Originally published on 02/01/14
From fitness DVDs to Wii fit, from Jazzercise to kettlebells, fitness trends seem to change as often as Rafa switches shirts.
But since its introduction to the UK in 2007, Cardio Tennis has grown in popularity and shows no signs of slowing down. The number of people enjoying Cardio Tennis in the UK has trebled since 2010. Plans to take it into secondary schools and parks mean numbers should continue rising.
“The fitness industry is very fickle and people are always looking for new ways to exercise,” says Sam Richardson, Products Manager at the LTA and UK lead for Cardio Tennis. “But the difference between Cardio Tennis and say, Zumba, is it has all the things that Zumba has – it’s a group exercise class which is fun and highly social – but you're also learning a skill.
“You won’t receive any technical coaching but your tennis will improve just because you are hitting a lot of balls. That’s what sets it apart from a lot of other fitness classes and gives it longevity. As well as getting fit, burning calories and having fun you’re also improving your tennis without even realising.”
If you’ve seen a dozen-odd people hurtling round a tennis court to booming music, the chances are it was a Cardio Tennis class. If you haven’t witnessed the sport's answer to Zumba for yourself, think tennis meets circuit training. Born in the USA in 2005, Cardio Tennis features the usual squats, lunges and other muscle-toning exercises you’d expect from a circuits class, but it also incorporates tennis drills – such as a running forehand followed by a low drop shot – with a few press-ups for good measure.
As someone who starts clockwatching 20 minutes into an exercise class, I found that the combination of drills, sprints and a few fun tennis games made 60 minutes fly by.
“There are four reasons why people play sport,” explains Sam. “Firstly, fitness: people who like to stay healthy and lose weight. Secondly, the social element, and the third aspect is improvement – people want to get better at their chosen sport. The fourth reason is competitive drive.
“With Cardio Tennis we are targeting the first two groups – fitness and social – but they are also improving and there is an element of competition. “People always comment on how quickly that hour goes. If you'd been in a spin studio for an hour, first of all you’re only exercising part of your body, but it's not much fun so therefore that hour’s going to drag. If we can make exercise fun we’re on to a winner.”
Using the orange Mini Tennis balls helps to level the playing field so it doesn’t matter whether you’re the men’s first team captain or a complete novice. For those who spend more time collecting balls than hitting them, Cardio Tennis offers a great workout too.
“Cardio Tennis is great for people who haven’t played in ages and are a bit rusty,” Sam says. “We try to create an unintimidating environment where they can come along and hit lots of balls with their friends. “If you haven’t played tennis in ages you get on court and have a rally of three or four shots and you’re constantly having to pick up balls and that can get boring. In Cardio Tennis you’re running around whacking balls and moving the whole time.”
With more than 750 venues across the UK, there has never been a better time to give Cardio Tennis a whirl, whether you use the session to improve your speed and stamina in matches or as a way to get into tennis.
Find your nearest Cardio Tennis venue at allplaytennis.com