It's never easy for an athlete to realise that they're coming towards the end of their career as a sports person.

Perhaps the muscles start to ache a little more than they used to, the joints click a little louder and results aren't what they once were. It's time to consider what life after life as a professional sportsman involves and that can be an overwhelming feeling.

2012 Olympian Stuart Hayes has written a blog to help make that transition from athlete to 'something else' a little easier...

I know with a lot of professional athletes it’s never an easy transition going from competing to retiring or switching professions. I would say that’s because most professional athletes love to race and they love the adrenaline that comes with that.   

I was 39 years of age when I decided to make the switch from professional athlete to full-time triathlon coach. Speaking from personal experience, I found it quite easy because I was already transitioning from being a pacemaker for one of our professional athletes, Emma Pallant, and coaching some athletes part-time.

Image Credit: Stu Hayes ©

It seemed like the right time to retire. I had been in the sport since I was eight years old and I was asking my body to do too much in full-time training and getting injured as a result. (Check out Stu's blog on recovering from major injuries).

The body starts to breakdown as you get older as the intense training takes its toll and my injuries were holding me back, so I knew it was time for me to rest my body and put my focus into something else.

Even though it was an easy transition I still had some days I felt a little lost and I felt like something was missing but you learn to adapt.

I found I started to focus on the achievements of the athletes I coached, instead of my own individual achievements, which has been very fulfilling. It was a nice change to shift the focus on to worrying about others and not myself anymore 

As I got older I found the desire to win races was always still there, as was the drive to complete races, but I had to accept that I was not the athlete I once was.

This can be hard to accept but it taught me to race smarter by not leading the swim, sitting in on the bike and the run; things that I took for granted when I was younger, when I was going off the front and taking bigger risks to win races. 

These days I train for about three hours a day, coach clients, and work as a training partner to my wife and founder of Team Dillon Coaching, Michelle Dillon, as well as coaching professional athletes Emma Pallant and Sarah Lewis.

My training includes 3km swim sets, weight training for strength and overall health, steady runs, and long three hour bike rides with athletes that I'm coaching, but I always remember to avoid DEER...!

Image Credit: Stu Hayes ©

When I coach any of my athletes I always coach from experience and the mistakes I have made because that’s where the biggest lessons from my own career came from. Those learning curves helped me to be the successful athlete I was and helped me enjoy such a long career in the sport. 

I'm enjoying retirement from competition as I have a lot more time on my hands these days, which allows me to be more of a social butterfly and not so regimented with my routine.

I also have a passion for magic and entertaining others, which has given me a new focus and I love that it's mentally stimulating without putting any physical demands on my body.

I also find I don’t have to wrap myself up in cotton wool with my health like I did when I was an athlete because I found full-time training took a big toll on the immune system and I was more vulnerable to getting sick, so this is another big benefit. 

My advice to other professional athletes making the transition to retirement is to try to do it as a slow transition. Have something else that you're passionate about lined up for your next career move, otherwise you may feel lost which can lead to feelings of depression.

When you're not training so much you don’t get those same endorphin highs from all the physical activity your body is used to, so don’t completely stop doing exercise otherwise it will be a big shock to your body both physically and mentally.

Enjoy your new found freedom in retirement and see it as a new exciting chapter because I know that I have.