My first Christmas since…. retiring from swimming
Lauren Boyle FORMER OLYMPIC SWIMMER
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.