Wimbledon is in full swing and watching the world greats has inspired many to pick up a racket and give it a go.
You don’t need to be a pro to get out on the court – tennis is a fun and social way to get some exercise, meet new people and spend some time outdoors.
During an hour of tennis, the average player burns between 400 and 600 calories. And it’s not just the physical benefits; tennis requires mental focus and quick response times, meaning during a game your mind is just as active as your body.
If you’re inspired to take up the game, here’s what you need to get started.
Prep & warm up
It’s important to prep and warm up whatever our age or ability, but particularly as we get older these aren’t steps you want to skip – even minor injuries can be troublesome.
Proper shoes, good form and the right routine will all help guard against injury and help you make the most of your game.
Start each game with a warm up – a brisk walk or light jog for five minutes will get your heart rate up and get your blood flowing to your muscles. Next, take a few minutes to do some dynamic stretching – these are stretches as you move. Focus on the muscles you’ll be using most during the game – areas like your shoulders, wrists, arms, knees and ankles.
As we age our balance and muscle mass naturally declines. Tennis is a great way to strengthen both these areas, and doing a little supplemental work off the court can go a long way to improving your game. Aim to do some strength training at least once a week to help build muscle, focusing particularly on your arms, legs and back.
Balance exercises are another useful technique to help improve your game – try alternating balancing on one leg and then the other while you talk on the phone or cook dinner. Walking in a straight line – as if you were on a tightrope – is another good balancing exercise you can do throughout the week at home.
When you’re a beginner
If you’re a beginner, here’s a few tips to bring you up to speed:
- A relaxed rally back and forth with a partner will help you get to grips with following the ball and keeping your eye on it as it moves around the court. Start slowly and then increase your speed over time.
- The ‘ready position’ will help you react and move quickly to take your shot. Stand with both hands on the racket, feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Try and keep your swing as smooth as possible – practice extending your arm and racket in the direction of where you hit the ball and then bring it across your body in a smooth, fluid motion.
Brushing up on the rules
There are some great resources online to help you learn and understand all the rules of tennis – taking the time to learn them before you step on the court will help you make the most out of your game.
This simple introduction to tennis scoring on about.com is a great overview of how the complicated points system in tennis works. For an overview of the court and common tennis terminology, the Tennis for Dummies cheat sheet lays out everything you need to know.
YouTube is a great place to find informative videos about everything from mastering your swing to understanding the rules of the game.
Do you love tennis? When was the last time you picked up a racket?