My first Christ­mas since…. re­tir­ing from swim­ming

Lau­ren Boyle FOR­MER OLYMPIC SWIM­MER

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I’m ex­cited to feel I can en­joy it this year – eat dessert, have a glass of wine

This time last year I was liv­ing and train­ing in Aus­tralia. In Jan­uary I moved back to New Zealand to train with the NZ High Per­for­mance team, but an in­jury I car­ried in 2016 even­tu­ally led to my de­ci­sion to re­tire from swim­ming. Midyear I had to have hip surgery, and re­hab proved to be too much.

You con­cen­trate on swim­ming all your life, then sud­denly you have to learn about other things. Over the past few months I’ve been adapt­ing to a life­style of full­time work in in­sti­tu­tional bank­ing. It’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence learn­ing new skills and be­gin­ning a new ca­reer. It’s a dif­fer­ent feel­ing not be­ing fo­cused on the ca­pa­bil­ity of my body ev­ery sin­gle day. But hav­ing di­rec­tion and fo­cus is fa­mil­iar to me, so I feel the same when I’m work­ing to­wards goals – it’s just that the goals now are in busi­ness, not sport.

I have more of a so­cial life now and put more em­pha­sis on do­ing things that I find fun. As a swim­mer, I of­ten felt I had to save my en­ergy for the next train­ing ses­sion and I avoided do­ing things that could be detri­men­tal to my train­ing. Now I like to find time to try new things. I’ve done a bit of car­pen­try and just en­rolled in a pot­tery class.

I still swim about three times a week. On the week­ends I swim with fel­low re­tired swim­mers – we don’t take it too se­ri­ously, stop and chat dur­ing sets, don’t time our­selves, and if we feel like stop­ping early to go and grab a cof­fee, we do. I’m re­ally en­joy­ing ex­er­cis­ing for fun and in so­cial set­tings now. Be­gin­ning a work­out with the goal of hav­ing fun and learn­ing new things is re­fresh­ing. I’ve also started prac­tis­ing Bikram yoga reg­u­larly and I find the classes chal­leng­ing.

Christ­mas for me is usu­ally spent in Auck­land with ex­tended fam­ily and in­volves a busy day of go­ing to dif­fer­ent fam­ily gath­er­ings. I’m ex­cited to re­ally feel like I can en­joy it this year – eat dessert, have a glass of wine and take the next day off with­out guilt. De­cem­ber used to be an im­por­tant train­ing pe­riod for me, so on Christ­mas Day I’d fit in a work­out and be ex­hausted by the time the day was over.

My mother usu­ally cooks at our gath­er­ing at her house, and on my father’s side it’s usu­ally a team ef­fort led by my aun­tie. I of­ten con­trib­ute a green veg­etable dish, but this year it might be some­thing more wicked!

In the past, Box­ing Day was a hard-out day of train­ing. It will feel strange, but quite good to take a hol­i­day like most peo­ple do. Be­ing on the same page as ‘nor­mal’ peo­ple is a feel­ing I like. Tak­ing Labour Week­end off this year, for ex­am­ple – that was en­joy­able! In the past I never did that – I swam on pub­lic hol­i­days.

This year I’ll be grate­ful for time for my­self, and with my fam­ily and friends. I’ll be more fo­cused on en­joy­ing the Kiwi sum­mer and the qual­ity time and mem­o­ries that come with it. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to go­ing to the beach; I have a cou­ple of ocean swims planned. And I’ll spend some time in the gar­den. Our fam­ily from the South Is­land and Aus­tralia will visit; it’ll be fan­tas­tic to have time with them. Spend­ing time with fam­ily is what makes Christ­mas spe­cial. Get­ting to­gether in a big group doesn’t hap­pen too of­ten. It’s ground­ing to come to­gether, catch up, and share a laugh and Nana’s Christ­mas pud­ding.

A tran­si­tion out of pro­fes­sional sport isn’t easy, but I’m start­ing some­thing new – and I’m grate­ful for where I’m at.

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