How a Career Ends: Nancy Hogshead-Makar

How A Career Ends: Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic Swimming Gold Medalist:

I used to miss about two swim practices a year. I made sure I did not get sick by eating healthy, by getting enough rest. In between workouts I did 300 sit-ups and 200 push-ups every single day, and I rested getting ready for the next practice. I had never had a job. My teammates would go body surfing. One time I went body surfing and it made me so sore—I'm already sort of pushing it right to the max—it made me so sore that I didn't swim well in practice for the next couple days, so I didn't do it anymore. If I drove the car for more than an hour, I would not swim as fast in practice. If I had more than a half a cup of coffee, I would swim fast for that practice but the next practice would suffer. Everything from when I did my laundry to what positions I sat in when I was reading, how I studied. Everything was related to doing a little bit better at that next practice. Everything.

6 days into the Olympics, two questions began surfacing in my mind.

1. Just how hard do these athletes train? 

and

2. What happens when they are past their prime, and can't compete anymore? What do they do what their lives then?

The answer to the first question is hinted at in the excerpt above. 

But the second question is harder to answer. I was thinking about this because I kept hearing rumors of Michael Phelps not planning on competing in 2016, and that this year will be his last Olympic. 

What's he going to do then? He's been training all his life, with a rigid lifestyle revolving all around these few days that pass by every four years; but after that, what then?