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.