Become a Renaissance Athlete

Specializing in one sport will take you only so far. To really break through, you'll need to branch out.

Skier Julia Mancuso also surfs—take her lead and change things up. (Photo: Andreas Winter/Flickr)
outside 15 day reboot

Most great athletes are synonymous with their sport. You see Kelly Slater, you think surfing; Julia Mancuso, skiing. But here’s the thing: Even pros do other sports. Slater, for instance, swears by jiujitsu, CrossFit, and free diving to stay at the top of his game. And Mancuso tow-in surfs.

Why? “Variety keeps you challenged physically and mentally, which means faster total fitness gains,” says exercise physiologist Stacy Sims. Plus, if you’re always doing the same workouts, you run a higher risk overuse injuries, muscle imbalances, staleness, and boredom.

Vow to change it up. The goal is to capitalize on what you already enjoy and to work new muscles, build strength in new planes, and increase your agility. “What I don't recommend,” Sims says, “is taking an adrenaline junkie and suggesting yoga.”

How to Pick a New Sport

  • You’re an endurance runner: Add circuit work with high-intensity bursts, Sims says, something like CrossFit.
  • Road cyclist? You don’t have to do a 180 and become a basketball player. Mountain biking should do the trick. Off-road riding will build your technique and force you to develop a stronger all-around body.
  • Cross-country skier? Try winter pole trekking or snowshoeing—they’ll build your aerobic fitness and strength. Plus, you’ll feel faster when you put your skis back on.
Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: ScienceSurfingBikingRunningStrength and Power TrainingEndurance TrainingWellnessMental ConditioningAgility and Balance
Lead Photo: Andreas Winter/Flickr
More Health