From Elite Athlete to Everyday “Citizen” – Navigating the transition to fitness for fun

by | Nov 15, 2019 | Fitness

As an international rugby player, I’ve spent the past ten years navigating elite athletics. It’s not only a lifestyle – it’s part of my identity. During my transition towards “normal life” (does that even exist for anyone?), I had to relearn a thing or two about working out. Was it okay to eat a cheat meal multiple times a week?! What workout was I supposed to do? And what do people do with their evenings and weekends? Here’s what I’ve learned:

You don’t have to train a specific way

As an athlete, you’re set on a strict schedule – weights at 6 AM, practice in the afternoon, games at night or on the weekend. Your gym sessions tend to look like a major lift or two, some abs and arm work, and agility drills. The rest of it is time on the field, court, or ice.

It’s easy to continue on that path once you leave sports behind. After all, we’re creatures of habit, and we know it works. But there are other ways to get results.

For example, I picked up Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. Taking time away from rugby allowed me to go on more hikes, I played pick-up basketball, and I even almost died a few times on an indoor cycling ride. 

I still love Olympic lifting and powerlifting, so I kept that up. If you enjoy running sprints (I  personally do not), then go for it! After sport, you’re free to explore what makes you happy.

Get a coach

During exploration, however, it’s smart to grab a coach. Once you free yourself from the rigid ropes of elite athletics, the bliss of not having to try is a slippery slope. That’s fair! You’ve dragged yourself to the field at 6 AM for years and played through pain. You’re allowed a break, but getting a coach helps maintain a balance.

To get results, you still have to set goals and have accountability. In the non-athlete world, a coach may not be the whistle-wielding authority figure you’re used to. It can be a personal trainer, a group fitness instructor, or even another former athlete you happen to meet in a group class.

Find your tribe

Sharing hard work and growth with the people around you defined our careers as athletes. We don’t have to give that up. Plenty of gyms, such as CrossFit, F45, and SoulCycle place community at the center of their ethos. Yoga studios adopt a mind, body, and soul approach that brings people together, and local run clubs and rec leagues also help build community around shared activities. Whatever you enjoy, I guarantee that others do too.


Kimber is a NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist as well as a professional athlete competing with the USA women’s national rugby team. As an entrepreneur, former Harvard coach, and decorated professional rugby player, she loves sharing her knowledge through coaching and writing


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