By striving to be an athlete, you can simplify your thinking about how to stay healthy. You'll also have more fun with your health, have a purpose with your training, and will connect with other healthy people. My challenge for you is to pick a sport and start practicing it this week. This list of olympic sports is a good place to look for inspiration. You don’t need another person or even specialized equipment. You can do drills for even the most collaborative and specialized sport. As an example, I’ll show you how to practice for basketball, skiing, equestrian, and even wrestling.
First, what makes sports so special?
In my opinion, a sport requires at least moderate physical activity and the opportunity to compete against other people to determine a winner. This differentiates it from chess, tag, and even weightlifting. Some people hate the idea of competition as they feel it can distract from enjoying the sport and often hurts people’s feelings. However, I believe that the idea of competition is critical. When you compete you get a better sense of who you are and where you stand. On another level, you’re actually collaborating with your opponent to make the sport better by pushing each other’s limits. Furthermore, you don’t have to compete against other people, you can compete against yourself. The only essential part of competition is truly pushing yourself at some point. The spur of competition pushes you to heights unachievable by yourself. There’s a reason why you rarely see world records being broken in practice. Competition pushes you to new heights and that growth is where much of the fun of health comes from.
I recently did health coaching with a woman in her 30s. She had been overweight for her entire life and was never athletic. This idea of becoming an athlete was something that inspired her. She never considered that something like Karate, Kayaking, or Tennis was an activity that she could train for or do more than casually. She also saw it as an opportunity to introduce her son to a healthy lifestyle, have fun doing so, and join a community of other people who value their health. That’s what I’m hoping you’ll see as well. You can define yourself how you want and defining yourself with a sport you enjoy is a simple, fun way to stay healthy.
How to Practice Any Sport By Yourself
So my challenge is for you to pick a sport and practice it this week. But most sports require massive set up and investment. How could you practice for a sport that requires specialized equipment, knowledge, or other people at home by yourself? Well you can practice the underlying abilities that would help you with your training. For example, you could work on Basketball even if you don’t own a ball with basic jump training. Alternatively, if you have a basketball but no hoop you could practice dribbling, agility drills and shooting a marked spot on the wall. What about something specialized like skiing? Skiing requires extreme leg endurance, balance, and strength. So you could work on extended wall sits, yoga balance poses, and pistol squats. You also could spend time mentally rehearsing how to ski. It’s well documented that mental practice is effective at improving skill performance. Moving on, Equestrian feels like a sport that would be impossible for you to practice without a horse. However, it too can be done at home. Equestrian requires you to train and work with a horse. The underlying skill is something that you can practice with any animal. Although it’s not a complete substitute, training your dog to be able to jump over a fence without fear would help you train a horse later. Even reading about how to train animals would be a useful practice. I also would say that solid core and leg strength is required to ride a horse with ease, so squats, balance drills, and side planks would be a great way to prepare your body. What about wrestling? It is essentially as dependent on another person as you can get. Again the technique component requires time on the mat, but it can be mentally rehearsed. Wrestling also deals with upper body strength, flexibility, and body composition. So you can work on your shoulder strength with something like a handstand pushup, your middle splits so you can easily get a wide stance, and cutting or bulking up to your goal bodyweight.
What I hope that you see is that every sport can be practiced by yourself with substitute training. It’s not ideal but it’s possible, better than nothing, and you can start today.
Set A SMART Goal For Yourself
So select a sport, select an underlying skill to improve, and if you enjoy your sport you should set a SMART goal for yourself. A specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goal. This will give you the best sense of progress and growth. As an example, my current goal for gymnastics is to improve my pulling strength. So I’ve set a specific goal of a 1-arm chin up. I’ll measure by seeing how many reps I can achieve, or failing that how close to the bar I can get. I’ve already mastered more basic pulling variations such as archer pull ups so this is an achievable step for myself. Pulling strength is extremely relevant for gymnastics and I’ll be setting a time limit on my training for the next month. I hope that you’ll set SMART goal for your sport as well. Of course, don’t worry too much if you don’t reach your goal. In the end, it’s really about having fun getting healthy.
Finally, if this is the first time that you’ve ever been athletic, explore a lot. Finding the perfect fit for you is more important than sticking with something. A good rule of thumb, “would you regret never trying this sport?” If the answer is yes, then you should try it at least once before you settle into a training routine for the next few months or years. If you’re worried about switching too much then stick with a sport until you have a bad experience with it. You can always go back later. The only rule is that you always have to have a sport that you’re training for.
So to summarize:
- Select a sport to try
- Train for your sport any way that you can this week
- If you enjoy it set a SMART goal for yourself
- If you don’t continue until you find a sport you enjoy
If you only focus on this you’ll take care of most of your health concerns. You’ll have a goal with every one of your workouts, you’ll have a reason to stick to your diet, you’ll have a schedule to help you get to bed on time, and most importantly you’ll join a community of other healthy people.
Thanks for getting better,