Why You Should Try A New Sport In Your 30s

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.

When you’re des­per­ate­ly snow­plow­ing down the bun­ny slopes while 8‑year-olds whiz by, there’s not much room for ego.

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.