Best Sports for Beginner Athletes

Bike racked, ready for a triathlon raceBEST SPORTS FOR BEGINNER ATHLETES

There are some activities and sports that I am better suited towards based on my body shape and weight because they allow my body to move easily, swiftly and with low impact.   It doesn’t mean that I can’t participate in others (I have and it wasn’t fun) but I’ve competed enough to know what kind of experience I want.  So if my skill or speed level is significantly different that I can’t keep up, contribute or compete against others (a strategy for bringing the best out in me), I choose another path that I can feel good about.

I support anyone wanting to try any sport, but also know that you can’t get from point A to Z in one move.  I learned this the hard way as I was coming off a triathlon high and feeling invincible and signed up for an Ultimate Frisbee team.  I was so out of my league because I couldn’t move fast enough to keep up with the pace of the game.  A bit of an ego crush, but got over it and it didn’t diminish who I am, what I’ve accomplished and if Ultimate Frisbee is really important to me, it’s a goal I can work towards.

I prefer individual sports and like racing, so triathlon, 5kms, 10kms etc. are sports that work well for me because I can compete against myself, feel part of something and connected to the other athletes in these large events.  I also like that they are low impact, which is kinder to the body.

Here are my top 5 best sports for  beginner athletes:

SwimmingSwimming pool

Basic Equipment Needed:  Bathing suit, goggles, swim cap (accessories such as hand paddle boards or flutter boards are usually available at the pool)

Cost to Train:  Minimal at city pools ($1-3 per swim) depending upon where you live, have a pool in your condo or belong a a gym with a pool

Cost to Race:  Varies between each race, starts at $50

Type of Training:  Aerobic and anaerobic workouts, mix of short and long interval sets

Muscles:  Primarily shoulders (deltoids), back (lats), legs (glutes and hamstrings) and core

Workouts:  Get a free trial at 5000 Swim Workouts

Body Impact:  Low

Final Comments:  Depending upon your experience, you may want to join a Masters group.  I’ve seen lots of people of  various shapes and sizes swim fast, as it’s all about technique.

Plus size woman cycling in a raceCycling

Basic Equipment Needed:  Bike, helmet and cycling shorts including a dry-wicking top to keep the sweat away from your body

Cost to Train:  Buying a bike is the most expensive investment, but once you have that your training ground is outside which is FREE

Cost to Race:  Varies between each race,  event and length of ride, starts at $50 up to $200.  Fees are sometimes reduced or waived for pledges and fundraising

Type of Training:  Aerobic and anaerobic, endurance with mix of short intervals to build strength

Muscles:  Primarily legs (glutes, hamstrings and quads)

Workouts:  Riding outside will give you lots of variety with hills and flats.  Charity bike rides usually provide workout schedules to help build endurance over several weeks

Body Impact:  Low

Final Comments:  Whether you buy a new bike or second hand, make sure it’s in proper working order.  Spending $50 to have your bike tuned up if you don’t know how to do it, is worth it.  Also, learn how to change a flat tire.  Your bike shop can teach you, or your local cycling club holds many workshops that you can attend.

WalkingPlus size women walking, training at a camp in Arizona


Basic Equipment Needed:  Good pair of walking/running shoes and dry-wicking athletic wear to keep the sweat away from the body

Cost to Train:  Similar to cycling, you can train outdoors (FREE) or inside on a treadmill during bad weather

Cost to Race:  Varies depending on the race, event and distance, starts at $50 up to $120

Type of Training:  Aerobic and anaerobic, endurance with short intervals to build strength

Muscles:  Primarily legs (glutes, hamstrings and quads)

Workouts:  Lots of free training programs available online. Trainer has many including the popular Couch to 5Km

Body Impact:  Low

Final Comments: If you’re going long, look for races that have high participation numbers i.e. Toronto Marathon, Chicago Marathon etc. My first half marathon was the Mississauga Half, relatively small.  As my walking pace is slower compared to the average walker, I was by myself for the majority of the race (which just felt like a training workout) until I met up with the marathoners on the course.  This meant there were limited volunteers and water stations still active by the time arrived. I also didn’t have the energy to draw from other competitors.  I found it a bit of a lonely and uneventful experience. But then I’m an extrovert 🙂

Plus size woman triathlete winning racer of the dayTriathlon

Basic Equipment Needed: Bath suit, goggles, swim cap, bike, bike helmet, cycling shorts, dry-wicking athletic wear, triathlon suit (for racing), good pair of walking/running shoes

Cost to Train:  Similar to above, you can keep your costs to a minimum during good weather by training outside

Cost to Race:  Super Sprints / A Give-It-A-Try begins around $50 and goes higher, the longer the distance

Type of Training:  Mix of all 3 sports, typically 2 swims, 2 walk/runs and 2-3 bike rides a week, endurance with a mix of short intervals to build strength and power

Workouts:  Trinewbies is a great place to start for your first try.  But blending all 3 sports together takes some skill, which is why a coach would be beneficial in the beginning.

Muscles:  Full body workout, involving upper and lower body muscles

Body Impact: Low

Final Comments:  What I love about triathlon is that cross-fit training is built in.  One day you can work your legs hard, then give them a bit of a break the next day with a swim workout. Don’t invest in a triathlon or road bike, wet suit or even a triathlon suit until you’ve tried the sport and know that you love it.


Rowing (Indoor)Plus size woman rowing

Basic Equipment Needed:  Indoor rower/ergometer, dry-wicking athletic wear

Cost to Train:  Your biggest expense may be having to join a gym to get access to this equipment if you don’t have room in your home for one

Cost to Race: Relatively low compared to the other sports, $25.  Outdoor events may be more.

Type of Training:  Aerobic and anaerobic, short to medium length interval sets (1-10 min)

Workouts:  Concept 2 has a great website for training techniques complete with videos and finding a coach in your area.  Sign up for daily workouts.

Muscles:  Primarily legs (glutes, hamstrings and quads)

Body Impact:  Low

Final Comments:  This sport really taught me how to pace myself so I don’t blow up.  The shortest race I’ve ever competed in was the 2008 Canadian Indoor Rowing Championships (09:01:7), I took home a Bronze in my age category.  To this day, it is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I want to do more.

All of these sports are complimented with strength training and regular stretching to keep the body from getting tight and remaining flexible and injury-free.  Always have plenty of water for your workouts and afterwards.  Where applicable, bring identification, a phone and some cash if you are riding/walking/running a distance, for security reasons.
It's a power move.