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There’s something about watching the Olympics that can inspire even the most laid-back couch potato to try a new sport. Aside from the Team USA spirit and heartwarming backstories, many of these games and activities just look like a lot of fun. Lucky for those of us who are not Professional athletes, not all Olympic sports require years of training and specialized equipment to play. Here are six you can learn at any age.
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1. Alpine skiing
Whether you’re a true beginner or know the basics of pizza fries, you can take individual or group ski lessons to improve your skills. Private lessons may be better suited for those who are motivated to learn as quickly as possible or have specific physical problems. On the other hand, group classes offer the social aspect of everyone being together and are a more budget-friendly choice. And while it’s not necessary, those who already lead active lifestyles and have decent strength, balance, and coordination may find it easier to take up the sport.
As a newcomer, there’s no point investing in skis and boots—slope rentals will do—but you still need a cold-weather staple that insulates without weighing you down.
For a jacket that will keep you warm, try the REI Co-Op Powderbound Insulated Jacket. Reviewers say they can move easily in this jacket and that it keeps them warm with even minimal layers underneath. For snow pants that will keep your legs dry and warm from rough powder, consider the Columbia Bugaboo Snow Pants. Satisfied customers say these pants keep them warm all day and they love the adjustable waistband that allows for different layers. A base layer is essential for that purpose: Smartwool Merino 250 tops and bottoms are a great option for insulation and sweat-wicking, which reviewers describe as soft, comfortable and warm on cold-weather downhill skis and hikes.
You might also want some extras like hand warmers, glove liners, or a balaclava (that’s a neck warmer that wraps around your head) to keep every inch of your body cozy.
Snowboarding is another Nordic sport that might catch your eye as an adult. While many ski instructors introduce beginners to skiing, it is also possible to learn to snowboard without a ski school background. Although a basic level of athleticism is useful when taking up a new sport, it’s especially important for snowboarding. When skiing, you stand on two skis and keep your gaze and body forward as you meander down the slopes. When snowboarding, both feet are strapped onto a board, and while you’re facing forward while you’re riding, your body is more inclined toward the slope as you shift your weight back and forth between your “toe” and “heel” sides when you turn. All of this means that having good balance, strength and general coordination helps a lot when learning to snowboard.
Snowboarding requires the same warm winter gear as skiing – a jacket, snow pants, base layer, balaclava and possible extras like hand warmers. However, since you’re more likely to suffer a fall or two while learning to snowboard, you might also want to consider additional safety gear like wrist guards or knee pads.
Amazon’s Flauto wrist guards have a 4.5 star rating with over 2,000 reviews. Reviewers say they’re lightweight, comfortable to wear, and have saved them from a few possible injuries while on the go. For a set of knee pads that offer padding and comfort, try the Bodyprox knee pads. These pads have a 4.4 star rating with more than 26,000 reviews highlighting that they are comfortable to wear for hours and protect all day from the discomfort of kneeling on hard surfaces like an icy mountain.
3. Figure skating
Figure skating is a beautiful sport and if you’ve ever skated around a local ice rink you’ve already got the gist. As with skiing and snowboarding, you can take skating lessons, but you can also try to learn basic skating techniques from YouTube videos and practice them yourself.
If you’re dying to get started then you’ll need a good pair of skates as an upgrade to the skates that are available for hire. The American Athletic Tricot Lined Ice Skates are a good option available on Amazon. Reviewers say these skates are comfortable and easy to break in – perfect for beginners. You should also wear warm, flexible clothing that you can wear on the rink. The Nike Pro Warm Tights are a well-reviewed option, with reviewers saying they keep you warm and stay in place during long workouts.
4. Cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing is an excellent cardio workout for all ages as it is easy on the joints. It also uses a large percentage of your muscles, which helps you increase strength in all areas of the body, and is great for building better balance, which can be especially beneficial for older people.
You don’t have to be an Olympian to see these benefits – you’ll see improvements in your health at your own pace. Of course, you can take a lesson to learn more about the sport or go with a friend who knows what he’s doing. If you live in a cold enough climate, a simple Google search can lead you to cross-country ski trails near you that you can adventure on alone or with a buddy.
Once you know it’s for you, you want your own set of skis and boots, which you can find online at retailers like REI or at a local ski shop. You also need warm layers and might want a compact pack for other essentials like snacks, extra hand warmers, or a water bottle that won’t freeze for easy access on the trails.
5. Ice Hockey
For those who prefer team sports to individual activities, try hockey. If you’ve never played before, the first step is to master the basics of skating and learn the rules of the sport. But with practice, you’ll get the hang of it, and with a few friends on your team, you’ll have a lot of fun doing it. You can find local adult hockey leagues in your area via an internet search, but if you come up empty-handed, you can just go to your local rink and see what’s on offer.
In addition to warm gear (feeling a theme already?), you’ll need a pair of hockey skates. These differ from figure skates in that they are less flexible and more protective, yet lighter, and their blades are more curved at the front and rear for easier turning and overall greater mobility.
A good option for beginners are the Botas Attack Ice Hockey Skates in men’s sizes 4 through 12, which reviewers say are comfortable and durable. Women’s sized hockey skates might be harder to come by, but the American Athletic Shoe women’s soft boot hockey skates in women’s sizes 6 through 10 are a well-reviewed pair, and happy customers say they’re supportive and comfortable.
You’ll also want to get your own hockey stick and pucks. The STX Ice Hockey Surgeon RX3.1 hockey stick is a good option and reviewers say it’s durable and well balanced. Reviewers also love Faswin hockey pucks, which have earned a 4.7-star rating and more than 1,400 reviews for their durability and longevity.
You may not know many people who play curling in real life, but it’s a sport that people enjoy watching and learning about every four years during the Olympics. In it, two teams of four aim to use special brooms to push a stone over an ice surface into a ring. Each team plays eight stones and scores points for each stone that’s closer to the ring compared to the opponent’s stones – a bit like a frosty shuffleboard game. It’s a fun team sport that’s relatively easy to learn and suitable for all ages.
If you’ve never played before you might want to take a curling lesson to get the basics down, but it’s easy enough to learn from friends who already know. Many curling clubs provide you with brooms, stones and shoes that you can use or rent. So you only need a few warm and comfortable layers.
However, if you want BYOB (um, that’s “broom”), buying one online is easier than you think. The Goldline Fiberlite Air X Curling Broom is a good option available on Amazon that reviewers say is lightweight and easy to use. You may also want to get your own curling shoes, which have a “slider” on one shoe that allows players to throw themselves low when throwing the stone. Available in women’s sizes 6-10 and men’s sizes 7-14, the Goldline G50 Breeze shoes are a lightweight, comfortable option that reviewers say hold up well during play.
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