For some athletes, being part of a team is crucial. For others, relying on no one but yourself—win or lose—is the ultimate gratification. If you lean toward flying solo as an athlete, there are plenty of individual sports options to make your soul happy, and we’ll give you a whole list to choose from.

You might like the solitude an individual sport can bring. It can be your escape from everything else going on in your life and allow you to decompress away from anyone else.

You might simply prefer not to be reliant on an entire team for the outcome of a game.

Or maybe you’re a solo athlete who likes the pressure of competing against yourself to beat a time or to battle an opponent one-on-one.

Individual sports appeal in many ways. You just need to find the one that best suits your inner athlete. And once you do, you can head to our adult sports directory to see what’s available near you.

snowkiter surrounded by snow and mountains with cloudy sky

Benefits of Individual Sports

Individual sports strip away much of the noise of team sports. It’s just you and the sport, and the feeling can be both terrifying and exhilarating.

Running a marathon or a track and field event, you’ll hear the pounding of your heart in your chest and the panting of your breath as you push yourself to go faster or further. Playing a tennis match, you’re simultaneously slamming your racquet against the ball as you analyze where to place it so your opponent won’t be able to return it. Paddling a surfboard, you’re scanning the waves to determine how they will break and which one you’ll be able to ride to the fullest.

Athletes who participate in individual sports tend to highly value personal responsibility. If you’re late for an event or if you screw up, there’s only yourself to blame. On the flip side, if you beat an opponent handily, or if you ride your best trail, your best wave, or inch past your best time, you get to revel in the glory of knowing you–and you alone–did that.

When you’re a solo athlete, you get to decide when and where you play or compete. You get to decide how hard–or easy–you’ll be on yourself. Individual sports are especially well-suited for motivated athletes with a strong sense of discipline.

Individual Sports Versus Team Sports

Team sports are a great way to bond with others who share the same goal. You work cohesively as a unit to beat opponents, which creates strong connections with teammates along the way.

There’s also a negative side to team sports, especially in adult recreational sports. You may show up to an early morning or late night game only to find out some of your teammates bailed at the last minute, and you have to play short. That feeling sucks. When you’re in your twenties, teammates might have partied too hard the night before, so they didn’t show up. When you’re in your thirties and beyond, a sick kid or sick parent can derail a teammate’s plan to show up to a game.

If you miss a run, a ride, or a swim as a solo athlete, you’re letting yourself down, not your teammates.

Sure, there can be a feeling of missing out on the camaraderie that comes with being part of a team. But there’s also a lot of satisfaction in setting your own personal goals and smashing them–all by yourself.

The Bridge Between Solo and Team Sports

Some sports are truly individual sports. Marathons, surfing, and triathlons are a few examples.

Then there are individual sports where you are ultimately responsible for your own outcome, but you might work loosely as a team. Swim or track meet relay events are a couple of examples. Each individual athlete competes for their own best time for their leg of the relay, but their combined efforts determine the final results. Competitive cycling is another example of each biker riding individually but working collectively as a team (think Tour de France).

In sports like golf, you compete for your own score and don’t work together as a team. However, you’re usually paired with at least one other golfer and up to three others, so you still get to enjoy the company of others while you play.

 

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Top Solo Sports to Try

Now that you’ve got a feel for what being an individual sports athlete entails, it’s time to get into some of your options.

Running

lone bald runner without shirt on road
Photo by Maarten Van Den Heuvel

Running is a straightforward and practical solo activity that you can do anywhere, anytime. You don’t need high-end gear except for a quality pair of running shoes like the ASICS Gel Nimbus. If you like to compete, you can sign up for 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, marathons, and even ultramarathons.

If sprinting is more your jam than distance running, you can compete in track meets.

Running is a great solo sport to maintain cardiovascular health, as well as to burn calories.

Swimming

Swimming is a fantastic individual sport for athletes who crave something a little easier on their joints. Whether you want to compete in a swim meet or swim to satisfy your desire to be active, swimming is a great choice for adult athletes.

You’ll get a full-body workout, test your endurance, and improve your cardiovascular health.

Biking

lone mountain biker at top of mountain looking at view below
Photo credit: Pixabay

Whether you prefer a rugged or a smooth ride, you have choices if biking is up your alley.

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Mountain biking is an option if you like riding up hills and mountains, down rocky slopes, over berms, and switching back and forth on windy trails. You’ll get all that and more on a mountain bike.

On a road bike, you’ll push your legs to the limit as you traverse long distances, either through a city, along highways, or other paved roads.

You can opt to go out and ride alone, or you can go as a group. Both road and mountain biking have pretty tight-knit communities, so if that’s an important aspect of your sport, biking is an excellent solo sport choice.

Triathlon

Triathletes get to roll all three aforementioned sports–running, biking, and swimming–into one event. You can opt to participate in shorter distance, or sprint, triathlons. Or you can opt for the triathalon-royale in an Ironman, which is 140.6 miles (226.3 km).

