Anyone for Cardio Tennis?
Originally published on: 26/02/10 16:35
tennishead reporter Michael Beattie realised he hadn’t seen 7.30am for quite some time as he headed to National Tennis Centre in Roehampton to give Cardio tennis a go
When the chance for me to swing a racket in anger came up in the office, I jumped at it and immediately regretted my split-second enthusiasm. It soon dawned on me that, despite working for a tennis magazine, I hadnt hit a ball in nearly a year and what if, after all those excuses about my dodgy shoulder and opting for a kick-about instead, I couldnt play any more?
Not only that, but Id hardly describe myself as at the peak of physical fitness. As exhilarating as the grass-court season was, Id effectively spent a month sitting down either at a desk, courtside, or in a press conference and any notion of regular exercise had gone out of the window. Still, Carpe diem and all that I dug my trusty Prestige out from the back of the closet and headed bleary-eyed to the National Tennis Centre for a 7.30am Cardio Tennis session with Sam Richardson.
You hear a Cardio Tennis session before you see one. Only gym bunnies can justify blaring dance music that early in the morning. Its one of the key ingredients of Cardio Tennis, Sam tells me later. Its the first thing youd hear if you walked into a gym it sets the scene, it gets you motivated. We play music thats about 120-130 beats per minute, a similar beats per minute to your cardio-zone.
Reaching and staying in your cardio-zone is critical to a successful session. The entire hour is geared towards keeping your heart pumping at roughly 65-85% of its maximum for as long as possible, which is typically 45 minutes. So after a thorough warm-up and some dynamic stretching, its down to drills.
Here goes then, my first ball in a yearscrambled back. I hadnt noticed before, but the hopper is full of low-bouncing Mini Tennis balls, which had me completely flummoxed at first. No time to dwell on that, however almost as soon as Ive rejoined the queue Im hitting another ball, then another…
The drills themselves are very simple think my-first-tennis-lesson-style basket feeding but the pace keeps it challenging, and it’s not long before the first few beads of sweat form on my brow.
It has no pretensions towards being a tennis lesson. Its not about forehands and backhands, says Sam. It doesnt matter if you hit the back fence, it doesnt matter if the ball goes in the net. That being said, the footwork exercises will transfer to your game.
After getting us to run laps of the court while playing champion-challenger, Sam switches to a lob-chasing drill, which has us sprinting corner-to-corner across the court. Next were sidestepping past our doubles partners after each shot, before skipping backwards from the net to the baseline between rallies, all the time being stretched by the low bounce of the Mini Tennis balls.
The movement element is what has kept Mark coming since the sessions started two years ago. He openly admits that, despite working at the state-of-the-art tennis complex, he has no desire to take up the sport. I dont want to take up tennis as a full-time hobby,” he explains. “I dont have the game, but thats the great thing about Cardio if you havent got the game, it doesnt really matter.
For Caroline, who certainly looks more comfortable with a racket in hand than Mark, the appeal is even simpler. Its fun, plain and simple, she says of her own two years experience of Cardio Tennis. And she is right.
Cardio Tennis is, as Sam puts it, tennis with all the boring bits taken out. Youre rarely picking up balls, youre moving around the whole time, and youre hitting lots of balls. It’s high energy, its high tempo and just a lot more fun. It could be just what you’re looking for it was for me, and that dodgy shoulder seems to have healed too. Must be magic
If you fancy giving Cardio Tennis a bash, click below to find a venue near you