Why You Should Try a New Sport in Your 30s

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From the CLYMB


I had mixed feel­ings about get­ting schooled by a 10-year-old. The other women in their 30s at the bike park were stand­ing on the side­lines, watch­ing their kids roll in and out of the pump track or boost off dirt jumps, where I waited for my turn, feel­ing slightly self-conscious. But when I clipped in my white and pur­ple bike shoes and dropped in, all embar­rass­ment dis­ap­peared, replaced by the pure ela­tion of speed, grav­ity, and lack thereof.

new-sport-in-your-30s-4I’ve been rid­ing bikes my whole life, but only bought a full-suspension moun­tain bike shortly after my 30th birth­day. And, man, am I glad I did. No sort of “I’m too old to try that” excuse could out­weigh the mul­ti­tude of ben­e­fits I’ve reaped from step­ping out in a new sport. I’m not just talk­ing about the days of sin­gle­track bliss I’ve enjoyed—I’m talk­ing about life lessons I would have com­pletely missed out on, had I just stuck with what was familiar.

If you’re like me, you’re prob­a­bly pretty happy to finally shed your aim­less, know-it-all 20s and feel like you’re finally com­ing into your own. Try­ing a new sport can help keep you from that unflat­ter­ing trait that’s so easy to pick up when you’ve been into the same sport year after year: cock­i­ness. When you’re des­per­ately snow­plow­ing down the bunny slopes while 8-year-olds whiz by, there’s not much room for ego. And I’ve noticed that peo­ple with smaller egos are often much more attrac­tive, in gen­eral. If that’s some­thing you’re inter­ested in.

Learn­ing to smile and embrace the learn­ing process of a new sport is a skill that also car­ries over into rela­tion­ships and work life. Did your boss just drop an assign­ment on you that’s totally out­side your expe­ri­ence range? No prob­lem. Get­ting pumped on the chal­lenge of per­fect­ing new skills is fresh on your mind. As a begin­ning climber, I looked up at my first offwidth and thought: There’s no way in hell I can get up that. But I did. I can’t think of a more clear metaphor for life. Con­tin­u­ing to try new sports through­out life helps remind you that you’re capa­ble of far more than you think, if you approach with con­fi­dence and patience.

It’s also one of the best ways to make new friends. When you move to a new town—or your best friend starts hang­ing out more with her new boyfriend and less with you—getting into a new sport give you an excuse to join Meetup groups or sign up for a class. Chang­ing careers at 30 left me feel­ing slightly adrift socially. But moun­tain bik­ers are quick to meet up for post-ride beers, and there’s noth­ing like shared alpine starts and belay ledges to seal bonds of friend­ship. Once I reached out, it felt like there was no end to the num­ber of riding—and beer—buddies out there.

new-sport-in-your-30s-2Get­ting into a new sport in your 30s also opens up your eyes to see the world from new angles. Before I turned 31, most of my expe­ri­ences with rivers and streams had been hop­ping over them to a climb­ing route or ped­al­ing through them, try­ing not to lose bal­ance and bite it. Giv­ing fly fish­ing a try for the first time was a rev­e­la­tion. Lush, com­pli­cated ecosys­tems flour­ished right under­neath the river’s sur­face and along its banks—a world of life that I’d never seen before, and now have a huge appre­ci­a­tion for.  Step­ping into the water as a new­bie has changed the way I think about the envi­ron­ment, even affect­ing my con­sumer choices.

A new sport helps fuel the stoke for fit­ness, too. As a new moun­tain biker, I would long des­per­ately all day for 5 p.m., when I could dash out of the office to hit the dirt. Slim­ming down, tight­en­ing my core and sculpt­ing my legs and arms came nat­u­rally when I spent all my spare time huff­ing up hills and then try­ing to keep it together on tech­ni­cal descents. When your sport is new and fun to you, stay­ing fit becomes a byprod­uct of your fun—and it doesn’t get much bet­ter than that.

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