Most often the sports we participate in are the ones we played at school and college, or with friends and family, so our choices are made at a young age. There are very good reasons for considering taking up a new sort as you get older, though. For one thing, some college sports like football are really a younger person’s game, and as your stamina reduces with age and you pick up injuries on the sports field, at some point you’ll need to consider switching to a less demanding activity. For another, getting involved in a new kind of sport could give you renewed enthusiasm for getting more exercise and keeping fit, which will be beneficial to your mental and physical health. Thirdly, it’s a great way to meet new people, get involved with a social group, and become part of a sporting community. There are various sports with varying intensities that you could choose from, so have a look at what’s available near you, and find out what your friends are doing too.
Ideas for sporting activities
- Cycling: You could go for mountain biking, and experience the thrill of riding across all different types of cross-country terrain, take up road racing and imagine you’re part of the peloton in the Tour de France; or you could go for circuit racing and see how fast you can get around a track. You’ll need to get a bicycle that’s suitable for the sport you wish to pursue, and the appropriate safety gear. The great thing about cycling in all its forms is that there are usually very well managed and attended clubs available that will both advise and encourage you, and organize fun and competitive events.
- Golf: You get a surprising amount of exercise walking around eighteen holes – especially if you have a tendency to go out of bounds! Golf requires a high level of skill to play well but can be a lot of fun even if you have a very high handicap. The handicap system is what makes it possible for new or less able golfers to compete with their more experienced club members because it levels the playing field and means even the least able player has a chance of winning. There are also many different kinds of competitions, both team and individual, and plenty of opportunities to play and compete.
- Horseback riding: You may not have thought of this as an option, but there are many benefits associated with learning to ride. It works muscles that tend not to be exercised in other sports, improves your balance and coordination, and there’s a particular thrill to riding a living animal at speed across the grass or along the sand. It can be quite addictive, especially if you find you start to bond with the horses, and the social side of riding is very well-developed too. There are many forms of equestrian sports to suit all abilities and interests, from the thrills of competing at cross country jumping to the restrained elegance of dressage, so you’ll have no problem indulging your competitive side.
Why the right equipment is key
Each activity will require some kind of specialist clothing and/or equipment, which for some sports could prove to be a considerable investment. Buying a set of golf clubs isn’t going to come cheap, but if you try to save money by playing with a half set, or using older clubs that lack the refinement of modern design and construction, you’ll struggle to match the performance of players who do have all the right kit. Likewise, being economical with safety equipment like helmets for cycling or riding could result in you suffering an injury which a better-quality hat could have prevented. There are very few cheap alternatives that can match the quality of the best makes, but if you want to be reserved with your spending, go for the lower end of the top brands rather than the cheapest alternatives. Comfort is also important. If you try sitting on a horse for a couple of hours in yoga pants, you’ll soon feel sore, and you won’t have the grip against the leather that keeps you secure in the saddle. Riding a racing bike without padded shorts or a seat cover will make your butt go numb, and you’ll end up with a very bruised behind. If you normally wear glasses, you might find it’s better making the switch to contact lenses. You’ll avoid the problem of steaming up and blurred vision in the rain, and you can get sport tint lenses that enhance your vision; this useful guide will tell you more about the options available.
Learning and training
You’ll get far more out of your sport if you take the time and trouble to learn as much as you can about it, and get expert advice and coaching. Being familiar with the rules of the game, the terminology used, and the theory behind mastering your sport will not only furnish you with the information you need to take part but will give you more confidence too. To perform well takes practice, and is best achieved by having lessons from someone who is not only skilled in the sport but is an effective teacher. Top sports people all have regular lessons or coaching sessions to hone their skills and improve their performance. Even if you only want to have fun with your sport, learning how to play better and improve your technique will make participation far more enjoyable, as well as being good for your brain. Make sure your instructor has the relevant experience and qualifications to help you, and remember you never stop learning and improving.
Taking up a new sport can be a challenge, especially in the early stages when you are learning the ropes. If you stick with it though, you’ll find there’s a support structure and social network of people who all want to help you do well and enjoy taking part. Plus of course the sense of achievement you’ll get, and the improvement in your health will boost your overall wellbeing, so don’t be afraid to try something different.