Get back in the Game!

Around the world, during certain times of the year, sports fans become riveted to their couches, set before their big screen TVs, cheering on their favorite teams as these amazing athletes play their hearts out during the adrenaline-fueled moments of games, tournaments and playoffs.

But do you ever dream about taking (or returning) to the court, hardwood, or diamond to participate in a team sport yourself, instead of going through the motions watching it on volleyball_SMP6036-460x300television in your living room or at a bar? If you grew up playing sports, you may recall fond memories of the intense practices, championship games, winning plays and the close-knit bond formed between teammates. You know how much you miss it once you stop playing. If you never played sports, then it’s not too late to join an adult sports league and get a taste of team spirit, as well as getting in some great exercise.

There’s been an emphasis placed on the importance of children playing team sports recreationally as they grow and develop, that it makes them happier, healthier and more socially adjusted, but sports aren’t just for kids. Don’t give up on the love of the game just because you graduated or have become inundated with the demands of the working world! Recreational sports holds just as much benefit for adults as they do for children. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity published a study in 2013 where researchers indicated that recreational sports not only provides a stress-reducing benefit for adults, but better physical role functioning, vitality, social functioning, mental health and life satisfaction than other forms of physical activity. The improved health benefits may result from enhanced social connectedness, social support, peer bonding and self-esteem provided by league support.

The physical benefits are greater than you might think too. The physical activity provided by team sports have been linked to the reduction of an individual’s risk of heart disease, the strengthening of bones and muscles, and overall increase in physical health. It’s also a great way to burn off calories, although the amount of which will vary depending on the sport and the intensity of the sport.

Certainly you can yield the same benefits from other physical activities, but being on a team creates an entirely different dynamic and a measure of accountability when you know your team is counting on you that keeps you active.

Joining a recreation league can provide a welcome break from your regular exercise routine. Sports like basketball, tennis, pickleball, flag football and soccer offer an amazing cardio workout that can become a great addition or supplement to your current workouts. Participating in a sport can be so much fun that you won’t think of it as exercise. And because you are involved in a sport, you’ll be inspired to keep in shape, which gives you the motivation to stick with a regular fitness routine.

Sports can be a great way to meet new people and expand upon your social network. You’ll be in the company of others with at least one common interest. By playing with them once or twice a week, you have a regular reason to get out of the house and interact with the community, and are bound to develop some great relationships over the course of time.

There are some things to keep in mind before joining an adult sports league. First, it’s good to know the difference between competitive and recreational leagues. Competitive leagues will be made up of players who are in it to win it. They may possess years of experience in their sport, perhaps having competed at high levels. Winning will be important, therefore players are expected to have excellent skills and serious attitudes. So, if you have the experience and miss the competition, join up! But if you are new to the sport or simply looking to have fun, then recreational leagues will be more your speed. This can apply to beginners looking to get their feet wet or for those who just getting back into it and want to hone their skills.

If you’re looking to find information about leagues or how to join a league, you can check out what’s offered at your local YMCA, city recreation center, fitness centers, or churches. Look within your own community to see what might be offered. Look for flyers or bulletin boards, or simply ask around! You may have friends or co-workers who might belong to a league or know of someone who does.

As to what to expect once you join, know that every league is different. Most competitive leagues will have at least one practice and one game a week. Recreational leagues usually play once a week. Formal uniforms are not the norm, but some leagues may pitch in to buy custom T-shirts. Either way, be sure to dress in comfortable clothing which allows for maximum mobility and wear appropriate footwear. There is usually a fee that comes with playing each season, and the cost can vary by location, sport, length of the season, number of games and equipment rental (if needed). These fees may cover the cost of the facility or area hosting the games or for referees and/or scorekeepers. Remember that keeping hydrated is important, so be sure to bring your own water bottle and a towel just in case.

There are adult sports leagues that cater to athletes of all levels and joining one can offer a sense of excitement and friendly competition that you may have missed or found lacking in your life. So get fit, have fun, and make some new friends. Release your inner athlete, get out there and play!

 

 

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Leave Biking to the Kids … Or Not?

Ever since the training wheels came off our bicycles at a young age, we were pushed into freedom, adventure and delight, and once you learn, you never forget. But now that you’re older, like everything else in life, riding seems more complicated – by worrying about traffic or utilizing more equipment, but cycling today is not much different than those earlier days, and the activity can help you lose weight, build endurance and elevate your mood.

Physical Benefits

Cycling is a non-impact activity that is associated with improved cardiovascular fitness. It gets your heart pumping and your legs moving without the risk of pounding your joints. adults-bike-fitnessIt’s great for toning and building your muscles – calves, thighs, glutes, even your neck and shoulders. A relaxing bike ride burns more calories than an easy walk (approx. 281 calories vs. 176 calories per hour). The key to achieving optimal fitness results on a bike is all about maintaining a steady rhythm, by consistently pedaling, rather than alternating between pedaling and coasting. To do that, you need to seek out long stretches of road, ones with a low volume of traffic, if possible. A great example of this would be the Orlando Southeast Trail – a 13-mile long, 12 ft. wide trail which serves several neighborhoods, including the community of Northlake Park at Lake Nona, with safety, convenience and scenic diversity. To find trails near you, you can consult with your local bike shop or club or even find them using a website such as Trail Link.

