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Active Champions

Why you should try a variety of sports and activities

The Active Champions Series is a monthly showcase of inspiring stories highlighting the importance of physical activity and sport in our everyday lives.

When it comes to staying motivated to be physically active, finding a sport or physical activity you enjoy is crucial. The best way to do this is by trying many different sports and physical activities until you discover one (or better yet, a few) that you love. Other than helping you narrow things down, dipping your toes into a variety of sports and physical activities offers many other benefits. Team Canada track cyclist Sarah Orban knows this all too well.

“I had never ridden a bike seriously until age 21, so I strongly believe that it’s never too late to start a new sport or activity,” Sarah told ParticipACTION.

“Trying new sports and activities helps you build confidence, challenges you to be a better version of yourself and helps you figure out which sports or activities best suit your abilities and interests.”

Sarah Orban posing outdoorsIf you’re excited about a certain sport or activity, you’ll feel more inclined to do it. All sports and physical activities have unique things to offer, like working different muscle groups and helping you develop various skills and abilities. Cycling, for example, helps you build physical and psychological resilience. When you’re riding uphill or into the wind, you must be mentally tough to keep going. This is something that can transfer to your everyday life, helping improve your concentration and willpower so you can get through difficult tasks.”

Before becoming a track cyclist, Sarah competed on the University of Lethbridge’s women’s soccer and track-and-field teams. “I didn’t make it to Team Canada for soccer, but I knew I hadn’t reached my full potential as an athlete. I had always dreamed of competing with the maple leaf on my back but never really knew what sport was best suited to my qualities as an athlete or how I would get there.”

Sarah Orban trainingHoping to find a pathway into a new sport, Sarah attended the RBC Training Ground program, an initiative that identifies the next generation of Olympic athletes. She was then recruited by the rugby, skeleton, track cycling and track-and-field national organizations but narrowed her choice down to track cycling. Despite never having cycled competitively before, Cycling Canada recruited Sarah to their fast-track program, and just a year-and-a-half later, she made the national team in 2019.

Since she joined Team Canada for track cycling, Sarah has competed at two world championships (Berlin, Germany, in 2020 and Roubaix, France, in 2021), won four Nation Cup medals (three bronze, one silver), was named as an alternate for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo and competed in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, U.K. Sarah is now working her way to competing in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Sarah Orban training outdoorsWhile Sarah loves cycling indoors on a track, she also enjoys cycling outdoors in nature. “Riding outdoors allows me to explore what’s around me, gain a new perspective, enjoy the fresh air and practice mindfulness.”

For those thinking of taking up cycling, Sarah suggests ensuring that your bike is set up properly (for example, making sure the seat is at the appropriate height) and investing in the right equipment such as padded shorts and clip-in shoes.  She also recommends joining a local cycling club if possible. “This is a great way to connect with people who will inspire you to ride.”

Whether you’ve chosen to pursue cycling or another sport or physical activity, here’s Sarah’s advice on how to stay motivated to keep at it: “Set daily, weekly, monthly or annual goals for yourself.”

“Whether they’re big or small, goals give us something to work towards and help keep us motivated.”

“Most importantly, celebrate your victories and be proud of yourself when you achieve them. Often, people achieve their goal and then immediately look towards accomplishing the next one without even acknowledging what they’ve already worked so hard to accomplish.”

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