Recently I wrote a feature on how to learn a new sport for The Motherboard, a website serving readers of all the Meredith women’s magazines, which include More, Family Circle, Parents, and many others — many of which I write for as well.
It was super fun to report because I got to interview fabulous women who are deeply immersed in the sports they love, including kayak and stand-up paddle (SUP) guru Gina Bradley, owner of Paddle Diva, surfer extraordinaire Lexie Hallahan, who runs Northwest Women’s Surf Camps, and internationally known golf pro Cindy Reid.
And of course, as often happens when I write these stories, I over-reported and ended up with all sorts of great tips and info that landed on the cutting room floor, so to speak.
To get the full story on each sport, I highly recommend reading the story itself — the “s slide show” format makes it easy to quickly jump to the sport you’re interested in. But here, for the generalist, are some truly helpful suggestions from these great gals in the know.
1. Learn from a woman. Sorry guys, I know this is going to rattle some chains, but it’s the truth. Women do pretty much everything differently, and learning is one of them. Every single teacher I interviewed made the point that male teachers have trouble teaching women effectively, especially first-timers, because they have less understanding about women’s bodies, and what they can and can’t do easily. Also, if you have any kind of “irrational fear” such as a fear of dark water (mine) or a fear of heights (also mine), a guy teacher just isn’t going to “get it” as well and help you work through it.
2. Learn in a group. And, preferably, a group of women or a group that includes plenty of women. There are a couple of exceptions to this one; practicing your golf swing may well be better done one on one. But in general, learning in a group is the best way to conquer intimidation, overcome beginner jitters, and just plain make it all more fun. Plus, when you take a class you’re almost certain to meet other like-minded women who can then become your sports buddies when you pursue your sport of choice on your own.
3. Rent, don’t buy. For starters, you want to be on the best possible equipment; showing up to a class or lesson with an out of date bike or a surfboard not properly sized is going to immediately sabotage your experience. But you don’t want to pay for said equipment until you’re sure you like the sport in question. So start by renting; if you take a class, it’s likely equipment is provided, or rentals will be available on-site, often for a discounted rate. With a sport like rock climbing that may not be possible, but the teacher will recommend an equipment source and provide a list of what you need.
4. Don’t skimp on equipment. When you’re ready to buy, you’ve already developed a passion for your sport and sufficient commitment to pursuing it on your own. Honor that passion and commitment by getting the right stuff. With many sports, like mountain biking, SUP-ing, surfing and others, gear changes quickly and a bike or surfboard that’s five years old may already be out of date. Craigslist is great, but if you go that route, be prepared to look long and hard, and check sizing and quality of materials in person before committing to buy. The consequences of using poor equipment are much more serious than most people realize; riding a bike that’s even a small amount too small can wreck your knees, for example, which I found out from personal experience.
But most of all, make it fun! Whether you’re signing up for a one-day class or heading off on a week-long vacation adventure, this could be the start of something really big in your life. It’s worth getting excited about! Treat it as a commitment, not an indulgence. (A weakness of us women when it comes to fitness.) Find buddies who love your sport as much as you do, and set up a regular schedule of outings so you’re not always pulling out calendars. Then keep at it! Remember, it has absolutely nothing to do with how “good” you are at your sport of choice; it’s all about what you’re getting out of it.