Top 5 Destinations to Try a New Sport

Known for it's flat and fast course, Chicago is a great place to run your first marathon.

Surfing in San Diego

Standing erect on a 10-foot board while it shoots along the crest of a break is a pure adrenaline rush and a rare American experience. The accompanying laid-back surf and sand lifestyle is an added bonus and always on display at the neighborhood coastal bars and cafes in Ocean Beach (OB), Pacific Beach (PB), and La Jolla. True, adequate surf spots line both coasts. But to find the real deal, the best beginner breaks and a metropolitan destination for the rest of your non-surfing crew, head to sunny San Diego.

America's Finest City sports at least half a dozen reputable surfing schools (see below) and the ride-worthy waves consistently roll in year-round. Winter water temperatures average 58 to 62 degrees F, so a summer or early fall trip may be more comfortable.

Go to School Learning from an expert will save you hours in the water, try these reputable companies: San Diego Surfing Academy (surfsdsa.com); Surfari Surf (surfarisurf.com); Surf Diva (surfdiva.com).

Body Board First If you arrive a day or two early, body boarding before your surf lessons will give you a feel for the water.

Start with a Foam Board They may not look as cool, but a softer foam board will spare your body from beginner's bruises.


Mountain Climbing at Mt. Rainier

Despite a 14,410 foot summit that is only half the elevation of Mt. Everest, driving your ice pick into Mt. Rainier's peak is an exhilarating experience and worthy challenge for the rookie climber. Beginners will welcome Rainier's gradual slopes and relatively warm air temperatures (vs. Alaska's frigid Denali, for example).?

Novices need not fret the big stuff--lodging, food, climbing techniques, even equipment. Rainier Mountaineering Inc. (rmiguides.com) has helped thousands of mountaineers summit (80% success rate) and is the only outfit that the National Park Service permits to run year-round Rainier ascents (RMI also owns exclusive rights to preferred climbing routes).

Ensure your time on one of the highest peaks in the contiguous U.S. is spent climbing and not watching by arriving in good physical condition (RMI will evaluate your endurance to ensure you can keep up with the group).

Begin With a Medical Check-up Mountaineering requires cardiovascular and muscular fitness; make sure your doctor agrees you are up for the challenge.

Experiment With a "Walk Up" Mountain Before strapping on crampons (ice shoes) get a taste of thin air on the dirt trails of California's Mt. Whitney (14,494 ft.) or Colorado's Mt. Elbert (14,433 ft.).

Bring Drugs Diamox can help alleviate the headaches and nausea associated with Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS); commonly experienced at altitudes above 10,000 feet.?

Golfing at Pinehurst Resort, North Carolina

After tuning up your beginner's swing at the hometown driving range, plan to hook and slice some balls on the eight courses that meander through thousands of heavily wooded acres at Pinehurst Resort. With 144 holes, Pinehurst offers more "tin cups" than any other resort in the world. Opened in 1894, this golfing grand dame hosted the 2005 U.S. Open challenging the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Enroll in the resort's Golf Advantage School to minimize "lost ball syndrome." And, don't leave the non-golfers at home, there's plenty of fun to be had off the fairways too:

Tennis Anyone? 24 courts and formerly the home of the 1994-96 U.S. Clay Court Championships.

Getting Wet Seasonal water activities include swimming, fishing and sailing.

Be Pampered Skin, hair and massage treatments, among other bodily spoils are provided at Pinehurst's Spa/Fitness Center.

Kid Friendly Teen adventure activities and a Kid's Club keep the sons and daughters busy with kayaking, paintball, scavenger hunts and the like.


Diving at Key Largo, Florida

The only living coral reef in North America, impressive Spanish galleon shipwrecks, diverse marine-life and the underwater Christ of the Deep Statue are just a few of the reasons Key Largo is America's most popular diving and under water enthusiast destination. Add calm surf and 80F degree crystal clear water to these unique attractions, and freshman divers will enjoy this Florida isle as a beginner's paradise.?

While full scuba certification requires 3-4 days of classroom and in-water training, short-cuts are available. Consider one-day Discover Scuba courses, which certify students for two weeks of diving accompanied by an instructor, and are offered through local schools. Or better yet, complete the class work at home. Then earn your fins by fulfilling the 2-day open water requirement in Key Largo.

Use a dive flag Safety first, it may even be the law where you dive.

It's All About the Ears Pressure equalization is often the most difficult task; experiencing some ear discomfort is not unusual.

Relax Remaining calm and moving slowly will make breathing easier.

Use Proper Fitting Equipment A loose mask or an uncomfortable regulator will ruin your experience
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Lodging options on Key Largo do not compare with the 5-star diving. Expect budget to moderately-priced hotel chain accommodations featuring bland d?cor and unimpressive amenities. But with Miami only 60 miles away, piggy-banking a few bucks for a posh night or two in South Beach's lap of luxury is a fantastic reward for your adventurous spirit and a perfect end to your getaway.


Running a Marathon in Chicago

The Windy City's mid-October marathon is an ideal venue for any 26.2-mile virgin. A flat and fast course through downtown neighborhoods, typical 45- to 55-degree F air temperatures and enthusiastic spectators attract over 40,000 runners annually. Your personal cheering section--family and friends--will appreciate the route's out and back loops, which create easy and multiple viewing opportunities. And, Chicago's legendary Art Institute, historical museums, Lincoln Park nightlife, deep dish pizza and Michigan Avenue shopping provide plenty of pre/post-race distractions.?

On race day:?

Wear Throw-away Clothing to the Start Keeping warm in the early dawn hours before a race is always a challenge.

Stay Hydrated If you wait to drink when you are thirsty, it's too late.

Have Fun Completing a marathon is much more than running 26.2 miles.


Jim Kaese is Co-Founder of Athletic-Minded Traveler, LLC, which operates the largest healthy travel content site on the web at www.athleticmindedtraveler.com, creates healthy lifestyle content for various media, and generates online custom wellness and work-life solutions for Fortune 500 employers.

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