“I was in such good shape” or “If I got hurt, someone was always there to help me” or “I have no mojo to work out now that I’m not on a team.”
These are just some of the quotes we hear while rehabbing our athletes. Many were highly competitive college athletes who loved the comraderie, training regimen and injury support system that their schools provided for them. After the “Pomp and Circumstance” played at their graduation, those same iron body, disciplined athlete-scholars found themselves working long hours with little time or impetus to stay physically fit. After years of doing physical therapy and sports performance training with professional athletes who actually get a paycheck for being in great shape 24/7, we realized that the advice we give these clients is similar to what we give ex-college athletes. Here are some of our ideas to keep one’s “head in the game” even when campus days are over:
Pick-up teams grow like weeds in most urban and suburban communities. Local schools, YMCAs, neighborhood associations, Youth Centers, even churches, are great forums for connecting with like-minded people who take their sports fairly seriously. Basketball, soccer, volleyball, ice hockey, tennis and softball are just a few of the sports that have master teams, which vary in their competitive spirit. Diehard play-to-win post-grads can definitely find soul mates wanting to stay in tip-top shape – and maybe score a league championship, too! Sports centers like Chelsea Piers in New York City offer masters many opportunities to continue their winning streak from college until they’re 100 years old! The online site MeetUp.com is another venue for finding people who like similar sports and who play at similar skill levels. While it’s hard to simulate the college rehab/injury support system on those masters’ teams, training facilities like Fusion’s, both in Tribeca and at Chelsea Piers NYC, serve that purpose for athletes of all abilities.
Perhaps you were a college runner or swimmer who’s finding that team feeling a little harder to recreate in the “real world.” Sleuthing out one or two other people who you jibe with both athletically and personality-wise can enhance performance and your mood! It can be great fun to have another person push you forward to reach your goals just as helping another do the same can be rewarding. Also, signing up for local 5Ks or charity runs/walks/swims can act as beacons in the getting-in-shape night. They offer a goal for performance that college athletes often miss once they leave their university locker room. Running programs such as the NYRR club or Full Throttle Endurance Triathlete Club at Chelsea Piers provide competitive athletes that awesome feeling of team camaraderie as well as providing a platform for competition with local race information.
We’ve had ex-rowers become triathletes and baseball players become addicted to golf. In other words, don’t assume that you’re only “good” at one or two sports. Trust us, if you were a college athlete, your baseline threshold for discipline and pain are very high compared with the average gym rat. If you were a football player in college, chances are, it may be difficult to rustle up a team for a little pick-up on weekends in the fall. Maybe boxing or power lifting/strength training might be interesting to you now that you’re off-campus and in the work-world. Finding an activity that suits your lifestyle and fuels your athletic engine might come in the wildest places: trapeze flying or sailing or paddle tennis. Stay open to new ideas and when a friend invites you to swim around the island of Manhattan, you might surprise yourself by saying, “I’ve never done that before, but sure!”
College athletes are courageous and are in it to win it! According to Fast Company magazine, they often make better employees than non-athletes.* If you’re a recent graduate, or even a not so recent one, and you’re still trolling around for a sport or a workout schedule that sticks, continue the search. Being active is who you are. Keep moving and you’ll find a sport or activity that surprises and delights you. Just like in college!