I like to scan the forums over on earlyretirement.org and sometimes I’ll even tally up up responses to a post to measure how people respond to certain questions. Recently someone provocatively asked “Are you still an athlete?” It drew a lot of comments so I went through them to see what other early retirees are doing athletically …
Running was the most popular activity by far. More than double the number of people said they were running compared with any other activity. Add in the folks that stopped running and now ‘walk’ or ‘hike’ and there are no other activities even close. (As you would expect, few people that walk or hike really consider themselves ‘athletes’).
Cycling, golf, and tennis are the other top activities. I like all of these sports, but for me, tennis is the most athletic workout. Tennis’ new court cousin, Pickleball, has become popular too. I haven’t played that yet, but it’s unusual nowadays to come across a tennis court without lines for both games.
Among the less popular sports that still got a few responses were softball, swimming, skiing, weightlifting, and basketball. I play league softball and many people my age (53) tell me that it is too hard on their bodies. That hasn’t been a problem for me so far. I enjoy downhill skiing too, but they say that can be rough on your knees (Nordic is probably better). I was surprised that swimming wasn’t higher on the list as I always see people swimming laps at the gym.
There are so many sports, many just had a mention or two. These included volleyball, lacrosse, sailing, rowing, soccer, badminton, racquetball, group fitness classes, yoga, and curling. That last one was me – we live in Minnesota and I’ve played in a curling league for the last 4 years with some good friends. 🙂
So, to answer the question “Are you still an athlete?” … my answer would be YES. I wasn’t a great athlete when I was a kid, but I played competitive sports up until high school and intramural after that. When my career and parenting took over, sports went away.
As I’ve said before, the FIRE lifestyle is a second childhood, so I guess it’s no surprise sports have made a return in my life. I now have 4-5 sports I participate in regularly throughout the year – usually 2-3x weekly. They are all athletics in the broad sense that they require skill, have some element of competition, and can get your heart rate up.
Increasingly, my biggest competition is to avoid injury. I’ve hurt my foot (tennis), strained my quadricep (softball), and twisted my back (golf) over the last few years and missed a few weeks of activity. I’ve been close to 100% for more than a year now, so I need to stay fit to stay strong.
A few people in the forum had good observations on sports and getting older. One quoted the golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez who quipped that “the older I get, the better I used to be.” While that may be true, I think the fun of still playing sports is recapturing those moments when you were athletically at your best. It’s the chance to lace up your cleats, grab your driver, lift your racquet, or put up a jump shot as well as you ever have – if only for one shining moment.
What athletic activities are you engaged in / want to play more of?
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