Unless there’s snow on the courts, there’s a good chance you’ll find Stephanie Kilroy, 41, with a tennis racquet in her hand. “I’m obsessed,” admits Kilroy, who lives in Reno, Nev. She got hooked about 5 years ago, and now plays an average of three times a week. “I never really considered myself athletic, so my love of tennis still sort of surprises me,” she says.
With all of the excitement of this month’s Wimbledon tennis tournament, you may be inspired to try out your own forehand and overhead slam. Chances are, you won’t have any trouble finding a doubles partner. Over the last decade, tennis has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance — in 2009, about 30 million people hit the courts, a 10 percent increase since 2008, and a 43 percent increase since 2000. The rising popularity may be due in part to the boom of Cardio Tennis, an intense group workout featuring tennis drills for all levels (for details, see cardiotennis.com).
Whether you join a class or, as Kilroy did, don your skirt or shorts for a traditional match, tennis is a great way to improve your balance and hand-eye coordination, burn calories and challenge muscles practically from head to toe. These tips will get you to center court (or at least off the sidelines) in no time.
- Be prepared. To increase the enjoyment factor and avoid injury, spend four to six weeks building an aerobic base with walking or jogging, and doing strength-training for your legs, shoulders, back and abs, suggests tennis pro and physical therapist Todd Ellenbecker, a member of the United States Tennis Association’s Sport Science Committee.
- Buy the right racquet. Try out racquets at a tennis specialty store. Expect to pay $20 for the demo, but you can normally apply that amount to a purchase at the shop. Let the salesperson know about any elbow or wrist injuries and ask about a racquet with medium flexibility, medium weight and an oversized head, the best beginner combo (we like Prince’s EXO3; Princetennis.com).
- Consider lessons. Your local parks and recreation department likely offers inexpensive group tennis lessons for beginners or those wanting to brush up on their technique. Or, check out Usta.com (click on “find a program”) to locate a free introductory lesson near you.
- Get personal. Once you’ve got the basics down, hone your game with private lessons — find local pros at Usta.com (lessons typically start at $40 per hour).
- Plan a tennis getaway. U.S. Sports Camps offers summer programs at 70 college campuses and hotel/resorts nationwide from April through October starting at $365. For more information: 800-645-3226 or Ussportscamps.com.