior Year, Denton, TX

As an NCAA athlete, I was always in control. I was in control of how much I worked out and when I did it, what I did, how much effort I gave, what I ate and when I ate. Sure, coach had practice and workouts for us, but I was choosing to go every day and stay part of the team and push myself. It was a routine that I was accustomed to and comfortable with. I ate the same meals every day and the same times. I was very regulated and on a schedule.

The hardest adjustment, by far, graduating college is no longer being an NCAA athlete. I don’t have a team of people around me, I don’t have anything I’m shooting for or competing for, I have no excuse to leave something early because I have a workout I need to get ready for. I can’t prioritize running and training above the real world, and that’s really difficult when that’s all I’ve been used to for years. My experience post-NCAA running has been hard, plain and simple.

Outdoor Track, Junior Year, Waco, TX

I used to workout two to three times a day, partly to train and get better and partly to relieve anxiety. Now, I’m lucky if I get one workout in, and that’s a difficult adjustment as well. My body is in shock – it used to burn so many calories and now I’m just stagnant? ESPECIALLY now being stuck in the same house all day every day, it’s really confused as to what’s happening. Through my own experiences and talking with friends and teammates, I’ve noticed that athletes are very Type-A and love being in control, but it is hard to let go of that. I still haven’t fully let go, and still find myself at 11:45 p.m. doing my core and glute exercises and physical therapy stability work because it’s what I’m used to.

On a more relatable level though, coronavirus took away even more control, from not just me but everyone. We can all relate – whether we’re one year out of college sports or five or ten or we’ve never competed at the NCAA level, we’ve all lost some level of control. I’ve been trying to find peace with all this change and this lifestyle that I’m being forced to say goodbye to. I’d be lying if I said I’m fully at peace, but I’m getting there. I still struggle to take a day off or skip a run or skip a lift, but every now and then I remind myself I’m in a new chapter, and it’s okay. This new chapter will bring among itself a new routine that I’ll fall in love with, or maybe I’ll fall in love with not having a routine, and that’s okay too.

Outdoor Track, Senior Year, Waco, TX

At the end of the day, whether we’re a former athlete or a former student or a former employee, the only thing we can control is our attitude. And that’s a big lesson to take, athlete or not. Sometimes, the only thing you really and truly have in your life to control is your attitude.

Outdoor Track, Senior Year, Waco, TX

It was a big adjustment to make, but now I am realizing no longer a slave to the miles and the paces and I am not fighting to be leaner or stronger or faster or more powerful. If anything, I feel that I am more in tune with my body and I am healthier than ever. When my body feels like running far, I run far. When it feels like running fast, I run fast. When it feels like lifting heavy, I lift heavy. And when it feels like just doing bodyweight work, I just do bodyweight work.

Cross Country, Junior Year, Denton, TX

I’m more well-rounded and more at peace with running, because I do it when I want and I do it to make me happy. I’m in shape for so much more than just busting out a tempo and a race each week, I’m in shape to bike and swim and lift and walk and run and hike and dance and do pilates. And I’m happy with that. I’m happy being able to go out and run ten miles if that’s what I decide, and I’m happy being able to keep up in a SoulCycle class if that’s what I decide. All these realizations came from controlling my attitude about the situation I was in.

Outdoor Track, Senior Year, Waco, TX

I was so used to having a team and having something to shoot for, I had to find that motivation within myself and find things to shoot for in my professional life. For some people, their sport carries on with them after college, but for many people it doesn’t. I turned sport from a stressor and a task that had to be completed each day at a certain level into a therapeutic release. Now that I am quarantined, I use running as my hour of therapy and sanity. Some days I feel like I’m walking and some days I’m sprinting and thats okay. And some days, I’m upset that I didn’t go as fast as I felt like I was going, and that’s okay too. Do I feel like a lazy and out-of-shape potato some days? Do some days suck? Does this quarantine suck? Yes, yes and absolutely yes. But I can’t control how my body reacts to a workout every day, I can’t control the outside factors in my life and I certainly cannot control this coronavirus quarantine. Ultimately, I can control my attitude, and some days its not much, but its something, and my Type-A self loves being in control of something.

Stay safe and wash your hands everyone! And go for a run, endorphins help your mental and physical health too!

xx,

meg

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