Life transitions occur in every area of life, but one of the areas that is front and center in the public eye is the life transition that occurs for a professional athlete. Athletics is a performance field and professionals are usually slightly more coordinated than the general population. It’s a tough transition when the athletic body doesn’t do what it used to do. Most of us working in other areas don’t aspire to push our body in ways and to levels that professional athletes do.
We could have entitled this article From Full-Court Basketball to Pickleball in Five Years. This is not to discount the game of Pickleball. In fact, Pickleball is very popular and great fun! But even though the game can be intense, there is a difference in playing that sport than playing full court basketball. Gravity takes over a body with the accumulation of years and there is a shift of weight to areas that not only make clothes fit differently but makes movement more difficult. This results in a slow-down for many.
Whether or not an athlete, we will cover three areas here that will hopefully help you with your life transitions. Similar to the last stage of labor for a new mother, the transition stage is the most painful. But it’s also the most rewarding with the result of bringing a new life out to the world. We will cover three areas to help with life transitions: mindsets, workarounds and consistency.
There’s a certain amount of fear that occurs with the thought of getting hurt for an athlete as they are used to pushing the body, hard. This fear tends to multiply with age as balance and stability become more challenging. As this happens there are choices to be made.
Either we can quit, give up and not do any of the normal activities or we can adjust our workouts and activity to be at a level more appropriate for our situation. There are situations that will be more challenging than others and having the foresight to plan for those times helps us assess not only our physical, but mental preparation.
On a recent very challenging hike down the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Greg, my husband who is a former pro athlete, and I realized this was not a smart hike for us at this point in our lives. This realization came during and after the fact. No hand rail, steep uneven rocks that served as steps and sharp declines were not user-friendly, especially for Greg with his size fourteen feet. However, after this experience we both adjusted our workouts to be more prepared in the future for unexpected situations as this. It also gave us insight in what questions to ask about future hikes and events. Assessing the situation, then creating workarounds will be helpful for us in the future.
Just like a pitcher in a baseball game has to change a pitch for a particular batter or lineup strategy, there are mental workarounds needed for unexpected situations. Many of these workarounds rely on the application of previous training. For coming down the Cape mountain trail, if you could call it a trail, the workaround included keeping our momentum going with steady steps. The steady momentum was a safer choice than stopping to calculate each move which could result in losing balance and ultimately, a fall.
Life is full of workarounds. Some days you feel like you’re firing on all cylinders with fastballs and others, all you’re throwing are dead balls. I can relate this athletic principle to a full two-act concert I gave fighting a cold. I had a band playing with me, but I was the solo act, singing and playing (piano) on most every song.
Since the very high notes of the musical theatre pieces, or money notes as we call them, held their breath and focus challenges, I changed strategy. There are alternate notes you can hit that are within the key structure and those are the choices I made. That decision, along with a good thermos of hot water, resulted in a successful concert. Most audience members had no clue I had struggled at all. Much of my ability to adapt relied on the consistency of my training as I not only knew the music but had developed my ear through the years to make split-second decisions.
Consistency becomes more and more important as our bodies age. This applies to exercise, eating, finances and even keeping mentally sharp. For me, it still requires scheduling a regular time for music sight reading and reviewing classical music repertoire. I also spend time reviewing sections of content I speak about.
For any athlete, whether or not at the professional level, consistency is vital in training. And not only for athletes. Strength training, stretching and a certain amount of cardio and movement is imperative for physical and emotional health especially as we age. Athletes know how to push their bodies, but when those bodies don’t respond in the normal way, a consistent workaround will aid in adjusting activity and expectations.
There are so many great takeaways we can learn from athletes. The book Mind Gym is a good resource for both the athlete and others to read. The principles are universal and timeless. Life transitions will happen. It’s how you approach them that makes all the difference in successfully reaching the other side of the transition.
Assessing the situation, then creating workarounds will be helpful for us in the future, no matter what field.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
If you are interested in growing and learning, check out our online courses here: Online Learning