Every college athlete has had that experience. It’s your last game. Ever. You’re feeling a little nostalgic. Snapshots of past conquests and failures are seeping into your consciousness, and you sit there trying to block them out and focus on the job at hand. You still have to win. You can’t go out on a losing note. To end an entire body of work on a failure? No way.

So you play your heart out. You compete. You scratch. You claw. You do everything you can to stay alive. If this is going to be your last game, then at least you’ll go out with dignity.

You may have won, you may have lost, but either way it’s over. In an instant, what once consumed your entire life is now just a memory. A flashback. A “You remember when…?” But that’s not what you’re thinking about. You’re thinking about the good times and all that your sport has given you. It may now be your past, but it’s provided for you the necessary tools and skills to tackle the future with competitiveness and heart. It brought you relationships and forever friends. Brothers and sisters. Mentors and role models. It gave you everything.

So that night when you lay your head down, proud of what you’ve accomplished. You’ve done what few others can say they’ve done. You’ve completed something - something that was so arduous and painstakingly difficult that most have either quit or simply avoided the attempt. You go to bed with a heart at peace, ready for the next chapter that awaits you in life. You fall asleep with a bittersweet smile and prepare for the next step.

And then you wake up.

And you’re now just a student. And then you’re an employee. And a friend. And maybe a husband or a wife. And then a father or a mother. And you have bills.

So. Many. Bills.

But it’s okay, because your sport has prepared you for the rigorous life of hard work and determination.

But your job needs you to come in earlier and stay a little later.

And your car just broke down so there goes the overtime money you were banking on.

And Valentine’s Day is coming up, so you better be planning something nice.

And your parents miss you so you have to buy a plane ticket.

And you're out of groceries, but who has the time for all that? Takeout sounds good. Again. And how are you going to apologize for that fight you and your partner had? And your friend is getting married, which is great! But who’s going to plan the party? And you better not forget your other friend’s wedding coming up in a couple weeks. And your lease is up, but rent in the area has mysteriously risen in the past year. And it’s time for groceries again, and you have to pay for that flat tire, and your friend needs to talk to you for three hours, and your mom needs you to call more, and your boss needs you to talk less, and you shouldn’t have gotten that speeding ticket, and you’re out of groceries again, and…

You finally take a breath for what feels like the first time in a century. It’s a heavy breath, one that takes effort, almost as if the simple act of living has gotten to be a task in itself.

And as you’re brushing your teeth before bed, you look in the mirror.

Is… is that you? The fresh face that you remember seeing looks tired. Bags rest deep under your eyes, dragging your cheeks down dangerously low. Lines have sunk their way deep into parts of your skin that used to be fresh and smooth. And your stomach - your gut, to put it more accurately - has doubled. Tripled even.

When did this happen? Yesterday? The day before? Three years ago?

The answer is yes. It was all of them. It didn’t sneak up on you and pounce at the moment when you were least expecting. It grew over you, like a parasite, gradually over the days, weeks, and hours you spent taking care of everybody but yourself.


Once you leave the sports world - or the sports world leaves you - your priorities shift, in large part out of necessity. Bills need to be paid. The people you love need to be taken care of. The time you once spent training your body for your sport is redistributed to other places that involve more… stationary activities. It feels like your day flies by without you being able to come up for air.

So where do we find the time to stay healthy?

Mornings can be an option. Not only do adults have their highest energy levels in the A.M., but the longer a person’s day goes on, the higher the chance that some sort of commitment or variable is going to unexpectedly pop up. We’ve all had a time where we committed to going to the gym later in the day only to have seven things present themselves to us out of nowhere. We get stuck completing all of these tasks only to look at the clock and realize that it’s time for bed.

Another way to find the time is to look at how you’re spending your free time. Yes, you have some. The question is if you are using it wisely. Today’s society is filled with time-wasting distractions for a modern day consumer to get sucked into. Every website has an advertisement for a product. Every TV show has aspirations of achieving the all-powerful title of “binge-worthy.” Parties come with the expectation of distorting time and memory. Our world is built to distract. How can I escape my reality for a short period of time before I have to rejoin the real world? There is the only problem. The escape from reality will always end. Then what are you left with?

Making Motivation Intrinsic

There are two types of athletes. Those who get trained by coaches, and those who train themselves. The first kind represents the majority. Few people in their late teens get to college knowing the ins and outs of how their body functions and responds to lifting and positive eating habits. Afterall, there aren’t a whole lot of high school programs meant to educate an athlete on the importance of maintaining healthy lifestyle habits. They would rather give a man a fish rather than teach him how to fish. In high school and college, you see a lot of athletes who follow the workouts written on the board but don’t know why and how it helps them function properly.

The other athlete, however, has methodically been following a training regimen for years. It’s practically ingrained in their soul. They have done the necessary research to develop and monitor a program that works for them. This athlete leaves college with not only their health, but the knowledge and discipline to maintain it.

Many of us leave college only to find out that there is no trainer in life yelling at us, telling us what to lift and how far to run. The freedom from exhaustion can be nice. Without knowing any better, the instant gratification of relaxation easily triumphs over the delayed gratification of a hearty work ethic.

If we want to find our health again, we can’t rely on the outside voices to get us up and motivate us. We need to find our own voice - the one inside of us that understands that a little pain now leads to a greater reward later on. The voice that keeps things in perspective needs to be the only one we hear when it’s 6:00 A.M. and we want to press the snooze button.

Finding the motivation from within is what turns a college athlete into a lifelong athlete.

Stop Biting Off More Than you can Chew

No, a three-hour workout won’t get your six pack back.

It’s easy to want to get it all back in one day. Your first free Saturday you’ve had since realizing how far you’ve let yourself go is spent in the gym, building your arms, chest, back, legs, abs, and every tiny muscle you can think of. But then Sunday hits, and you can’t move. So you take the day off.

Then you take Monday off, because you need one more day.

And you have to go into work early Tuesday morning. Then you’re too tired on Wednesday from having to get up early the day before.

And you’re right back where you started.

You let yourself go. Okay. It is what it is. Now it’s time to work. Now that you’re starting from scratch, there is one word that takes priority over all others:


No workout works if it’s not something that can be done for a long period of time. Go for a walk for 10 minutes every morning. Jog on a treadmill for 20 minutes before work. Something is better than nothing, especially if you can choose to do that something everyday. Next thing you know, that 10-minute daily walk you have been able to replicate five days a week has given you something invaluable: progress. Now take that newly found spark and turn it into something bigger.

Finding the Significance

You’re not the first person to not be in the shape they desperately want to be. Life can kick your butt sometimes, and it’s okay. What matters is how you respond. When life challenges us, we can let new responsibilities detract from being the best version of ourselves. Acknowledging that daily physical activity not only keeps us fit, but improves our energy levels, brain functionality, and overall quality of life is essential, and no 9-5 job can take away our understanding of that. If life is truly about living for others and being good to one another, then maximizing your own self only serves to maximize the output we’re able to give to the world.

So go on a walk. Lift some weights. Buy some healthier groceries.

Just take the first step.

Afterall, you’ve already done it.