If you’re just starting out again, it’s good to start out slowly. Commit to a minimum of two weekday rides on flat-terrain for 30 to 40 minutes for the first three to four weeks. You can always gradually increase the intensity of your ride, distance, and type of terrain you traverse on later. In the meantime, take the time to learn and master your cadence while riding (the number of revolutions of the crank per minute, counting one leg). For the average rider, somewhere between 70 and 100 rpm is a good speed to maintain while riding. And by keeping your cadence consistent, it provides steady cardiovascular training without potential harm to your joints. After the initial month period, you can begin to vary your workout by adding in intervals of quick accelerations that last anywhere between 30 seconds to five minutes or by climbing hills, both which can add strength work into your aerobic ride.

Mental Health Benefits

Studies have shown that cycling can lead to improvements in your mental health. In the time spent turning the crank, rich, new capillary beds develop within your brain, which means more oxygen and nutrients generated to help it work. You also force more nerve cells to ignite which intensifies the creation of proteins which double or triple the production of neurons, literally building your brain. Neurotransmitters are also then released, allowing brain cells to communicate with each other for improved functioning, sharper memory skills, higher concentration/problem solving ability, and more fluid thinking. One study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research showed that people had completed memory, reasoning, and planning tests faster and scored higher after 30 minutes of pedaling on a stationary bike than they did before they rode.

Cycling has been linked to mood elevation, anxiety relief, and an increase in your stress resistance, all by boosting the levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine and other mood-lifting chemicals like endorphins and cannabinoids. A recent study suggests that 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic riding, at roughly 75 percent of your maximum heart rate, three to five times a week can achieve this effect. Riding your bike on a regular basis helps to keep your levels of adrenaline and cortisol in check, which means you’ll feel less stress and capable of bouncing back from anxiety-filled situations more easily.

Tips on Better Cycling

When choosing the right bike for you, it isn’t about the brand or model, but the fit. And it’s not just about having the bike seat at hip-height. Other variables matter, such as the tilt of your seat, the height of your handlebars, and how far forward you have to reach to grasp the pegs, all of which affect where pressure is felt on the body. If you can, get a professional bike fitting done at a cycling shop. Some offer free fittings with new bike purchases or have fit services available for older bikes.

Safety should be a critical component in cycling. In low-light conditions, at minimum, be sure to wear bright-colored, reflective clothing and put reflective tape on your bike and helmet. The helmet itself should also be brightly-colored, fit snugly and meet all required safety standards. If you want to go the extra mile, you can install a strong headlight and a strobe-type, red blinking light to affix to the back of the bike. Avoid riding at night.

Use good road sense – ride with traffic, give right of way to vehicles and pedestrians, use hand signals and obey signs. Stay out of drivers’ blind spots and make eye contact with them as you pull into an intersection or make a turn, so they know your intentions and you know that they’ve seen you. Don’t ride side-by-side with another cyclist and be vigilant for road hazards.

As you get used to cycling for long distances, learn to have fun with it. Plan a destination ride to the next town over where there’s a great lunch-spot or plan a scenic road trip complete with a picnic spot. Part of the joy of cycling is to ride along with others. Recruit friends or family members or try joining a bike shop or club ride. Just be sure to look for outings that are tailored for beginners at first.

Cycling is one of the easiest ways to exercise, helps to improve cardiovascular fitness, builds stamina, increases muscle tone and improves heart and mental health. You can ride almost anywhere, at any time of the year, and without spending a fortune. And all you need is a bike, a half-hour here or there, and the confidence and the drive to improve your life.

Pickleball USA

A new game that is sweeping across the US and Canada has made its way into some of our multiple-courtsmost active communities. This paddle sport is suitable for all ages and skill levels, is easy to learn and requires minimal equipment. Combining elements of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong Pickleball was created in 1965 near Seattle, Washington. This low impact sport is played on a court one-third the size of a standard tennis court allowing for longer rallies and more fun. Like tennis and badminton the goal is to rally the ball back and forth over a net until one side cannot return it. The net in pickleball however is only 34 inches tall as opposed to the 42 inch net used for tennis and the 60 inch net used for badminton. Additionally, the pickleball has holes through it, similar to a wiffleball, that allows it to travel at one-third the speed of a tennis ball and the solid pickleball paddle is lightweight. The competitive nature of the game has attracted over 100,000 players who compete in local and national tournaments throughout all 50 states. This year Casa Grande, Arizona will host the USAPA (United States of America Pickleball Association) National Tournament on November 8th.

Interestingly Central Florida is the world capital for pickleball with 108 courts in The Villages alone. For more information on Pickleball visit www.usapa.org.