The 5 Best Sports for Former Gymnasts

Gymnast with bars


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 Your gymnastics days are over -- or you're starting to think about moving on. It's tough, we know. Very, very tough. But there's still a world of sports out there for you to try. Here are five that are well-suited for the skills you've got as a gymnast.

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Female Diver

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Diving may be the most obvious next sport for gymnasts -- and if you quit gymnastics for injury reasons, it may be an especially great sport for you, because it's generally not as strenuous on the body as gymnastics.

You're likely to have a huge leg up on other beginners (since you can already do a flip -- which counts as a dive by the way!), and you'll have a body awareness and ability to make corrections to your technique well beyond those without a gymnastics background.

Know that there are some techniques in diving that are different than gymnastics. If you were a twister, you may have to re-learn the way you twisted, and many gymnasts initially struggle with having to wait a lot longer before they initiate a twist or flip.

Still, your learning curve will be far easier than others who pick up the sport without a gymnastics background. Best of all, you still get to do flips!

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Female Surfer

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Surfing doesn't immediately seem similar to gymnastics at all, right? But if you get into it, you'll notice that a lot of the things you loved about gymnastics you'll get from surfing: That feeling of pushing yourself, of being scared and going for it, of working really hard... and if you get really good, of accomplishing new skills.

One of the best parts? Crashing into the water is significantly less painful than crashing onto even the softest of mats.

The muscles you built up in gymnastics will come in handy in surfing too -- though your back may now become stronger than it was, even in gymnastics, from paddling. The biggest downside? Unless you live in a few select beach areas, surfing is tough to access.

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Woman Doing CrossFit

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Many gymnasts love CrossFit, and there are lots of reasons why, not the least of which is that there's a "gymnastics" element to CrossFit workouts that often includes things like handstand walks and muscle-ups.

Plus there are the intangible elements of CrossFit, like setting goals and seeing improvement right away. Though you might struggle with some of the serious lifts at first, you'll get there -- and you'll likely be awesome at many of the bodyweight exercises.

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Runners' feet and legs

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Former gymnasts often turn to running after they retire. It's cheap, it's easy to get started, and it's simple to join a running team and sign up for races. It provides a new sport with new goals immediately.

Many gymnasts are terrible at cardio endeavors (blame years and years of very short aerobic activities like floor routines) but hang in there -- often new runners improve quickly in the sport.

The other potential pitfall? Your body may be a little beat up from years of pounding in gymnastics, and running can bring out old ankle and knee injuries especially. So be sure to be proactive about injuries and rest when you feel pain.

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Pole Vaulting

Pole vaulting

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Gymnasts often excel at pole vault -- two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva was a gymnast until age 15 -- and it's a great option if you're done with gymnastics, but still want to compete in a high school or college sport.

Skills such as the free hip circle on bars and back extension roll on floor correlate well to pole vault, and you'll be used to running very fast at an inanimate object! You'll also get that feeling of flying that you had in gymnastics -- and you'll be used to handling fear, a common feeling in pole vaulting, just as it is in gymnastics.

If you were on the tall side for a gymnast, you may feel like you're now the shortest in the group.