If you enjoy training and preparing to compete, triathlons are a good individual sport choice. You’ll spend a lot of time building up your endurance by running, biking, and swimming long distances before the actual event.

You’ll also need a lot of discipline to stick to a regimented training routine. But the thrill of finishing a triathlon makes all the hard work worth it.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding are intense, thrilling individual sports. You’ll test both your balance and your adrenaline levels.

As you navigate down a mountain on your skis or your board, agility is key. And the rush you’ll get while you do so will be captivating.

And even though skiing and snowboarding are individual sports, they are similar to biking in that they maintain a strong sense of community. Après-ski translates to “after ski” and refers to social activities you partake in when you’re done with your runs. It’s when all the individual skiers and boarders come together to celebrate their day on the slopes.

Surfing

surfer holding board on beach at sunset
Photo by Bradley Hook

Surfing is one of those individual sports that oozes both solitude and community. You’ll feel like one with the water as you paddle through the ocean, sit on your board, and choose which wave to ride.

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When you catch the wave, it’s just you and Mother Nature working with each other as you carve your way through her waters. You’ll need patience, upper body strength, and a strong sense of balance to excel at this solo sport.

Surfing is another individual sport that also embraces a tribe mentality. Whether you longboard or shortboard, you’ll find a strong brotherhood and sisterhood among your fellow surfers.

Rock Climbing

individual sports athlete climbing rock with lake in background
Photo by Dylan Flying

If you’re into a solo sport that will test your mental and physical acuity, look no further than rock climbing. You’ll need a combination of physical strength and an analytical mind to navigate and scale rocks and boulders. And if you’re scared of heights, you might want to sit this individual sport out.

You’ll constantly be scanning ahead during your climb, determining your next grip or foothold. The adrenaline rush combined with a strong sense of accomplishment make rock climbing a very attractive sport for individual athletes who crave adventure and maybe a little danger.

Golf

folger in red pants teeing off toward mountains
Photo by Tom Jackson

Golf is an individual sport that demands patience and a strategic mind. You must be conscious of your body mechanics to get the most out of your swings. A wrong hip twist or arm placement can send the ball into a sand trap, a lake, a bush, or into the ethers and never be seen again.

You’ll have to maintain a sense of calm and balance to work yourself out of spots where the ball landed badly. Frustration will only make things worse and can affect the rest of your game.

But when you land a sweet putt, you feel utter satisfaction and accomplishment. You can head to the driving range alone and practice perfecting your swing. When you’re ready to play, sign up for a tee time solo or bring some friends to join you.

Boxing

two male boxers sparring
Photo Credit: RDNE

If you thrive on an individual sport with physical contact, boxing is a solid choice. It will challenge you physically and mentally.

You’ll need quick feet–and quick thinking–to outwit your opponent.

Whether your goal is just to spar or if you have loftier goals to compete in the ring, you’ll need a lot of discipline in training. Your endurance will be challenged, so training for short bouts of intense activity will be key.

In addition to cardiovascular fitness, strength training is essential to land powerful punches against your opponent.

Boxing is one of those solo sports where there tends to be a high level of respect for other boxers. Not many people voluntarily want to take a punch to the face, which creates a unique bond among boxers.

Tennis

There’s an option for doubles, but singles tennis is by far the most popular format of this solo sport.

If you enjoy fierce competition, an intense workout, and a game of strategic wits, look no further than tennis. Every serve you slam and every ball you volley is dependent on only you.

It’s a glorious feeling when you ace a serve against an opponent or race from one end of the court to the other to return volleys that seemed out of reach. Tennis is a powerful solo sport that will scratch your itch to compete and test your physical prowess.

Martial Arts

BJJ fighters grappling
Photo by Bruno Bueno

Martial arts are synonymous with discipline. You’ll train yourself both mentally and physically.

Depending on your style, you can choose from a variety of martial arts, from the tame to the aggressive. Tai chi involves slow, intentional movements, while Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) involve intense physical contact.

You can compete in events to test your mettle one-on-one against an opponent. The last man or woman standing can bask in the glory of their ability to outwit and outperform their foe.

If the idea of participating in a sport that’s been around for centuries appeals to you, you might want to add martial arts to your list.

Figure Skating

If you like the idea of a sport where you can also be performative, figure skating is an ideal choice. You’ll combine graceful movements with strong athleticism as you dance your way across the ice.

Like many individual sports, figure skating requires dedication and discipline to excel. You’ll need to put in a lot of training to nail perfect jumps and spins. Fortunately, many rinks offer figure skating lessons and training to adult athletes.

How to Use Adults Play SportsTo Find Individual Sports

Fortunately, when it comes to finding an individual sport near you, you can always turn to the Adults Play Sports directory. It’s chock full of individual and team sports options across North America, and more are added regularly. So, if you don’t find what you’re looking for at first glance, save your search, and you’ll get an email when anything new is added that meets your search criteria.