inspired by Wimbledon?
These warmer months are an ideal time to have a go at this ace form of exercise and its long list of health-boosting benefits.
Playing regularly can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing your chances of developing heart disease. It’s also a good all-over workout, leading to strengthening throughout the body’s muscle groups, as well as improving flexibility and coordination.
Plus, the average man will burn around 600 calories playing an hour of singles tennis, while the average woman burns 420. A fierce rally doesn’t just work wonders for you physically – the focus and fast responses required could help sharpen brain function too.
Best of all, however, is that it’s great fun, can be enjoyed by children and adults of all ages, and can be as competitive as you like. However seriously you take it, you can still net yourself all the benefits.
Richard Burns, racquets manager at Virgin Active Chiswick Riverside, has some top tips for beginners.
“The most important thing to do when you’re learning to play tennis is just keep practising,” he says. “The more you play, the better you’ll be.”
1. Work on basic sending and receiving skills by rallying with a tennis partner. Get used to keeping your eye on the ball at all times.
2. Always try to get back to the ‘ready position’. Have both hands on the racket, feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Try and bounce on your toes to give your legs extra spring.
3. Keep your swing smooth with a continuous flow – straight after the ball leaves your strings, extend the racket and arm in the direction that you’re hitting the ball, then turn the racket and bring it across your body in a smooth motion. This will help to decelerate the racket and your body smoothly.
4. Make sure you’re constantly looking to improve your game - reinforce positive swing patterns with shadow swings, particularly after making an error. Shadow swings are a mimic of the movement, without the ball - this gives you a feel for your racquet and stroke.
5. Work on your overall fitness in order to improve stamina. Increase whole-body strength (not just your arms!) to put more power into your shots. During tennis, your body uses the legs, arms, back and core.
Burns also says mental toughness is vital if you are to play competitively.
“Professional tennis players spend hours each week just doing mental toughness exercises,” he says.
In order to feel mentally prepared for a tennis match, it’s really important to feel that you’re physically prepared. If you know your fitness levels are high, this will help you to feel confident about your game and give you mental toughness. Conversely, if you are not prepared, then you are conceding the mental ‘edge’ to your opponent.
He says you should focus on ‘controlling the controllable’ and keep your mind on the present moment – don’t be distracted by a point lost in the last set.
And aim for emotional balance - being too pumped or too negative will take energy away from the physical energy. Stay balanced and centred to maintain and preserve energy.