The cooler breezes and shorter days signaled to me that the end of our magnificent Autumn was fast approaching. I mourned the thought of having to store away my bike, golf clubs and outdoor sneakers, and other constant warm weather companions. I pondered how I would endure the long dismal winter ahead.
My desire for participating in outdoor winter activities had dwindled over the years, despite once being an avid skier and skater. I knew, now that I was entering my senior years, that I needed to discover new active hobbies to help keep me fit and to fill my idle time.
My friend Diane suggested that we sign up with our spouses for curling. Having never played before, I knew truly little about the sport. I was slightly hesitant to commit because I perceived curling as just sweeping on ice and I was not fond of sweeping or spending time in the cold.
My husband thought it would be good for us to try something new, and so we agreed to join our friends and attend the orientation session. We all quickly learned that there was more to the sport than just sweeping and that it was much more strategic, challenging, and interactive than I had originally anticipated.
During our first few games, everyone in our beginner team could barely throw the stones and, after the games, I could feel aches in my hip and legs. Like most sports, the more you play, the more skilled and adaptive you become.
The next month my bodily aches slowly diminished. I began looking forward to our recurring Friday night outing where our team played a different team every week. The standing curling ritual is that the winning team buy the losing team a drink after the game.
Our consistent game losses rewarded us with many complimentary drinks but, more importantly, with an abundance of invigorating conversation and laughs. We met new friendly faces each week, some of whom have become our newfound friends.
I probably enjoy the social aspect of curling as much as the physical activity and feel thankful to have discovered a new hobby that blends the two so brilliantly. My hope is that our team gets to buy at least one first round of drinks before the season ends.
I continued to seek a new daytime indoor physical pursuit, in addition to discovering curling, and was intrigued by pickleball but didn’t know any details about this very popular game. In my younger years, I had played many racquet sports, including ping pong, tennis, and squash. In fact, playing squash was one of my favourite hobbies in my earlier adulthood, and yet I could not remember the last time that I had actually held a squash racquet.
I decided to attend a pickleball beginner orientation session on my own that was held at our local community recreation centre. I was nervous and excited. I did not know if any of my youthful eye and hand coordination skills would resume or whether I would be a complete embarrassment on the court.
Ken, a very patient and seasoned instructor, explained the many rules to our new group and had us all play a practice game. I was very rusty, missed obvious balls, kept forgetting the numerous rules, but I came home and reported to my husband that I was certain that pickleball would be an activity that I would eventually play regularly.
After the introductory session, I could barely walk for several days. I pushed myself and attended my first drop-in session at the same recreation centre with a few acquaintances who were also new to the sport and also eager to continue to learn.
We quickly realized that most of the attendees were incredibly competitive and had been playing the game for several years. A few were not shy in showing us how appalled they were when having to partner with newbies like us.
Despite my inexperience, I still gave it my all that day, and even returned back the following week, when my ego and aching muscles were telling me that I should remain home. The more times I played, the more rules I retained, and I continued to progress in my fitness abilities. I began to enjoy the game the same way that I had once loved playing squash.
I also discovered that there were more regular attendees at the centre who were more helpful than not and who understood that the only way beginners improve is by playing consistently. The drop-in format allowed flexibility and the ability to play regularly and pickleball is a portable sport that can be played in many different locations. I’ve now played on cruise ships and other vacation spots and plan to pack my racquet whenever we travel.
I have come to understand that in my senior years, my body and mind definitely take much longer to learn and adjust to new pursuits. However, when I do take that chance to try something new and persevere, when it would be more comfortable to just give up, my mind, body and spirit all benefit and I finish new hobbies feeling fitter and happier. I am grateful that I can now add curling and pickleball to my growing list of new passions.
What new sports or physical activities have you tried recently? Are you persistent with them? What does it take you to learn a new activity at your age? Is it the same as when you were younger or do you need more time to get familiar with the rules of play?
After retiring 4 years ago, I returned to playing volleyball and was so happy to discover a wide community of senior volleyball players. I now play co-ed VB with my husband once a week and with an all women’s group once a week. It’s pretty competitive and challenges my balance, mobility and stamina. My husband and I will be trying pickle ball in a few weeks. We have played tennis for years so we’re excited to try this new sport. Sports are a great way to stay fit and stay connected to others. I encourage you to try it. You may be pleasantly surprised at how great you will feel…even if you’re not very good at the sport when you start.
Despite thinking I would hate it – I have fallen in love with spinning. It’s non-competitive and you see your improvements quickly.