The Life of an Ex-Athlete

The Life of an Ex-Athlete

It recently occurred to me that 2017 would be the first year that I won’t be considered a competitive athlete.

I’m ok with that, but only because I’ve found a new passion that gives me the same feeling that soccer used to.

For some, it might not be as easy. It is hard to believe, but your days as a competitive athlete have come and gone.

What Now?

So… what’s next?

The competitive sporting days are over. Your body is aware, but you can’t seem to mentally wrap your head around it.

“I know. Finally.” – Lower Back, Knees, and Shoulders.

“Not yet. There is still a chance.” – Mind

Of course you can do adult leagues, and other less competitive forms of your sport, but it’s just not the same….

Our whole lives have revolved around sports and competition – literally raised on competition. If it wasn’t practice and games, it was defending myself against my older brothers, or trying to level up my Pokémon faster than my friends.

Constantly being tired and sore was normal for us.

We invest so much of ourselves into these things that it is hard to let it go when it finally comes to an end.

What now?


Easier said than done, I know. I empathize with you.

The sport is apart of you; it’s figuratively speaking, who you are as a person.

Our investments into these sports shaped us into the individuals we are today. We have been molded from our involvement in athletics, and because of that, we should be thankful.

Here’s the thing.

It’s over. It’s time to move on.

Hold closely to the memories, the lessons, and identity that the sport helped you develop.


You are more than a high school homerun.

You are more than a college goal.

You are more than a touchdown.

You are more than a school record mile PR.

You are more than a game winning 3-pointer.

 You are more than those things.

You should be proud, and extremely appreciative for the experiences and memories… but dwelling on things you did in your “hay day” will only limit your potential of progression in life.

Why not allow the dedication, commitment, and passion you had for your sport follow you into your career? Become aggressively obsessed with success at your job, just as you were in your sport.

You didn’t hit those homeruns, score all those points, or make all those tackles on accident. You worked your butt off and earned those things.

It is time to focus on the present and future – what you are still capable of doing.

If your future entails being a coach for the sport you played, then that is awesome, but if you simply can’t move forward with your life because you are constantly reminiscing on “the good ole days”… then, shame on you. You are more than that.

Speaking from personal experience, playing a sport for a college program gives you an identity. You aren’t just your name. You are your name, and your sport.

It’s difficult to let “the dream” go, but holding onto it that closely will cloud your judgment and hold you back in future endeavors.

In the influential words of Elsa – Let It Go.

From Athlete to Bodybuilder

In most cases, the only [extra] exercise you do as athlete is sport specific.

If you go to the gym during your time as an athlete, you probably do things that you learned from your Strength & Conditioning Coach – because, well:

  1. It provides benefit in your sport.
  2. That’s all you know how to do (generally speaking).

What happens after your time as an athlete is done, when you no longer have the Strength Coach guidance? Do you continue to do the same exercises?

I guess you could…

It’s time to make the transition. “From athlete to bodybuilder”

“Uhh, no thanks.”

Ok, let me explain.

By bodybuilding, I don’t mean the vein infested, creatine fueled, quarter of a shirt-wearing, galloon of water carrying people.

I simply mean a more conscious style of exercise, which obviously involves lifting weights.

Training for a sport and competitive athletics is great, but not necessary if you are no longer training for a sport or for competitive athletics… make sense?

Some people reading this might say, “Why would they train to be a bodybuilder? Why not just train to be “functional”?”

First of all, what the fudge is “functional” training anyway???

You think I am going to lose all of my functionality from doing bicep curls and DB Rows instead of jumper-skip-squat-hold-thrusters? I can guarantee you, I wont, and neither will you.

Obviously, these big muscle-bound bodybuilders have limited “functionality”, but that’s because [most] of them never had any in the first place!

Second of all, I don’t actually mean train to be a bodybuilder. Just keep reading, please.

Anyway, I’ll give you a few reasons why you should be training like a “bodybuilder” post-athletic career (similar to post-depression for some of you):

  1. Very generally speaking, a bodybuilding style of training is considered by performing sets of 8-12 reps. Performing 8-12 reps on exercises is thought of as the perfect number for that hyper-trophy thing to occur. (Hypertrophy = enlargement of tissues due to increase in size of cells. Aka increased muscle mass.)
    • Increased muscle mass = Increase in resting metabolism
    • Increase in resting metabolism = Increase in your body’s ability to burn calories at rest
    • Increase in your body’s ability to burn calories at rest = weight loss.


  1. Bodybuilding style training is practically rehab in itself. It is actually a very safe form of exercise.
    • It is great for keeping joints lubricated and primed.
    • Excellent way to create more stabilization around the joints. For example, if you’ve previously torn your ACL and it still feels weak and unconditioned, easing your way into isolation of the lower body muscles is a sure way to create more stabilization and “insurance” if you will, around that knee.


  1. Obviously, bodybuilding training will improve how your body looks.
    • Improving how you look will ultimately improve self-satisfaction, and in turn, improve your own personal self-image.
    • Look better, feel better, be better


Regardless of how, you have to keep moving.

You’ve beaten your body down with vigorous competition your whole life. Now, show it some appreciation by taking care of it even after your sport is over.

Just because you’ve finished your years of organized athletics, doesn’t mean you should be finished with exercise. It’s time to find a new purpose for working out – feeling healthy might be a good place to start.

You may never get to play in a high school or college game again, but what happens 15 years from now when your son or daughter wants to play a game of 1on1 basketball or kick the soccer ball around?

Will you be able to? Or will you have to watch from the side because exercise stopped being important to you the second you stopped competing? Will you be overweight with lower back pain, knee pain, hip pain?

But hey, at least you have a ton of stories from the good ole days, right?

“Yeah, son. You should’ve seen me back in the day.” Don’t be that parent.

I will be the parent that blocks the snot out of my child’s shot, followed with a shameless “Get some!” and chest bump.

Find a new purpose for exercise. Whatever it may be, get up, and MOVE.

Understand your Current WHY

For ex-athletes, like myself, it is important to understand your current why.

If I asked you why you were currently exercising, or even wanting to start exercising again, what would you say?

I’m assuming 95% would probably say to look better and feel better. Aka – higher self-satisfaction (did I mention that already?)

I’d say around 5% of you would say, “I’m preparing for my tryout with a 9th division semi-pro team”, and with that, I would like to refer you to the movie Frozen.

Understanding your WHY is very important. We are no longer training and competing for a spot on the field or court, and it is time for you to realize that!

You are older, stiffer, uglier, heavier, and less active than you once were (did I say uglier?)

All jokes aside, I care and genuinely want to help you.

I care because I can so easily relate, and I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in “what was”.

Expecting your body to perform the way it did in high school or college, is silly, and dangerous. You can, and will, get injured if you continue to do the things you once did, especially without the guidance you once had.

So… what’s your WHY? 


Ultimately, we will always identify as athletes.

Those memories will always resonate with us. That goal, walk-off homerun, 35-point game – whatever it may be, you did that – and you should be proud, but not satisfied.

  1. MOVE ON – Said like a true Disney princess – Let It Go.
  2. FROM ATHLETE TO BODYBUILDER – It’s safe, effective, and self-satisfying, so why not?
  3. JUST MOVE – don’t you want to be able block your child’s shot?
  4. UNDERSTAND YOUR WHY – You aren’t fighting for a starting position anymore, its time for your workouts to validate that.

Sports have provided us with so much, and we should forever be grateful.

Appreciate your athletic career for what it was, and move on.

From one ex-athlete to another,

Thank you for reading.

– Patrick Burns





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